• Melanin Enterprise

First African American-Owned Bourbon Brand to Debut in Louisville

Brough Brothers Bourbon comes from the Yarbrough brothers Victor, Chris and Bryson, who plan to open their microdistillery in the spring.

Victor Yarbrough wanted to do something that would bring positive opportunities for economic growth to West Louisville.

So, he started his own bourbon brand with his brothers Chris and Bryson. It’s called Brough Brothers Bourbon, and it’s already distributed through Amazon to the United Kingdom. Yarbrough anticipates a Louisville launch in February.

“We are working toward basically opening up the bourbon market and using our brand and understanding of Louisville and Kentucky to showcase the talents here,” Yarbrough said in an interview. “We understand what the economic impact would be if we were to open in the West End. Our goal, to a certain degree, is to act as a hub to help build upon the neighborhood.”

Yarbrough and his brothers grew up in the West End and eventually moved to St. Matthews. He's also spent some time overseas including in London where he began his spirits importer and exporter called Victory Global. Bringing back opportunities and lessons learned from his time in London never left his mind.

Although Brough Brothers will mark the first African American-owned bourbon brand to launch out of Louisville, Yarbrough said it’s a Catch-22.

“We love to be the first because we can create and build upon history. But at the same time, we wish there were more African Americans in the actual realm a little bit earlier,” Yarbrough said. “We’ll have a pretty specific story and we’re going to hold ourselves to a high standard and continue to expand and bring some historical context and authenticity and great products to people.”

Yarbrough currently runs operations out of a space at 1460 Dixie Highway, which he plans to open as a microdistillery in March.

The facility will distill bourbon, but also include English gin and vodka — tokens from Yarbrough’s time in London with Victory Global. Yarbrough said he will look to employ about four people at the distillery once it’s functional.

For his product line-up, Yarbrough said he’s doing a mix of his own distilling as well as buying aged barrels from other distillers (he declined to say from whom.) He plans to employ this method to sustain the brand’s growth until he can ultimately begin distilling his own product.

Part of his launch will include a distribution partnership with Kelvin Young of Legacy Wine & Spirits. Yarbrough said he’ll be pitching his product to all the major retailers, restaurants and bars. He anticipates about 1,000 bottles will go out with Legacy in the brand’s first week.

“We didn’t want to be another brand in a portfolio. We felt like Legacy Wine & Spirits understood us as well from a cultural perspective but also understood our vision and will be more hands on with our brand versus being just another brand in a long list,” Yarbrough said.

The Louisville launch will include two varieties of bourbon: a straight Kentucky bourbon which will be for sale at the distillery and the signature Brough Brothers bourbon whiskey which is already available through Amazon UK.

The price point of the UK bottles is £27.99, which translates to $29.99 USD. Yarbrough said the bottles from the distillery will be slightly more expensive, but he looks to keep it within a comfortable price point. Other offerings from the distillery will include hats and T-shirts.

The flavor profiles on the two bourbons range from notes of crisp apple, pear and butterscotch in the bourbon whiskey, to smokier, nutmeg and caramel tastes in the straight Kentucky bourbon.

The bottles of Brough Brothers currently available on Amazon UK feature three depictions of the brothers in a modern style, with various nods to Louisville culture: an outline of Kentucky and the Louisville skyline, a cardinal bird and a pair of boxing gloves for Muhammad Ali, among other icons.

In devising the label, Yarbrough said he wanted to include elements so that no matter where his bourbon is distributed people will be able to recognize elements of Louisville — even if they don’t speak English.

“The key for us is authenticity,” Yarbrough said. “We’re the actual brand and we sell bourbon. When you see Brough Brothers, you actually see us presenting it. We’re willing to be in the forefront and I think people can relate to us and relate to our story. They can identify with the hard work we’ve put into this.”

Yarbrough said his efforts would not have been possible without the support of his wife, Lydia Keys-Yarbrough, a clinical researcher, who told him she’d keep the lights on while he chased his dream.

“I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. She knew I wanted to get out and start entrepreneurship and she said to get out and do it,” Yarbrough said.

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