Samara Rivers is the Chief Bourbon Enthusiast and Founder of the Black Bourbon Society (BBS). Her love for bourbon began on a family trip to New Orleans after taking the suggestion of a salesman who introduced her to his favorite spirit. She became an instant fan and spent every Friday for an entire year creating and mixing new cocktails with bourbon.
Samara created BBS after realizing that there was a lack of direct consumer marketing geared towards people of color in the spirits industry and that most bourbon brands had no idea how much their popularity has grown among African Americans.
Black Bourbon Society brings together African American Bourbon Enthusiasts from across the country. With over 4,500 members, we’ve partnered with and featured several brands including Wild Turkey, Maker’s Mark and Four Roses. Through exclusive events, curated dinner pairings and private whiskey tastings in markets such as ATL, LA, and Chicago, BBS encourages its members to enjoy good bourbon, network with like-minded bourbon lovers and gain a deeper appreciation for America’s Native Spirit.
I love Samara’s passion for all things bourbon! Check out more of what she has to say about America’s spirit below:
What is Black Bourbon Society?
Black Bourbon Society is a tiered membership organization open to everyone who enjoys premium spirits and is interested in gaining a deeper appreciation for America’s Native Spirit. Black Bourbon Society is crafting a movement that showcases the value of the niche lifestyle and sophisticated palates within the African American Community and beyond.
Why did you create BBS?
After realizing that there was very little direct consumer marketing geared towards people of color in the spirits industry, I began to brainstorm how to raise awareness of an emerging trend and demographic of upscale African American professionals who have high disposable incomes, enjoy luxury products and premium spirits. And thus, Black Bourbon Society was created.
Why did you choose to focus on bourbon?
I chose to focus on bourbon because it was the only spirit I was truly passionate about. It's such a complex spirit, America's Native Spirit, and each barrel, bottle, brand is different. The science and strict production rules also intrigued me. Bourbon must be at least 51% corn grain, aged in a newly charred American oak container. There are a long list of other rules that also go into making bourbon yet despite all of that, there is so much creativity and innovation happening in bourbon production right now. It's fascinating!
Do you feel like there is a gap in the spirits industry and black Americans?
Totally! There is a lack of inclusion from within the brands and also in how the brands market to their black American consumers. I created this company because I saw a huge disconnect between the two. And it wasn't that the brands were specifically excluding the demographic; it's because they were not aware of us and didn't know how to approach us. I believe it boiled down to a lack of awareness and not having a diverse staff to bring it to their attention.
BBS fills this gap by being the bridge. We work directly with the brands to create direct consumer marketing events and experiences specifically for our niche demographic of upscale African Americans who are conscious consumers, collectors, and eager to learn more about the spirit. We also advocate for the brands to diversify their internal staffing. There is a small handful of African Americans that work with these brands but none at the leadership level. There is much work to be done. Not only in the bourbon business, but in the spirits industry as a whole.
What are your favorite bourbons?
My everyday sipper: Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond
My cocktail bourbon: Makers Mark
My unicorn bourbon: George T. Stagg
What are your favorite pairings with bourbon?
Bourbon can be paired with just about anything! From a juicy steak to savory desserts. Some of my favorite pairings are with churros and creme brûlée.
If you're not ordering bourbon, what do you order?
A good full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. If it's a hot day, I'm probably ordering gin in a cocktail or keeping it simple with a glass of Rosé!
What's next for BBS?
There's so much coming down the pipeline for BBS. We're getting ready to launch our spring events calendar which will have events taking place in L.A., Louisville, New Orleans, Atlanta and possibly Florida. We also have our sold-out Spring Exclusive Excursion to Louisville coming up. For this excursion, we have some amazing behind the scenes tours lined up with Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace. We will also attend Opening Night at Churchill Downs and conclude the weekend with a brunch-gala honoring the Black Jockeys.
Later in the year, we will produce our annual event, Bourbon Boule, another Fall Exclusive Excursion, and other events across the country. BBS will also continue to advocate for diversity and inclusion through speaking engagements at New Orleans Bourbon Festival, Whiskey Obsession, and Tales of the Cocktail. We are constantly growing, adding new events to the calendar, and continuing to create amazing content for our members on a daily basis. Black Bourbon Society is just getting started!
For more information, check out the Black Bourbon Society at blackbourbonsociety.com.