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Meet the Alabama A&M Grad Making Major Moves as a Whiskey Blender

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(Cary Norton/imbibemagazine.com)

The Birmingham Times

Eboni Major, a Birmingham, AL native and Alabama A&M University alumna, credited as being one of the first Black female whiskey blenders in the U.S. has been named to the influential Imbibe Magazine’s 75 People to Watch in 2023.

Major, who spent several years at the Bulleit distillery in Shelbyville, Kentucky had her first post-Bulleit bourbon, a collaboration with Birmingham distillery Dread River, come out in late 2022.

(Last spring, Major left Bulleit and filed a lawsuit against parent company Diageo alleging racial discrimination, accusations that the company denies; the suit has been moved to arbitration, Imbibe reports).

Dread River Distilling Co. distillery produces its own spirits, including rum, vodka, gin and a flagship bourbon. It’s a relatively new operation, and Major brings a long background in food science and whiskey making to the distillery.

The new Dread River Master Series is a blend of sourced Kentucky bourbon distilled in October 2017 and January 2019, bottled at 100 proof.

Major told Robb Report that she met the previous Dread River master distiller at a judging competition last spring and decided to pause on her other plans to work with the brand.

“Dread River is located two blocks from where my grandmother lived her entire life,” she wrote in an email. “Besides that, I’d known this building my entire childhood—passing it every time I visited her. So it felt like it was meant to be… I had no idea what liquid I’d use initially. I was set on a rye at first, because I love rye. That didn’t work out, so I searched and searched I then found a handful barrels of Kentucky bourbon.

“The barrels I selected were distilled and aged in October 2017 and January 2019 and dumped in December 2022. This unique blend of three lots across six barrels yielded 1,500 bottles of Kentucky straight bourbon.”

This extremely limited release is available now to preorder for $115 from the Dread River website and based on the reputation Major has built up in the whiskey world it won’t last long. The good news is it looks like this will be the first of many future whiskeys from this talented force in the industry.

Imbibe reports that Major is also building her own company, Major Spirits, that has inclusion and equity baked in from the start.

“I want to be able to nurture talent and inspire people and give them tools for whatever success they need,” she said, adding that Black women students from her alma mater, Alabama A&M, have approached her seeking advice on how to get into the whiskey industry. “[I remember] what it’s like to be in their shoes and to want to enter something but not know how,” Major said. “Making sure that I bring those women along my journey to build Major Spirits is probably the most important thing to me. Not to say, ‘Okay, in three years I’ll come back and I’ll help you out.’ No—I have to take the time now.”

Robb Report, Imbibemagazine.com and Alabama A&M contributed to this report.