Courts may have to decide rights to claim state’s first Black-owned distillery

LEXINGTON, KY. (AP) — A disagreement is brewing over who started the first Black-owned distillery in Kentucky.

Victory Global, operating as Brough Brothers Distillery in Louisville, filed a federal lawsuit this month accusing Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co. in Lexington of “unfair competition for false advertising” after its owners claimed to be Kentucky’s first Black-owned distillery, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Fresh Bourbon does not have its own distillery and does not have the necessary permits to distill and distribute bourbon, the lawsuit states. It asks for an injunction that would prevent Fresh Bourbon from saying that it is, or is one of, the first Black-owned distilleries in Kentucky.

Fresh Bourbon’s owners, Sean and Tia Edwards, stand by their claim.

“In association with our distilling partner, we have been barreling our unique mash bill bourbon since 2018,” Sean Edwards said in a statement. “We also stand behind our award-winning bourbon, which is mashed, distilled, and bottled in Kentucky.”

A Kentucky Senate resolution honored Fresh Bourbon for being the first Black-owned distillery in the state.

Brothers Victor, Chris, and Bryson Yarbrough founded Brough Brothers in 2018 “with the goal of being the first African American owners of a bourbon distillery in Kentucky,” according to the lawsuit.

After obtaining necessary permits and licenses, the company filled its first bourbon barrel to begin the aging process in 2020.

“By reason of Fresh Bourbon’s actions, Victory Global has suffered harm to its reputation, commercial interests, and the goodwill associated with its product,” the lawsuit states. “Unless Fresh Bourbon is restrained from its actions, Victory Global will continue to be irreparably harmed.”

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