Ms. Rivers founded the Black Bourbon Society in 2017. It now has more than 4,700 members.CreditAaron Borton for The New York Times. Featured Image
Who is the typical bourbon drinker? Judging by the marketing for most whiskeys, a safe guess would be a white man, of middle age, and Southern by birth or at least aspiration. It could be a blond woman in full Kentucky Derby pastels, holding a mint julep.
Many people would probably not picture someone like Samara Rivers, because African-Americans like her are almost completely absent from bourbon marketing.
That’s why Ms. Rivers founded the Black Bourbon Society, a national organization for African-American whiskey fans that since its creation two years ago has grown to more than 4,700 members. In late April, Ms. Rivers led 35 of them on a weekend tour through Kentucky, beginning with private tastings at distilleries like Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace and ending with a Sunday brunch in Louisville, where they honored the history of black horse jockeys.
“There’s this big hole in the market,” said Ms. Rivers, 38. “What do black consumers look like? We’re teaching brands how to engage with fans like us.”