Entrepreneur Sean Edwards journey into distilled spirits started as a young man when his grandfather and uncle were making moonshine in the basement. “I was always fascinated about the making of alcohol,” said Edwards.
Sean Edwards is the Founder and Co-Owner of a newly announced distillery to be built in Lexington, Kentucky. The new startup company is launching Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co. with plans to build a $5.4 million, 34, 000 square foot production facility in Lexington’s Distillery District. This is the same area that is home to the historic James Pepper Distillery that reopened in 2017 and Barrel House Distilling that started in 2006. When completed Edwards distillery is expected to be the largest African-American owned distillery in the state of Kentucky.
Edwards Acquired the Entrepreneurial Bug at a Young Age
“At the age of nine, ‘I told my mother I was going to tell this story’, at the age of nine my mother used to send me to my grandfather and my uncles house and they used to bootleg on Saturdays and Sundays,” explained Edwards at the gathering to announce the project. “Being a little entrepreneur myself, at a very young age, I picked up the business pretty quick. I was always participating. My job was to clean the bottles, fill the bottles and make sure I collected the money from people that came in to get the bottles. That was my Saturday and Sunday job.”
“My Uncle passed away a couple of months ago. He was always a good spirit. If he was here he would for sure take credit for all of this.”
Watch the video to hear Sean Edwards Introduce Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co. to the World
Edwards registered the company in 2017 and immediately began work on crafting unique bourbons. Fresh Distillery’s products are mashed, fermented, distilled, matured and will ultimately be bottled entirely in Kentucky. The unique recipes are currently being produced under contract through Hartfield & Co. Distillery in nearby Paris, Kentucky. Fresh Bourbon’s Master Distiller, whose name was not being shared yet, is expected to be the first African-American Master Distiller post slavery in Kentucky.
“For nearly three years, we have been diligently developing an authentic and unique Bourbon and spirits line. We chose not to buy Bourbon from someone else and just place our name on a bottle. We have been very intentional and deliberate in crafting our spirits – from the mash bills up – and also our Fresh Bourbon team, including in selecting our Master Distiller. We are excited to share with the world what we have created with the world,” stated Edwards.
“Bourbon is a mainstay of Kentucky’s economy, and I am thrilled to see this step toward greater inclusivity in this iconic industry,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. “Creating opportunities for all Kentuckians is essential, and our administration aims to pave the way for progress. I sincerely thank Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co. for choosing to build its distillery in our state.”
Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton said the company is bringing to the surface an important part of the distilling industry’s history. “Congratulations to Sean Edwards and everyone at Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co.,” Mayor Gorton said. “The history of African Americans in the distilling industry is often forgotten. Fresh Bourbon is reviving that history and giving it new life in our Distillery District.”
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Some Like it Neat, Some Don’t, And that’s OK
In traveling and going on whiskey tours around the world Sean and his wife Tia learned a lot about distilled spirits tourism. “We would talk a lot about how bourbon aficionados would force a neat experience on you. We didn’t want to do that. That’s why we lead (this evening) with a cocktail.”
Sean is spot on here. I’ve seen many people go on distillery tours and they’ll have a great time on the tour then it’s time for the tasting experience. The bourbon aficionados in the group are ready and looking forward to a neat pour. Often times their sidekick isn’t a neat bourbon drinker and when they taste it straight they get a look on their face like they just sucked on a fresh squeezed lemon and then they slide their glass over to the person that dragged them there.
“Most bourbon’s fit into the category of – sit, sip and see. Those are the watchers. Fresh Bourbon is for the doers. We fit in the sip and be seen category. That’s why we lead (this evening) with a cocktail and that’s why we finished with a neat pour,” said Edwards.
Round 1 of Financing Complete, Round 2 on the Way
Round one financing is complete with round two financing is close to finalization. In the upcoming months, Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co. will announce product specifics, market launch date, Master Distiller’s identity, distillery location, company partners and additional details.
Fresh Bourbon is expected to launch late 2020 which will be followed by the release of Fresh Whiskey, Fresh Gin, and Fresh Agave coinciding with the opening of the distillery. The Master Distiller’s identity is expected to be announced at product launch.
KY Economic Development Finance Authority to Provide $200k in Incentives
To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in December preliminarily approved a 10-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance based agreement can provide up to $200,000 in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $5.4 million and annual targets of:
- Creation and maintenance of 15 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 10 years
- Paying an average hourly wage of $18 including benefits across those jobs
Additionally, KEDFA approved Fresh Bourbon Distilling for up to $125,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.
By meeting its annual targets over the agreement term, the company can be eligible to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates. The company may claim eligible incentives against its income tax liability and/or wage assessments.
In addition, Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co. can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives.