While sitting at the dinner table while enjoying drinks in 2018, someone asked Shima Puri“If you could start your own whiskey flavor instead of Fireball Cinnamon, what would it be?”

At the time, he didn’t know how popular the drink was but it got him thinking about it. He was soon brought Amani Macaulay, a friend he met in New York years ago, got into the mix and the two took this tabletop talk into reality. They quickly jumped into testing flavors, sampling with friends and visiting distilleries, launching the final product later that year.

What they came up with was a whisky, reminiscent of “Werther’s Original in a cup” according to Bury, something for both duchesses and ladies, but perfect for those who don’t like whisky, fans of brown liqueurs, or anyone in between. They called their invention, of course, Duke & Dame.

But it means building the brand as a new business for blacks in the spirits industry, which is dominated by white-owned “grandma” brands that have kept their name in the game for decades — even before African Americans had the opportunity to found such a company. a job. “When we entered the market, we knew we were at a disadvantage,” Puri said. “We knew we had to make a better product.

He continued: “Based on quality, we now have something we can market, and we have something we can talk to; Now we have something that will make our story more interesting, because we know that we don’t have the luxury, especially being a minority-owned company, to get a second chance at some of these opportunities.

Despite the closure of in-person events and tastings, Duke & Dame has managed to survive and grow 20 percent during the pandemic by relying on social media like never before, and by always preparing for the future.

“You know, this really shows that in business, you have to be flexible, right? You can’t predict the challenges that are going to come,” Macaulay said. “But when they come, you have to be nimble and flexible, and willing to pivot in directions.” Different ways that will help you move forward.”

Aging well

In just five years, Duke & Dame has achieved great achievements, winning many national and international awards. They have successfully reached five US markets as well as seven markets in the Caribbean and an online store. They’ve scored shelf space in stores like Publix and Total Wine & More, as well as partnerships with big names like MGM, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Carnival Cruise Line, and are even the official whiskey sponsor of the Miami Carnival.

In describing the Duke & Dame tasting experience, Macaulay explained what drinkers would taste.

“The first sip is very smooth, a little forward. “You get hints of caramel, and some people get vanilla or toffee, but you don’t get the harsh whiskey burn that – oftentimes – turns people off from whisky,” Macaulay said, highlighting the Its unique layer of taste., noting that it contains all natural flavors, no additives, and only one gram of sugar per serving.. “Then on the second sip, that changes a little bit because now you start to get more of the flavors. That whisky.”

according to a company. Duke & Dame magazine has had a 45 percent increase in revenue annually since 2020, and a 150 percent increase in the number of cases sold, according to Barbizmag.com.

However, Macaulay and Burry seem to measure success differently. “The number one measure of success was creating an amazing product that resonated with consumers,” Macaulay said, stressing that success is not just numbers, but a quality product and continued growth of the brand.

“For us, succeeding and moving forward means introducing Duke & Dame to as many people as possible, and getting to the point where Duke & Dame can be found everywhere,” he continued, adding that they hope to introduce new flavors and products. Like ready-made cocktails of the future.

“We don’t really have a specific idea of ​​what next year or the year after that will be like,” Puri said. (We will) continue to do the branding work and then allow it to emerge as far as how big it can be and how it can actually grow.

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