Black-owned distilleries are breaking barriers that once surrounded the Kentucky bourbon industry

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LOUISVILLE — Growing up in the predominantly Black West End of Louisville, Victor Yarbrough knew bourbon was a dominant force in Kentucky and that he was living near some of the most famous bourbon makers in the world. In college, he sampled cheaper bourbons, but he does not remember picking up a bottle of his own at the liquor store or ever really appreciating the spirit.

As a young Black man, Yarbrough was outside the drink’s gravitational pull.

What he remembers being marketed in his part of town wasColt 45 malt liquor and bottles of the Canadian whiskey Crown Royal that came in soft purple fabric bags.

“Bourbon was considered a premium product — and I’m not sure that a premium product was necessarily marketed toward African Americans,” Yarbrough said.

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