Black Bourbon Society: Meet The Woman Behind The Group That Connects Black Bourbon Drinkers
By DeAnna Taylor
Event planner Samara Rivers discovered her love for Whiskey back in 2015. It all started as a way to connect with her then-husband but unfortunately, things didn’t work out.
“I fell in love with Whiskey and out of love with him,” Samara told Travel Noire.
From there, the mom of 2 began experimenting with crafting cocktails in her Oakland home. When her little ones went to bed at night, the kitchen became her own bartending playground.
She started to attend events in the area to learn more about the drink and to understand the science that goes into making a good Bourbon.
As it happened, people found out about her background in event planning and started asking Samara to curate events around various Whiskey brands.
“After peeping a brand’s marketing deck, I learned that nothing targeted the Black demographic beyond the Black hip hop audience. There was literally a young man in the deck with saggy pants and dreads as their target demographic.”
Seeing this, Samara felt a little insulted. She couldn’t identify with what was being shown, so she decided to create her own lane. Thus, Black Bourbon Society was created in 2016 for the Black, upscale, professional, sophisticated, and educated crowd that truly loves all things Bourbon.
In just the 3 years that the group has been in existence, they have managed to build a following of over 6,000 members.
“There wasn’t anything else out there like it. It has been hard creating the lane with no blueprint to follow, but we are doing it. I have just had to make things up as we go.”
Samara and her current partner, host events across the country bringing together Whiskey aficionados from all over. However, they do keep the events intimate only allowing 30-35 people to attend at once, just to ensure that people get a top-notch experience.
Two of her most popular events include Brown Derby Weekend, which is an exclusive behind the scenes experience the weekend before the Kentucky Derby. The other event, Urban Bourbon Weekend will take place August 9-11 in downtown Louisville.
BBS is gearing up for their larger event, Bourbon Boule. It will take place August 30- September 2 in New Orleans. This event is an annual meetup and the goal is to eventually own Labor Day in NOLA.
“Essence owns the Fourth of July, and we want to own Labor Day in New Orleans. It was a no brainer on hosting a whiskey weekend there,” Samara said.
While the events are a big part of BBS, Samara also works hard to be the bridge between Whiskey brands and building consumers.
“Our demographic needs to be identified by these brands. For our events, the companies pull out all of the stops for us because they see the need to include us.”
Samara is truly a boss babe. As she continues to build her group, she also continues to build awareness among the brands. Her only pushback, in the beginning, was getting the funding and necessary budgets approved for certain events and ideas that she created. However, just three years later she’s getting exactly what she asks for and needs.
“We’re in a good place now. There’s still so much work to be done though. I’m still the only person of color in the room most of the time. I’ve had to learn to adapt to the spaces that I am in and be open to getting to know people who don’t necessarily look like me.”
The group is open to anyone. You can join their free group or upgrade to their more exclusive membership offerings.
“We’re open to everyone. As long as you believe in diversity and inclusion, and that Black people should be in this space too. The goal is bigger than bourbon and always has been. When you see the network and talents of our members, it’s mind-blowing. We’re cultivating a new audience and community. Of course, Whiskey helps that!”
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.