Imbibe 75 Person to Watch: Eboni Major - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Imbibe 75 Person to Watch: Eboni Major

Stirring the pot was never Eboni Major’s intention. One of just a handful of Black women working in American whiskey, she spent several years at the Bulleit distillery in Shelbyville, Kentucky, blending a range of products and creating the awarded Bulleit Blenders’ Select. But in a lawsuit filed in the spring of 2022, Major alleged pay discrimination and racially biased treatment during her tenure there. (The suit was dismissed and the dispute moved to arbitration.) She hoped that publicly sharing her experience as a Black whiskey maker might bring about change.

Now, Major is making the change herself, building her own company, Major Spirits, that has inclusion and equity baked in from the start. “I want to be able to nurture talent and inspire people and give them tools for whatever success they need,” she says, adding that Black women students from her alma mater, Alabama A&M, have approached her seeking advice on how to get into the whiskey industry. “[I remember] what it’s like to be in their shoes and to want to enter something but not know how,” Major says. “Making sure that I bring those women along my journey to build Major Spirits is probably the most important thing to me. Not to say, ‘Okay, in three years I’ll come back and I’ll help you out.’ No—I have to take the time now.”

The company is in the early stages as Major creates a brand strategy and seeks funding; simultaneously, she has partnered with blender and distiller Marianne Eaves to serve as creative director of whiskey company Eaves Blind. She intends to create whiskey, of course, and other spirits as well, though she says, “You’ll probably never see me do a vodka.”

Her first post-Bulleit bourbon, a collaboration with Birmingham distillery Dread River, came out in late 2022. For Major, taking time to develop and launch her company ensures its integrity. “Building a brand isn’t about getting on the shelf,” she says. “It’s about getting it right.”

Click here to read more about some of 2023’s other Imbibe 75 People and Places to Watch.

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