A black-owned whiskey business is taking shape and growing across the country. Duke & Dame is the same as the newly created company, where its vision was initially to change the way people enjoyed their whiskey drinking experience. He aimed to achieve his goal by creating a premium flavored whiskey that “would stimulate the senses at every stage of the drinking process, with incredible aroma, remarkable taste and an extremely smooth finish”.
In an interview with the Michigan Chronicle, one of Duke & Dame’s co-founders explained how the company’s early vision gave rise to its salted caramel flavored whiskey and how his company stands out from other whiskey brands.
“We really wanted to create something that redefines the whiskey drinking experience,” said Amani Macaulay, co-founder of Duke & Dame. “For consumers, they thought a lot of our competitors were too syrupy, too sweet, some had an artificial aftertaste. So we thought, why can’t we have a quality flavored whisky?
The thought was why should one give up quality just because one wants some flavor in their drink.
The attitude about finding this solution was that the drink had to be a whiskey first, 100% natural, with no artificial additives, and just the right amount of sweetness.
This approach to finding the perfect balance of flavors has already won awards for Duke & Dame.
“Right before we launched in 2018, we really wanted to be on the shelves with a medal,” Macaulay said. “It gives you validation. When you’re this new brand that nobody knows about, you buy it off the shelf, people think about the price and think maybe it’s good.
Taste “good” is probably an understatement following the awards this black-owned brand of whiskey has garnered in a short time. Duke & Dame has submitted its whiskey to four of the biggest international spirits competitions. After hoping to place in just one of the contests, their product placed in all four – with notable wins from each when their whiskey entered the market.
Not bad for someone like Macaulay who took a huge career leap working on Wall St. to pursue a journey of entrepreneurship and his passion for the whiskey industry.
Macaulay’s business partner, Chima Burey, co-founder of Duke & Dame, years before he mentioned the idea to Macaulay, visited with friends and asked him what flavor of whiskey he would create, he had the opportunity.
Years later, after Macaulay retired from his career in finance, he and Burey were hanging out one night in Miami. A conversation about what Macaulay would do next in his career sparked a discussion about the possibility of being business partners in the whiskey industry, bringing together an idea Burey had had with friends a few years earlier.
“He said we should make a caramel-flavored whiskey, … we share a love for spirits and at the time I was still figuring it out, so I was interested in exploring that idea.”
Two friends out for a night of drinks, had an idea and before long they started researching, visited a distillery and learned the process. After a while, they thought that this idea might not be as impossible as they had first imagined.
Macauley returned to New York and began prototyping flavors, Burey would do the same in Florida. The responses from their taste tests with friends have been excellent.
“When we set out to create the whisky, we really wanted to create something for everyone. We wanted to bring in your die-hard whiskey enthusiast and then people who might say whey hates whiskey and let them know they’re going to love it!
Duke & Dame, Salted Caramel Whiskey offers just 1g of sugar per serving, the lowest amount among its competitors. It is currently offered at select bars, restaurants and retailers in New York, Florida and Michigan, including Meijer Rivertown Market on Jefferson in Detroit.
Duke & Dame is also perfect for the fall season like Caramel Pumpkin Pie, Caramel Apple Mules, or Coconut Cream Espresso Martinis.
Macauley and Burey’s entrepreneurial spirit sets an example as one of the few black-owned and operated independent liquor brands as Duke & Dame begins to stand out, achieving growth of more than 150% of cases sold this year.