Bonded in Bourbon

by Colonel Steve Akley


I can't put into words how you could gain a new best friend via a quick email, but that's exactly how this story started. In January of this year, I was working on a concept for my podcast, The Bourbon Daily. My idea was to do a week's worth of shows highlighting the contributions of African Americans to the world of whiskey that would be run during February which is Black History Month. 

While I had never met, or even communicated with Samara Rivers of the Black Bourbon Society (, I had good things about her group as well as her personally through our mutual friend in Tracy Napolitano of the New Orleans Bourbon Festival ( 

If I was going to do this special week on The Bourbon Daily, it made sense to dedicate a show to BBS as a means of getting involved in the world of bourbon so I reached out to Samara. My request was twofold: 1). I wanted to get her on the show to talk about BBS  2). I wanted to conceptually talk about the idea itself and ask for her feedback. After all, I'm not African American myself, and our show ping pongs from educational, to interviews, to funny to irreverent. I wanted to present the week in a respectful manner as possible, and showcase the many contributions of African Americans to the world of bourbon, but I wanted to make sure we were doing so without being offensive.

Whenever you are sending out an email to someone you don't know and they aren't anticipating to hear from you, what happens is, you hit send and you really don't know what to expect next. 

Do they simply ignore it?

Do they add you to their SPAM file?

Do the respond back negatively for randomly sending them an email?

Well, I'm pleased to say the response was so incredibly positive and really was the start of an incredible friendship. Samara was thrilled with the concept. She was happy to do a show with me and, ultimately, she would help me out to make sure the entire week happened just as I had originally envisioned it.

There was this bond that we had right from the first communication. We're both outside of the industry (we don't work for distilleries) but we are looking to find our way in this business. While bourbon is experiencing an incredible boom right now, in reality, the business itself is fairly small. Additionally, there are already established individuals outside of the industry like Mike Veach, Chuck Cowdery, Fred Minnick and Carla Carlton and more who are incredible ambassadors for the industry so opportunities to get for new people to enter into the mix remain limited for those new to the game. 

The bond over bourbon and the navigation of our personal bourbon journeys aligning meant Samara and I had a special connection from our first communication. It would be something we would talk about via email, text, offline during podcast recordings when Samara would come on The Bourbon Daily and phone calls.

We really cemented our friendship in Louisville, Kentucky at a stop on The Bourbon Daily tour I did this spring/early summer. Samara and her boyfriend Armond Davis showed up. Not only did meeting Samara prove to be an awe-inspiring experience, Armond was equally as great. Those two together are simply amazing together. They are a cute couple, fun to be around and it's so great to talk business with them since they are both entrepreneurs. There personalities fit so well together because they are very alike in many ways with complementing strengths. 

Samara is this "light up the room" personality who is also a small business owner and incredibly passionate and driven in everything she does. Armond is also a people person and can talk to anyone, but his greatest strength is his business savvy. He has a CEO presence about him, if that's even a thing. I've learned more about my own business just from a few conversations with him because he's simply that good. So you put Samara with an electric personality and a great business mind with Armond who is a business savant who is also very good with people as well and you have one dynamic duo.

I anticipate amazing things from the Black Bourbon Society, first and foremost because it is a needed entity. Samara says it best when she talks about how she looked at how she was being marketed to by bourbon/whiskey companies and it wasn't her. She is an educated, 30-something African American woman with two children who has a job, her own business and she likes bourbon. Shouldn't the industry speak to her, especially when you see the demographics of the spend of African Americans in the category?

Of course, the answer is "Yes, it absolutely should." She and Armond have created an amazing group that really demonstrates how needed this was. Their growth has been explosive when you consider the short time they have been doing this and their membership stands at 3,000 and counting. The distilleries have taken note of what they are doing and it will be exciting to see where this journey will take them.

Of course, one of the places it is taking them is to the ABV Network. I'm pleased as can be to announce that Armond and Samara are joining the ABV Network with their very own show, titled, "Bonded in Bourbon."

I just got their pilot episode last night. I can tell you that the show is going to immediately be on the "must subscribe" list for every bourbon fan. The podcast is dedicated to talk about the bourbon lifestyle, a review of a bourbon on each episode that incorporates the style of the Executive Bourbon Steward and an update on what the Black Bourbon Society is up to. While the content is great and really presented well, the key to this show is going to be our hosts, Samara and Armond. There chemistry is amazing and they present everything in a manner that will appeal equally to the new bourbon fan as it will someone who has been in the game a long time.

I'm proud to have Bonded in Bourbon on the ABV Network. I'm even more proud to call Armond Davis and Samara Rivers my friends.

Look for news on the first show coming from us very soon.