Close Menu

Nearest & Jack picks businesses for incubator

Blackleaf Organic Vodka and Mission Craft Cocktails have been selected for the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative’s (NJAI) business incubation programme.

Kevin Larkai and Monté Burrow, Blackleaf
Kevin Larkai and Monté Burrow are the co-founders of Blackleaf Organic Vodka

The programme provides mentorship and business support for Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) and underrepresented spirits industry entrepreneurs.

Nearest Green Distillery and Brown-Forman-owned Jack Daniel’s joined together in 2020 to create the NJAI, pledging US$5 million to encourage diversity within the American whiskey sector.

The NJAI has three arms: the Nearest Green School of Distilling, the Leadership Acceleration Program for apprenticeships and the Business Incubation Program (BIP).

The BIP provides mentorship in all areas of distilling, including access to marketing firms, branding executives and distribution networks.

Blackleaf Organic Vodka and Mission Craft Cocktails are the latest brands to be selected for the BIP, following Du Nord Social Spirits – the first graduate of the programme last year.

Marcin Malyszko and Amit Singh, Mission Craft Cocktails

Blackleaf Organic Vodka is a sustainable vodka handcrafted using a five-stage copper pot distillation process in the Cognac region of France. The expression has hints of ‘peppercorn, nut and spiced pear’.

“Being selected for the BIP is a great honour that truly excites us. It’s humbling to have such iconic brands and their leaders acknowledge our dedication to making Blackleaf Organic Vodka a world-class brand,” said Blackleaf’s co-founder Kevin Larkai.

“There have been inequities and barriers preventing BIPOC spirit founders from excelling in this industry, however, organisations like the NJAI taking action against them is invaluable,” added Monté Burrow, Blackleaf’s other co-founder.

“We are honoured they have chosen Blackleaf Organic Vodka and humbled to have gained more than a few powerful relationships that will help us show the world how special we know we are.”

Mission Craft Cocktails, created by Amit Singh and Marcin Malyszko, offers ready-to-serve (RTS) classic cocktails made with local ingredients sourced from California.

The brand currently offers five cocktails in 375ml bottles, including a Margarita, Mai Tai, Cosmopolitan, Manhattan and Old Fashioned.

Five percent of proceeds from sales of Mission Craft Cocktails is donated to Californian food banks.

“Being part of the BIP and having the opportunity to lean into the expertise, resources and industry-leading knowledge of the Jack Daniel’s and Uncle Nearest’s teams will allow us to scale and amplify our mission faster and further than we ever thought possible,” said Malyszko.

The NJAI has also announced the return of its Spirits on the Rise Summit, which will take place on 15-16 April 2024.

The two-day event will bring together entrepreneurs and industry veterans to transform the future of distilling, with last year’s event attracting more than 200 attendees from across the US.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No