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Distill Ventures backs two spirits brands

Diageo-backed Distill Ventures has invested in two female-owned drinks businesses, Jackson McCrea Whiskey and Ume Plum Liqueur.

Distill Ventures backs Jackson McCrea Whiskey and Ume Plum Liqueur
L-R: Natasha McCrea and Sheila Jackson of Jackson McCrea Whiskey, and Jenn Toyzer of Ume Plum Liqueur

Distill Ventures’ Pre-Accelerator programme was launched in 2021 and helps early-stage founders gain funding and mentorship opportunities. The programme focuses on communities that have been traditionally underrepresented in the spirits world.

Distill cited Carta data that found that all-women teams gained just 2.8% of all venture funding in 2023.

The startups will receive investment of up to US$500,000, as well as nine to 12 months of acceleration and support.

Jackson McCrea Whiskey is a Black- and female-owned whiskey brand founded in Los Angeles by Sheila Jackson and Natasha McCrea.

“Our journey with Jackson McCrea Whiskey has been one of innovation and breaking barriers,” explained McCrea. “As Black women entrepreneurs, we understood the challenges we’d face, especially in fundraising – so being selected for Distill Ventures’ Pre-Accelerator cohort is incredibly rewarding.

“It validates our hard work and the quality of our product, which we know whiskey lovers of all backgrounds enjoy. This milestone solidifies our position in the market and reinforces our commitment to making our mark in the industry.”

Ume Plum Liqueur was founded in New York by Jenn Toyzer and Katy Brandes.

Toyzer said: “We are thrilled and honoured to be part of the Distill Ventures Pre-Accelerator programme, which is an incredible testament to our early success and the enormous opportunity for Ume.

“Distill Ventures’ support will help us realise our mission of becoming the new essential on every bar.”

Since its launch, the programme has committed US$10 million to 16 drinks brands, including Lodestar Whiskey, Casa J Tequila and Pimentae.

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