Detail image for July 2023 A Fresh Pour story.

Tia and Sean Edwards.

With the introduction of their craft bourbon, Fresh, and a vibrant Lexington distillery, Tia and Sean Edwards join the small ranks of Black bourbon entrepreneurs who are changing the flavor of the industry.

Written by Tabnie Dozier | Photographed by Kylene White

It’s one of the first things that come to mind when you think of Kentucky: bourbon. And it’s no wonder. According to the Kentucky Distillers Association, more than 95% of the world’s bourbon is produced right here. The heady, amber liquid is saturated into the fabric of our local culture, traditions and economy.

Detail image for July 2023 A Fresh Pour story.

Some of the delightful ingredients in the tasting experience at Fresh distillery.

Bourbon is part of our state’s narrative and the industry’s $391 million* in exports literally bring a taste of Kentucky to all corners of the globe. What has been missing from the story, though, is diversity. It’s no secret that Black and minority-owned distilleries are a rarity, making up less than one percent of the industry. While organizations like Black Bourbon Society and recent initiatives by the American Distillers Association are aiming to increase the visibility and inclusion of Black and minority bourbon business owners, success stories are scarce and Black-owned bourbon brands are almost unheard of.

That’s why a short drive down I-64 to downtown Lexington is well worth the trip. There, Kentucky natives Tia and Sean Edwards are adding a new chapter to our state’s bourbon story with their sparkling new distillery and a delicious bourbon, Fresh, that lives up to its name both in flavor and in the change it represents. 

Detail image for July 2023 A Fresh Pour story.

A mix of sparkle and warm wood tones create a space that’s welcoming to everyone.

A Fresh Space

The move from old school bourbon culture to something new is apparent as soon as you set foot inside the Fresh Bourbon distillery on 377 East Main on a bustling stretch of downtown Lexington. “When you walk into our distillery, it’s an actual tasting experience,” says Tia. “You’ll see large, Swarovski chandeliers hanging above the bar, you’ll see granite countertops, you’ll see porcelain tile. It’s not just old wood, and then sitting around the campfire. It’s a level of sophistication and elegance that people really enjoy.” Fresh offers private bookings, private tastings, and community tours as well. 

This gem of a tasting and production space is the first distillery experience to come to downtown Lexington. Much of Kentucky’s history of production begins in Bourbon County, about 90 minutes east of Louisville, and half an hour from Lexington, in the heart of the Bluegrass State.  “There are brands in Lexington, but there are not as many brands in Lexington as Bardstown or Louisville,” Sean says. “The state of Kentucky has really, really embraced us coming from Lexington presenting a fresh approach to an industry.”

“People are very supportive of us and what we’re doing,” adds Tia. “We were both born and raised in Kentucky. I’m from Louisville. (Sean is from Lexington.) I’m a Central High School graduate, and very proud to represent my high school and what I do.” Being from Kentucky, the couple both grew up around bourbon. “Bourbon was used in celebratory events and all of our family events,” says Tia. “It could be for Derby, it could be for college graduations, it could be for family reunions. Bourbon was always present, but it wasn’t present in the way that I liked it.”  While a fan of the flavor, Tia was never fond of the local tradition of drinking bourbon “neat,” without ice or mixers. That one preference, plus the desire to bring a new face to the industry, was part of what set the couple’s plan in motion.

Detail image for July 2023 A Fresh Pour story.

Honey notes are a point of difference in Fresh’s flavor profile.

A Fresh Plan

Tia’s lack of desire to follow the traditional rules of drinking Bourbon ‘neat,’ is a key component of what fueled the couple’s desire to provide something different, creating the company in 2017 with the concept to create a bourbon designed to be enjoyed in cocktails, on ice or, if the drinker prefers, even neat.

“We wanted to bring some new thinking to the bourbon industry,” says Sean, “because Tia loves bourbon more in a cocktail, and I like it neat. So we wanted to do something that was contrary to the industry, because people do tell you, ‘You can only drink it this way.’ We believe you can drink it however you like.”

“(When they used to go out to eat) I would literally have a bottle of ginger ale in my purse, and would pull it out so I could enjoy the bourbon experience, just as Sean was drinking it neat,” laughs Tia. “We were very intentional about creating a brand and a space that was inviting to everyone’s preferences.” 

It is not lost on these two, the unprecedented glass they are filling up. “We went into it just wanting to make a very good product and we won a gold medal for it (The Micro Liquor Spirit Award, 2020),” says Tia. “And then when the state of Kentucky recognized us as the first African Americans to make bourbon in the state of Kentucky since slavery, we were excited, we were happy about that, we were proud of that.”

The couple has always tried to operate at a level of excellence, from their lives, to their marriage, to how they operate with friends and family. They have three children – two daughters and a son. They have experience together as entrepreneurs and small business owners. They know all too well how inspiration can smell as sweet as brown sugar or a smoky oak barrel, but together they continue to pursue dreams that are big and bold. “Your success will encourage someone else that’s right behind you, who is waiting to be encouraged to take that leap of faith that you just did,” Tia says.

Detail image for July 2023 A Fresh Pour story.

Fresh Bourbon distillery is located at 377 East Main in downtown Lexington.

A Fresh Taste

Smooth. Unique. Complex. Approachable. I asked the owners what sets their brand apart and those are the adjectives they chose. They call their bourbon approachable with surprising complexity and satisfying depth. Tia illustrates her point by describing a key ingredient – honey malt. “There’s no honey in our bourbon,” she says. “Honey malt is just malted barley, that malts to a certain point that presents honey notes. We use it as a second primary grain, and what that does is it makes our finish very long and very complex. People enjoy it. There are hundreds of bourbons on the shelf. What makes Fresh different is our flavor profile.”

They describe the spirit’s aroma as reminiscent of fire-grilled corn, peach, apricot, and even honeysuckle. In addition to the exclusive malted grains and flavors, the process includes a lower volume of corn which pairs beautifully against the sweet and smoky nature of the barrels. “Lexington has totally 100% embraced everything that we’ve done, and so has the state,” says Sean. “That’s been the amazing part of it.”

Tia encourages others who may have reservations about taking that big leap and sharing their coveted dreams with others. Reminding everyone that you are the mixologist of your life, “Make the decisions that are best for you,” Tia says. “If you want to enter a market, if you want to start a business and people tell you that you can’t, let that fuel you to be better and fuel you to focus on what you want to achieve. It can be done.”

Where to get Fresh

Fresh is sold across the Bluegrass State in Lexington, Georgetown, Nicholasville, Paducah, Hopkinsville, Ashland, Covington, Fort Mitchell, along with almost 30 locations in the Louisville Metro Area including Kutes Liquor, Joy Liquors and Liquor Barn.

Direct to consumer is also available for those who don’t live in state. Visit for more information.