Emotion. Inclusion. Approachability. Three words that Duke & Dame co-founder Amani Macaulay uses to describe the Black-owned whiskey brand during our virtual sip and chat. In just under five years, the multi-awarded spirit has grown immensely and well, there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon.
What started as an intro for Macaulay and his now business partner Chima Burey by a mutual friend, spawned into conversations to introduce a flavored whiskey unlike anything on the market. Free of artificial flavors and ingredients, the salted caramel profile is the perfect marriage of the bite that whiskey aficionados seek with a hint of Werther's Original-like sweetness for those newer to the liquor.
"We weren't really flavored whiskey drinkers at the time, but rather traditional whiskey drinkers," Macaulay shares. "When we started the process, we looked at the products on the market at that time, and consumers described those on the market as syrupy and too sweet. We knew if we were to introduce something, it needed to be a real whiskey first to be respected by the true whiskey connoisseurs. It needed to be high quality while having a great aroma and taste. That's what we've set out to do, offer a new experience to consumers."
With a 100% corn whiskey base, all flavoring added to Duke & Dame Flavored Whiskey is completely natural. On the nose, you immediately pick up notes of butterscotch. On the palette, it's smooth—there's a light caramel smack on the front end, followed by a slight bite as it goes down. Neither outweighs the other, yet somehow it's a perfect balance. The brand also sets itself apart from others on the market with its appeal to health conscious consumers—as each serving only has 1 gram of sugar.
"We were in the kitchen crafting what our idea of a salted caramel whiskey would look and taste like," Burey chimes in. "We let all of our friends and family sample it, and they loved it. Fast-forward, and we've now grown the company to where we're winners of ten international spirit awards, and the 3rd best rated flavored whiskey in the world."
Rising to such heights is an accomplishment in itself, but doing so as two Black men coming from finance backgrounds is even more commendable. Although the brand owners are certainly proud of their achievements—with Black spirit execs making up only 2% of the entire industry—they want Duke & Dame to be regarded and respected by all consumers.
"We wanted to create something that would be enjoyed by everyone. The name is essentially his and hers. It's the story of a power couple enjoying their whiskey. We wanted to be one of the first brands to include women in the naming, and not just market to them. We approached it with this inclusive nature. It just happens that we're two Black men that own it and made it," Burey explains.
After our tasting with the co-founders, we asked them to share the best ways to take the spirit.
"Honestly, it's up to you as the consumer," they share.
If you prefer to take your whiskey in a cocktail—versus neat—the Duke & Dame owners left us with a few of their latest craft creations. Check them out below.
Make Me Blush
- 2 oz Duke & Dame
- 1 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
- 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1/2 oz Red Wine
- 1/2 oz Agave
Shake ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice and strain into coupe glass.
Caramel S'more Martini
- 3 oz Duke & Dame
- 1/2 oz Irish Cream Liqueur
- 1/2 oz Chocolate Syrup
- Graham Crackers
- Chocolate Syrup for Garnish
Crush graham crackers and use simple syrup or honey to add graham cracker rim to a chilled Martini glass. Garnish inside of glass with a drizzle of chocolate syrup. Add Duke & Dame, Irish Cream and Chocolate Syrup to a shaker tin with ice. Shake until well chilled and pour into glass.
Duke & Dame Highball
- 1 1/2 oz Duke & Dame
- 1/2 oz Luxardo Liqueur
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- 2 Dashes Orange Bitters
- Club Soda
Shake ingredients (excl. club soda) in cocktail shaker and pour into Collins glass over ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with orange slice.