Photo Credit: Abisola Whiskey
Abisola Whiskey: The Nigerian-Owned Brand Putting A Twist On The Classic Spirit
Drinking in your college years might have looked something like tequila shots, Jägerbombs, and beer. Perhaps wine if you’re feeling fancy. But for Abisola Whiskey’s namesake, the liquor typically associated with a more mature palate was her spirit of choice. Abisola Abidemi’s first encounter with alcohol was during a visit to her native Nigeria, where an aunt offered her a can of Smirnoff. However, she found her go-to beverage during her time at the University of Albany in New York, where she studied journalism with a minor in French.
“In college you kind of just dabble into tequila and vodka, and you pick which one you enjoy the most,” she told Travel Noire. “And tequila, I can do that socially. Vodka, not so much. Rum, not so much. But whiskey just kind of stuck with me.”
Creating a whiskey brand was never part of the plan. But her love of whiskey, love for celebrating life, and the realization that there was a gap in the industry made Abidemi rethink her future. For one, the brown beverage is no longer regarded as ‘a man’s drink’. Women make up over 30 percent of whiskey drinkers in the United States, which is up from 15 percent in the 90s.
“The demographics have changed as to who is now dabbling in whiskey, the age has changed because whiskey drinkers are now younger,” Abidemi explained. “Everyone wants to experience whiskey in their own way. It’s not just sitting in front of the TV after a long day at work with a cigar. It’s now something that you have at a birthday party. That’s something that you do day drinking.”
She added, “Whiskey has evolved. All the whiskey that has been out there — they’re important, they’re legacy whiskeys, they’re legacy brands, and they mean something to their respective legacy. And I just thought, why not create a legacy for my generation and just start something and create whiskey for people that are either new to whiskey and may not know that much about it, or they know everything about it, but they want something smooth and light with the fruity aroma.”
Abisola Whiskey is a different vibe, from the packaging to the actual liquor. Abidemi describes it as very smooth with just a bit of a kick to remind you that it’s whiskey and the scent of apricots with notes of vanilla and waffle cone. The label depicts a spirited young woman enjoying a glass of whiskey, not unlike the founder. Abidemi knew exactly what she was looking for taste-wise so to help create her flavor profile, she turned to distillers Next Century Spirits in North Carolina.
“It didn’t even take that long for us to get to where we needed to get to in terms of the recipe,” she recalled. “I think it only took maybe three samples. And by that third one, it was kind of like, we have a winner. Ten o’clock in the morning and I actually drank it all. And I’m like this is amazing.”
Abidemi admits that the biggest challenge she has faced since launching Abisola Whiskey is being taken seriously in the industry.
“When you have someone who is 26, a young little girl, it’s laughable. Oh, it’s a young whiskey? Oh, okay. No one’s gonna take you seriously. I’ve had men tell me, ‘who’s gonna buy this? Why? Why would they buy this? For what reason?’ And the first time that happened in a meeting, I took it in stride. I told him, thank you for the opportunity to try my whiskey. I appreciate it. Not everyone sees everyone else’s vision. Not everyone even respects it. That’s perfectly okay. I got up, shook his hand, and I left. And then I cried in my car. Not because he hurt my feelings. I’ve heard way worse. I’ve probably even thought way worse to myself. You are your biggest critic. So he didn’t hurt my feelings. It was more so just the anger of he didn’t take me seriously.”
Others have taken Abidemi very seriously.
Abisola Whiskey is now sold all over New York and is available for shipping to 18 states including California, Florida, Arizona, and Montana.
As a “born and bred” Nigerian, Abidemi wants to take her whiskey to her homeland and other parts of the world. But the biggest long-term goal is to have her own land and distillery. As a woman of faith, she knows this is all within her reach. God has been guiding her ever since she first jotted down the concept for her business in her iPhone on October 29th, 2019. Now, almost two years later, her contemporary take on the classic liquor is drawing rave reviews.
“It’s not a traditional alcohol in the least bit other than it has whiskey in the title. So I take very, very, very deep pride in that.”