Nearest & Jack choose two new brands for mentor program

Mission Craft Cocktails and Blackleaf Vodka
This week, the Nearest & Jack Initiative announced two new brands for their Business Incubation Program, Mission Craft Cocktails and Blackleaf Organic Vodka. (Photos Provided)

WHISKEY INDUSTRY NEWS | The Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative today announced Blackleaf Organic Vodka and Mission Craft Cocktails have been selected for its Business Incubation Program, the arm of the initiative that provides mentorship and business support for BIPOC and underrepresented spirits industry entrepreneurs.

Launched in June 2020 by the Nearest Green Distillery and the Jack Daniel Distillery, the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative aims to advance diversity within the American spirits industry through the Leadership Acceleration Program, the Business Incubation Program, and the Nearest Green School of Distilling.

The Business Incubation Program provides mentorship in all areas of the distilling business, including access to marketing firms, branding executives, expanded distribution networks, and other assets and opportunities for growth. Blackleaf Organic Vodka and Mission Craft Cocktails are the latest brands to be selected for the Business Incubation Program following Du Nord Social Spirits, the first graduate of the program in 2022. {To read our original coverage of this, click here.}

5-stage copper pot artisanal distillation process

Blackleaf Organic Vodka is a sustainable, USDA-certified organic vodka carefully handcrafted in the heart of the Cognac region of France with its 5-stage copper pot artisanal distillation process. Its packaging prints with organic ink and less glass. The end result is an environmentally-friendly, sophisticated, and sleek libation with hints of peppercorn, nut, and spiced pear that is not only smooth but full of character, according to a press release. At the helm of Blackleaf is Kevin Larkai, who founded the brand in a moment of inspiration while vacationing in Cognac, and Monté Burrow, a former operations and marketing leader for Diageo.

“Being selected for the Business Incubation program is a great honor 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 Kevin Larkai.

“There have been inequities and barriers preventing BIPOC spirit founders from excelling in this industry, however, organizations like the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative taking action against them is invaluable,” added Monté Burrow. “We are honored 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.”

Ready-to-pour, local ingredients

Mission Craft Cocktails, created by Amit Singh and Marcin Malyszko, offers ready-to-pour classic cocktails made with local ingredients and authentic spirits. Mission offers five award-winning cocktails in 375ml bottles including a Margarita, Mai Tai, Cosmopolitan, Manhattan, and Old Fashioned, all crafted using ingredients sourced from California and carefully chosen suppliers and partners. Amit and Marcin first met at a charity event and bonded over their passions for giving back – and a great cocktail – which is why five percent of proceeds from sales of Mission Craft Cocktails goes directly back to local California food banks.

“After gaining so much industry insight from the Spirits on the Rise Summit, we are honored and humbled to have been selected as one of the brands to participate in this year’s incubator program,” said Amit Singh. 

“Being part of the Business Incubation Program 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,” added Marcin Malyszko.

The Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative has also announced the return of its Spirits on the Rise Summit, which will take place on April 15 and 16, 2024. The two-day event will once again bring together entrepreneurs and industry veterans to transform the future of distilling. Last year, the Spirits on the Rise Summit saw over 200 attendees from across the country.  

For more information on the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative and the 2024 Spirits on the Rise Summit, please visit •

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