Jamar Mack, president and founder of KOBBE | Courtesy of Jamar Mack

There’s no denying the bourbon boom thriving right now in Louisville is tangible and thrilling. But for someone brand new to and curious of Kentucky’s brown spirit, it can be a little intimidating.

Neat, high rye, high proof, single barrel, small batch, limited edition — so many terms and so many ways to drink it, it’s no wonder some just order a bourbon and Coke and continue feeling left out of the loop.

KOBBE, which stands for Kentucky’s Original Black Bourbon Enthusiasts, wants to change that and help those who are interested in learning more about bourbon get more involved in its culture.

Louisvillian Jamar Mack started KOBBE in February to help make bourbon more accessible for everyone and also as a way to give back to the community. The social club’s motto is “Drink good bourbon, keep good company, do good deeds,” and as a nonprofit, the group has raised money and goods for a handful of local charities.

Mack says the first KOBBE event in March — a book drive held at Meta — drew about 30 to 40 people, and its latest event — a college football kickoff party at Marketplace — attracted 100 to 150. These numbers confirm to him that there is definitely interest in open and educational bourbon functions.

“I think the thing with bourbon is there’s a certain kind of mystique behind it. There are so many options, people don’t know where to start,” he tells Insider. “I started (KOBBE) to introduce African-Americans, minorities and anyone to bourbon culture. Our events are open to everyone, and we have a diverse crowd each time.”

KOBBE hosts about two events per month, and most of them are meet-ups at venues already celebrating bourbon, like the  Bourbon & Blues Night at the Levee on Thursday, Nov. 2. Ideally Mack would like to partner with various brands and  distilleries on some sessions, and he thinks themed flights are one of the best ways people learn about what they like.

A recent KOBBE event featured a Jack Daniel’s tasting. | Courtesy of KOBBE

“We like to start with flights — rye, bottled in bond, etc. I also like to highlight the brands that are readily available in stores,” he says. “I don’t want you to taste bottom of the barrel stuff, but I also don’t want to feature bourbons you won’t be able to buy at the store.”

The Male High School and UofL graduate says he’d like to grow the events next year and raise even more money for various causes. And, of course, have fun doing it and pass along his enthusiasm for bourbon to anyone interested.

“You look at those high-ticket events like the Bourbon Classic. Even as a bourbon lover, I just don’t have that kind of income for those events,” Mack explains. “KOBBE isn’t about excluding anyone. What I want for KOBBE is to show people bourbon can be accessible, get people involved in the bourbon culture. I think brands and venues will see the value in this demographic.”

Mack’s appreciation and love of bourbon is infectious, and his warm, inviting personality can make anyone feel at ease. The combination of these qualities will continue to help KOBBE grow and can only fuel this thing Mayor Greg Fischer has termed “bourbonism.”

“With all this hatred that is going on in this world, if bourbon can bring people together, then hopefully KOBBE can be that vehicle,” says Mack.

The College Football Kickoff Party at Marketplace drew about 100-150 people. | Courtesy of KOBBE

KOBBE’s next two events include the Bourbon & Blues Night at the Levee at the River House on Thursday, Nov. 2, and a Holiday Gift Drive on Saturday, Dec. 9, at Butchertown Social. Join the KOBBE Facebook page for updates and details.

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville. She's known around town as the Bar Belle and updates her blog (barbelleblog.com) daily. She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."


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