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July 05, 2024

Diggs Boys Bourbon, a spirits company born of the COVID lockdowns, to begin selling bottles in Pa. state stores

The founders also plan to open a distillery and tasting room in Philadelphia next year to showcase their products.

Food & Drink Bourbon
Diggs Boys Bourbon Provided Image/Diggs Boys Bourbon

The founders of Diggs Boys Bourbon – Michael Earley, Howard Riley and Earnest Drummond (left to right) – decided to open their own spirits company during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the company's products are available at stores in 12 states, with Pennsylvania soon to join them.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ernest Drummond, Howard Riley and Michael Earley were, like many others in Philadelphia, spending time within their pandemic bubble, often barbecuing and drinking whiskey in the backyard. The only problem? Pennsylvania had shut down its state-owned liquor stores. 

"Somebody brought up as a joke, 'We should come up with our own liquor brand so we can sell to our friends and family while we were doing our little barbecues and get together stuff like that,'" Earley, 43, said. "We quickly came to the realization that that was highly illegal, and it's not as easy as we thought — not moonshine and liquor out the bathtub."

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That idea turned into Diggs Boys Bourbon, a Black-owned spirits company specializing in bourbon and rye whiskey. The company's high-rye (21%) bourbon – designed for Old Fashioned and Manhattan cocktails – is expected to hit Pennsylvania liquor stores later this month, and the company plans to open a distillery and tasting room in Philadelphia in 2025. Diggs Boys products currently are distilled and bottled in Indiana.

Diggs Boys Bourbon released its first product – the high-rye bourbon – in January 2022. Initially sold online, it is now available at stores in 12 states, with Pennsylvania on the way. Once it's approved by the state's liquor control board, Earley expects it soon to be available in 10 state stores and at places like Amina in Old City and Franklin's Pub in East Falls. 

Diggs Boys also just released a rye whiskey that is available online. 

Earley said that though the number of Black-owned spirits brands has increased in the last five years, not many own a distillery. That's partially due to a lack of outside investment, he said. 

"It's hard for us to grow as companies because people don't think that Black people should be in the space and so they won't put their money behind it," Earley said. "You can have some of the best products in the world, but if you don't put money behind it, you can't grow." 

Earley, Drummond, 41, and Riley, 42, have been looking at potential distillery spaces in Germantown, Mt. Airy and East Falls, with the hopes of finding a place that will be suitable for tours and tasting bourbon and whiskey flights. The space also will sell bottles and merchandise, and Diggs Boys plans to begin an internship program for students seeking to break into the industry. 

"That's been a mission of ours, a mission of mine, to bring that experience to Philadelphia and have a distillery and tasting room and a place where we can get together, have a good time, experience whiskey and spirits, (and) cigars, and just create and continue the legacy of what we've been doing for years," Early said. 

The founders are longtime friends who moved from Philly to North Wales, Montgomery County after the pandemic. Though they went to different colleges, they all were members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity co-founded by Watson Diggs, for whom the spirits company is named.