First Black-Owned Scotch Brand Homegrown

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Eric Dominijanni’s Fior is the only Black-owned (and U.S. veteran-owned) Scotch brand.

(Nick Garcia Photography)

A single bottle of Scotch whisky sold for more than $2.7 million last November. One bottle. It was a Macallan 1926, one of 40 bottles’ worth distilled in that year, aged 60 years in sherry wood and bottled in 1986. There are no tasting notes for this whisky, part of Macallan’s Fine and Rare line of aged whiskys, but master whisky maker Kirsteen Campbell, who authenticated the bottle for the Sotheby’s auction house, did describe the nose as having notes of “rich dark fruits, black cherry compote alongside sticky dates, followed by intense sweet antique oak.”

The Macallan 1926 is an outlier, but it does indicate a growing taste for what the ancient Scots called “the water of life.” According to the daily average WhiskyInvestDirect Malt Index (WIDMI), prices for an average 4-year-old malt scotch have consistently risen since October 2020, save for a brief spike in June 2023. An LPA (liter of pure alcohol, the standard scotch unit) that started out at around $5.60 in late 2020 would now be worth around $7.88. The June spike brought it briefly up to around $9.00. That’s a per-unit price.

For 2022, the United States imported a total of $1.28 billion worth of “the water of life” – which works out to a lot of LPAs. If all this sounds more like a business page than a story about spirits, that’s because scotch is big business … and lately, business is booming.

That’s music to Eric Dominijanni’s ears.

The name “Fior” comes from Scottish Gaelic for “pure.”

(Stephen Blackmon)

Scotch disciple

The man from West Kendall has been a lot of things – a major in the U.S. Marine Corps with three tours in Iraq and two in Okinawa; a chef who trained in the U.S., Thailand and Singapore; a founder of the Dominican Naval Infantry; a challenger on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay”; and a Ph.D. student in education at the University of Miami. But he’s also the creator of Fior, the first Black-owned (and U.S. veteran-owned) scotch brand.

That wasn’t something he set out to do, at least not at first.

“I’m half Italian, and I always thought I’d get into wine,” he laughed. “My name would look great on a wine bottle!”

Former Marine Eric Dominijanni was more into rum and cigars until a chance encounter in California.

(Courtesy of Eric Dominijanni)

Dominijanni’s conversion experience happened when he was stationed at Twentynine Palms in the California desert, a location not renowned for its gastronomic culture.

“McDonald’s was considered fine dining there,” he said. “I got a chance to go into town and I just wanted something nice. I was in Huntington Beach, and I really wanted a good rum. I’d worked in the Caribbean and I knew some things about top-quality rum. So, I ordered a rum and the guy behind the bar, he pointed to the wall of bottles behind him and said, ‘Dude, this is a scotch bar!’ So I pulled out my credit card and said, ‘OK. Teach me.’ And as much as I was happy to learn, he was happy to teach. I left with a good taste in my mind.”

Malt in Miami

Once Dominijanni went back to Miami, that good taste led to a gradually growing collection of scotches. For some spiritual converts, the creation of a whisky library would be enough. But he took a more DIY approach.

Fior is distilled and bottled in Scotland, but the blend was devised in Miami-Dade.

(Stephen Blackmon)

Dominijanni is a man who makes his own salami. He set up some mamajuana (a Dominican drink) to infuse nine months before his daughter was born. He brews his own mead. And soon enough, he was blending his own scotch. The spirits were distilled in Scotland – but the proportions were painstakingly polished here in Miami-Dade.

“Eventually, I created a blend and said, ‘This is the flavor I want,’” Dominijanni said. “Every week, I have a dinner party over at my house, and when I heard, ‘This is some good stuff,’ I knew I was onto something.”

Soon, guests were suggesting he start sharing his blend beyond his table.

“I have an old boss, Luciano, who gets his own wine made, a few cases every year. Another old boss, a colonel, gets his own cigars rolled. I knew my buddy, Jim Landis, worked in the spirits business, so I asked him: ‘Is there a way to duplicate this?’ He came down, sampled some and said, ‘I go to Scotland a couple of times a year … let me see what I can do.’”

By the following Christmas, Dominijanni had several cases of his own blend bottled by Scottish blenders and, once again, guests at his parties began asking where they could buy a bottle for themselves. It was time to do it.

“We needed a name. For a scotch, ‘Dominijanni’ won’t cut it … I wanted something pure, pristine, untouched.”

He remembers Landis smiling at this point.

“[Landis] says, ‘Fior.’ I say, ‘What, Italian for “flower”?’ He says, ‘No. It means pure in Gaelic.’ I say, ‘Don’t tell me anymore! That’s it!’”

Sharing the joy

Today, Fior is for sale at liquor stores across the South, from the wholesaler LibDib and from the Fior website. A portion of the proceeds from every bottle sold goes to the Wounded Warrior Project and other veteran charities.

Maj. Eric Dominijanni ready to patrol.

(Courtesy of Eric Dominijanni)

“It’s a moral imperative to give back to the community, and not just the military,” Dominijanni said.

So where in the community is the best place to enjoy his scotch? Dominijanni doesn’t actually name any of the usual lounges.

“I like taking my scotch to cigar bars where they let you bring your own bottle,” he said. “We just sit back, play dominoes and smoke cigars.”

As for how Dominijanni likes his scotch served, he says there’s only three ways he recommends enjoying it. First, neat. Second, with a tiny quantity of water. If it’s hot outside, he’ll put one ice cube in the glass and then take it out. The third is a simple cocktail he calls The Peterson, named for a Black U.S. Marine aviator.

“You make it with cold-brew coffee. That flavor has a syner