Savannah locals, long-time friends, and business partners hoping to “lift Savannah’s spirits” sit down with Connect to talk about their new concept “Bourbon & Blues.”
Who are John Johnson and Tony Woods?
Tony: John and I are long-time friends and business partners who actually met each other here at Bartlett Middle School, which is STEM Academy now. I left Savannah after high school and served eight years as a technician in the US Air Force, followed by five years as an engineer in the nuclear industry. Following that, I put in 20 years as an engineer in the pharmaceutical industry. I’ve lived in numerous countries and cities but I’m back here in Savannah now!
John: I’ve had a career here at Gulfstream. November of this year will be 39 years!
How did the concept of “Bourbon & Blues” form?
Tony: Once I got back into Savannah, the way we kinda rekindled our friendship was over a glass of bourbon. John and I were members of a bourbon club at the DeSoto, which still exists. The club has members from different backgrounds who come together to celebrate life and enjoy fine bourbon and spirits. After joining the club, we really loved the fact that we met other people that were bourbon enthusiasts. There seemed to be a community in Savannah who were interested in the same things, so we thought – let’s turn more people on to something we like and bring more people into this bourbon community!
John: It was then that we started talking about the overall concept of bringing people together and one night, I was listening to some blues and cooking, and the idea just came to me “Bourbon & Blues.”
What can attendees expect at “Bourbon & Blues?”
Tony: Not every event will be the same, but every one of them will involve learning about and tasting bourbons and/or whiskeys. Our events will include things like how they’re made, what makes a whiskey a bourbon, what pairs well with it, how is this one made vs. another, eating small bites, listening to good music and hanging out with friends (new and old).
John: We just basically want to make bourbon fun, informative and approachable. We’re definitely planning to showcase a variety, beginning with some made here in the LowCountry. Burnt Church Distillery in Bluffton will be providing the spirits for our first event and local master mixologist and founder of Rhoot Man Beverage Company, Sidney Moses Lance will be joining us and bringing his shrubs to make unique, stand-out cocktails.
What are some of your favorite bourbons?
John: I have a couple of favorites. I like Uncle Nearest and Woodford Reserve. Woodford Reserve was what really started my bourbon experience.
Tony: I second that. I also like Elijah Craig and Oak & Eden. We also love Burnt Church Distillery, of course!
You say 10% of the proceeds raised will go towards Gilliard and Co.. Can you tell us a little bit about this organization?
Tony: Gilliard and Co. is a local non-profit organization that provides transitional living assistance to young adults leaving the foster care system in Southern Georgia. We figured it would be a great organization to give to because we truly believe in community.
John: As much as we can do to highlight different charities across the Savannah region, we’re going to do that. We hope to give a little bit back after every event that we host to some type of local charity.
You both are obviously Jazz and Blues lovers. Do you have a favorite local musician?
John: The musician that we chose to launch the event is Brett Barnard and The Hitman Band. I met Brett years ago on River Street at the Warehouse and he’s full of fire when it comes to playing the blues. Savannah has a lot of great jazz and blues musicians but we really love Brett so that’s why we asked him to perform at our first event!
What can the community expect in the future from “Bourbon & Blues” and where can they follow future events?
Tony: Right now we’re in the early stages of planning two more events and we’re focusing on the possibility of starting monthly tastings. There are so many stories that need to be told about bourbon and whiskey—stories about distilleries, cocktails, the blues, pairing between spirits and food, master distillers, the spirit-making process, etc. We can’t wait to bring more “spirit” to the Savannah community!
“Bourbon and Blues” will take place at Cohen’s Retreat on Fri., Oct. 8. The event will start at 6 p.m. and tickets are $65 which includes four drink tickets for private tasting, small bites, entertainment, and a 10% charitable donation. To purchase tickets visit Eventbrite and search for the event.