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Victor Harvey, founder and CEO of Victor George Spirits, a Black-owned whiskey brand based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is involved in a legal dispute with French cognac company Rémy Martin. The conflict stems from the firms featuring the year ‘1738’ on their respective bottle labels.
According to the Miami New Times, Harvey said his company’s attorneys received a notice from E. Remy Martin & Co. in November 2023, stating the spirits brand had no legal use of the year on its Fort Mosé bourbon bottles.
“This originally came as an utter surprise,” Harvey told New Times. “I’m not an attorney, but I’ve never known you could trademark an entire year as part of a trademark. We 100 percent chose the year 1738 because of its significance to Black people in America…it was the first year in this country where Black people could live free in some regard. That’s our sole reason for using it.”
Harvey’s reasoning holds a deeper meaning for Black Americans in the South. In 1726, more than a dozen enslaved people escaped Charleston, South Carolina, and migrated to Florida, where the Spanish had already occupied most of the state, per New Times. At the time, more enslaved people had broken free and headed toward St. Augustine, leading to the first underground railroad.
The formerly enslaved people then joined forces with the Spanish to take down their English enslavers. After a victorious battle, the Florida governor granted them their Fort Mosé town in 1738. According to the Miami New Times, the city became America’s first free haven for Black residents.
“When I started researching a name for our bourbon, I wanted something related to Florida and something related to Black people,” Harvey explained. “Sadly, the story of Fort Mosé had never really been told. It was not only an opportunity for a great name, but to get the story out there and do our part of telling some history.”
The Black-owned brand paid homage to Fort Mosé’s cultural history by pledging to donate $1 for every bottle sold in its first year. In 2023, VGS made a $10,000 donation to the Fort Mosé Historical Society, a nonprofit highlighting the city’s history of African American freedom.
The funds will aid in building a replica of the fort and contribute to educational programming.
Victor George Spirits launched Fort Mosé 1738 bourbon in June 2022. Since then, the whiskey has become the brand’s top seller and is available in 10 states. However, the spirits distiller plans to release other products, including rye whiskey for Black History Month and tequila in June, per New Times.
For Rémy Martin, 1738 “commemorates the reward of excellence bestowed on Rémy Martin by King Louis XV in 1738,” according to the company’s website.