Joe Louis Bourbon - Champion of them all - label first release 1952

Joe Louis Bourbon:

A story of strength, renewal and diversity

The story behind Joe Louis Bourbon is one of strength, renewal and revival. We are living in a time when professional athletes routinely go into business and receive endorsement deals. But that was not the case in the era of Joe Louis.

Joe Louis reigned as world heavyweight champion for over 12 years. Almost everyone who has heard the name revere the Brown Bomber as a true champion of sports. But there is another side of this complex national hero, a story about the struggles of people of color in business.

Joe Louis got into the spirits business at a time when Jim Crow was so pervasive that his Black fans were not allowed to be in the audience at most venues where he fought. When he stepped out of the ring in 1951, he pursued entrepreneurial dreams of going into the beverage business.

In 1952, Joe Louis Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was a launched with Joe Louis as a part- owner of the Joe Louis Distilling Company in Philadelphia, PA. The label was produced in Philly for about a year. The whiskey was bottled in Kentucky, and the last line of the bottle label read, “Joe Louis Bottling Co., Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.” By January 1953, the label read, “Joe Louis Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.” Although this was a short-lived venture, Joe Louis’s idea endured. Now, in 2020, the Joe Louis Bourbon brand is relaunched.

Joe Louis Bourbon - Champion of them all - label first release 1952

Joe Louis Bourbon:

A story of strength, renewal and diversity

As the longest reigning world heavyweight champion and America’s first African-American national hero is one of strength, heroism, perseverance, sacrifice, patriotism, and inspiration.

These are the ideals from which Joe Louis “Champion of them all” bourbon is created. The comeback of an authentic American spirit. Straight bourbon whiskey to serve and enjoy in honor, respect and admiration while inspiring a new generation of champions.

Your purchase helps to support a new generation of champions. One dollar from each bottle of Joe Louis Bourbon sold will go to USA Boxing programs to support and inspire a new generation of champions, including members of the USA Olympic Boxing team.

Joe Louis Bourbon also supports Golden Gloves championships through local sponsorships.

Discover more…

Joe Louis Distilling logo

The new Joe Louis Distilling Company​

Today’s Joe Louis Distilling Company is headquartered outside of Portland, Maine, and distilled and bottled in the Blue Hills of Davis Valley in Virginia, where it is not lost on anyone that the history of slavery and some of the most brutal moments of the Civil War occurred. Recognizing the weight of history in creating a brand to respect and honor the acclaimed “Champion of Them All” and the country’s first African American hero, Joe Louis Distilling committed to a single, driving mission:

“to be authentic in everything we do.

The Joe Louis comeback is a testament to a country and its people.  It shows that inclusiveness, working together, and overcoming our differences can result in the creation of a company that we can all be proud of — it is the true embodiment of the American spirit.

We have created a brand which educates, inspires, and represents the triumph of good over evil, and love over hate – one where all people are judged fairly and honestly – not by the color of their skin.

We aspire to be – as Joe himself said – “Champion of Them All.” We are proud of the core values of the reimagined Joe Louis Bourbon brand, and we like to think that Joe himself is looking down on it all with pride.

Joe Louis Distilling logo

The new Joe Louis Distilling Company​​

Today’s Joe Louis Distilling Company is headquartered outside of Portland, Maine, and distilled and bottled in the Blue Hills of Davis Valley in Virginia, where it is not lost on anyone that the history of slavery and some of the most brutal moments of the Civil War occurred. Recognizing the weight of history in creating a brand to respect and honor the acclaimed “Champion of Them All” and the country’s first African American hero, Joe Louis Distilling committed to a single, driving mission:

“to be authentic in everything we do.”

The Joe Louis comeback is a testament to a country and its people.  It shows that inclusiveness, working together, and overcoming our differences can result in the creation of a company that we can all be proud of — it is the true embodiment of the American spirit.

We have created a brand which educates, inspires, and represents the triumph of good over evil, and love over hate – one where all people are judged fairly and honestly – not by the color of their skin.

We aspire to be – as Joe himself said – “Champion of Them All.” We are proud of the core values of the reimagined Joe Louis Bourbon brand, and we like to think that Joe himself is looking down on it all with pride.

A diverse team committed to excellence

Joe Louis Bourbon - JJ Mokarzel - Founder & Chief Operating Officer

JJ Mokarzel
Founder & Chief Operating Officer

Joe Louis Bourbon - Peter Guidi - Founder & Chief Marketing Officer​

Peter Guidi
Founder & Chief Marketing Officer​

Joe Louis with Joe Louis Barrow Jr. II (Jo-Jo) Joe Louis’s youngest son

Joe Louis Barrow Jr. II (Jo-Jo)
Joe Louis’s youngest son

The driving force behind the relaunch of Joe Louis Bourbon is a diverse team committed to a true high-quality handcrafted line of American whiskeys, a brand story that is intended to educate and inspire a new generation of champions, with inclusiveness and sensitivity.

Major contributors committed to the success of the Joe Louis Bourbon brand are businessmen JJ Mokarzel and Peter Guidi along with Joe Louis’s youngest son Joe Louis Barrow Jr. II known as Jojo.

Mokarzel and Guidi are two cousins, both hoteliers of Italian-American descent, passionate about spirits, who decided to take on the challenge, much as heavyweight champion Joe Louis himself did often in his career.

JJ Mokarzel and Peter Guidi each bring a lifetime of experience in hospitality, business, and food and beverage, which gave them the confidence to step into the ring.

JJ grew up in the family beer, wine, and food distribution business. When it was sold, his extensive knowledge of wine and outgoing personality made him the perfect choice to run the wine sales division of the company. This division would ultimately become part of Constellation Brands.

Peter is a “Stave & Thief” Certified Bourbon Steward and Hotelier. His interest in Bourbon grew out of summer evenings spent on the porch pouring “America’s best spirit; Bourbon” with his guests.  In his youth he was an accomplished competitive swimmer.

So, it was natural that he’d play a key role first in the family’s competitive swimwear business and later at the international swimwear brand, Arena.

Peter forged sports marketing alliances with USA Swimming and created successful marketing programs with USS “Local Swimming Communities”.

Working clubs ranging from entry level to Olympic competitors nationwide Peter played a role in helping coaches, parents and athletes make their experiences successful.

Later in his career, Peter managed national sales programs at several high-profile payment processing businesses, including PayPal, ACI, FIS and Zipline.

Armed with confidence, determination, and a fighting spirit, JJ and Peter reached out to the Joe Louis family through a connection with CMG Worldwide, which manages the licensing rights for the family, represented by Jo Jo – Joe’s youngest son, Joe Louis Barrow Jr. II.

The driving force behind the relaunch of Joe Louis Bourbon is a diverse team committed to a true high-quality handcrafted line of American whiskeys, a brand story that is intended to educate and inspire a new generation of champions, with inclusiveness and sensitivity.

Major contributors committed to the success of the Joe Louis Bourbon brand are businessmen JJ Mokarzel and Peter Guidi along with Joe Louis’s youngest son Joe Louis Barrow Jr. II known as Jojo.

Mokarzel and Guidi are two cousins, both hoteliers of Italian-American descent, passionate about spirits, who decided to take on the challenge, much as heavyweight champion Joe Louis himself did often in his career.

JJ Mokarzel and Peter Guidi each bring a lifetime of experience in hospitality, business, and food and beverage, which gave them the confidence to step into the ring.

JJ grew up in the family beer, wine, and food distribution business. When it was sold, his extensive knowledge of wine and outgoing personality made him the perfect choice to run the wine sales division of the company. This division would ultimately become part of Constellation Brands.

Peter is a “Stave & Thief” Certified Bourbon Steward and Hotelier. His interest in Bourbon grew out of summer evenings spent on the porch pouring “America’s best spirit; Bourbon” with his guests.  In his youth he was an accomplished competitive swimmer.

So, it was natural that he’d play a key role first in the family’s competitive swimwear business and later at the international swimwear brand, Arena.

Peter forged sports marketing alliances with USA Swimming and created successful marketing programs with USS “Local Swimming Communities”.

Working clubs ranging from entry level to Olympic competitors nationwide Peter played a role in helping coaches, parents and athletes make their experiences successful.

Later in his career, Peter managed national sales programs at several high-profile payment processing businesses, including PayPal, ACI, FIS and Zipline.

Armed with confidence, determination, and a fighting spirit, JJ and Peter reached out to the Joe Louis family through a connection with CMG Worldwide, which manages the licensing rights for the family, represented by Jo Jo – Joe’s youngest son, Joe Louis Barrow Jr. II.

Julie Watson

Julie Watson
Director of Public Relations

Joe Louis Bourbon - Rafael Baffini - Creative Director

Rafael Baffini
Creative Director

Joe Louis Bourbon - Michael Shoer - Head of Social Media Advisor/Development Managing Partner Victory Spirits

Michael Shoer
Head of Social Media
Advisor/Development
Managing Partner
Victory Spirits

Tonya Cole

Tonya Cole
Podcast hostess

“Authentic in Everything We Do”

In 2018 my cousin Peter Guidi approached me after discovering that the great immortal Joe Louis owned his own bourbon company in 1952.

We both immediately recognized the immense opportunity to be associated with such a noble and influential American. We are honored and blessed to be part of history and with the immense support we have received from the heirs of Joe Louis.

Peter and I are both entrepreneurs and it was with passion, vigor and commitment that we created the Joe Louis Distilling Company and entered the global spirits market.

As the CEO it is my task to lead the company during its startup phase and into our growth and expansion across the USA.  Previously I owned the largest wholesale independent food distributor in northern New England. During my college years my Dad was a beer and wine wholesaler and I learned operations and logistics from the bottom up and ultimately was the General Manager.

My Dad was my mentor and taught me the value of honesty, humility and commitment and to treat everyone you do business with, with dignity and respect. Those core values combined with the logistical experience of distribution channel management will endure to the success of Joe Louis Bourbon.

Our team adheres with strong conviction to our Mission Statement, to be authentic in everything we do, and we practice these values daily.

JJ Mokarzel
Founder & Chief Operating Officer

Joe Louis Bourbon - Joe Guidi, Peter Guidi's father. Peter Guidi is the Founder & Chief Marketing Officer​ of Joe Louis Distilling

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive.” – Oprah Winfrey

Founding Joe Louis Distilling in late 2018 with my cousin JJ Mokarzel provided me with an opportunity to leave the technology world and reconnect, through the Spirits Industry, with my early career in the sports industry. As the company’s Chief Marketing Officer my first thought was, why? Why do I, or anyone else care about a new brand of spirits. In our case, we had licensed the name of the legendary Joe Louis, whose bourbon was first launched in 1952. One thing I was sure, Joe Louis Bourbon would not be another “celebrity brand”. Joe Louis had meant so much to so many and his unique role in the American Lexicon deserved so much more than a photo on a bottle. That mission and something I learned from my father, is what we mean at Joe Louis Distilling Company when we say, “Authentic in everything we do”

My father, Joe Guidi was a pioneer in the competitive swimwear industry, and I spent a decade of my career working for him. Joe was a first-generation Italian from a large family of immigrants, none of whom graduated from high school. He would tell me stories of his life, like his first job at 12 years of age shinning shoes for World War II soldiers on the waterfront of Portland Maine. My Grandfather would say to him; “Joey be a good boy and bring the money to me”. Dad and his 5 siblings lived a hard life, but strong family values and the puritan work ethics carried him through the Marines, twenty years of truck driving and finally creating a business and living the American Dream. And through it all, Joe never forgot where he came from and charity to others, particularly underprivileged kids on the swim team. Joe always wanted “all” the kids to have team apparel, even if they could not afford it. This giving became a foundational part of his company’s mission. I was lucky to learn this important lesson from him and it is in his spirit that Joe Louis Distilling Company created its Golden Gloves of America and USA Boxing Sponsorships.

Sports is where kids become adults. Sports teaches good manners and humility. Kids who perseverance develop into strong adults who understand community and teamwork. Sports is a pure form of human interaction and something our namesake, Joe Louis did better than just about anyone in history. The notion of sportsmanship, the thrill of the arena and winning, the agony of defeat is all found in the human desire to try, and no one tried harder than Joe Louis. Our goal at Joe Louis Distilling is help the next generation of champions with the opportunity to achieve greatness.

Money is important in business and organized youth sports. Coaching, facilities and equipment are expensive, and many talented underprivileged kids do not have the resources needed to succeed. But with the right support some will succeed spectacularly, and those programs cost even more money. Everyday across this country in gyms, pools, rings and on tracks America’s next generation of Olympians are dreaming, working and training. Joe Louis Distilling intends to take this mission on in the Boxing community much as my father did with his business in swimming. That is our “why”. We are more than a brand; we are more than a product. We are on a mission to pay homage to two great men, one Joe Louis, the other my Dad by using our organization to support youth boxing at the local and Olympic level.

Peter Guidi
Joe Louis Distilling Founder & Chief Marketing Officer

Joe Louis Bourbon - Joe Louis with Joe Louis Barrow Jr. II (Jo-Jo) Joe Louis’s youngest son

“There isn’t anything we can’t accomplish when we work for it together.” – Joe Louis

Like most sport fans the world over I’m a huge fan of Ali.  More, than a fan, he was family; but also of other great athletes from Michael Jordan to Jim Brown, Arthur Ash, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods. Still, of them all I believe that my father holds a unique place in history.

We needn’t even talk about his accomplishments in the ring because those have already done and continue to do what most records cannot… stand the test of time.

What I believe is most important… what I believe younger generations need to be reminded of, is his love of sport, of county and most of all his fellow human beings.

From a very young age he took his responsibilities seriously and knew instinctively what was important and, personally, I don’t ever remember him questioning or second guessing those values.

They served him well. They serve us all well when we care to remember.

My hope is Joe Louis Bourbon, along with our Joe Louis’ Southern Kitchen restaurant concept opening in Detroit, and our other projects, will serve as a reminder of both his spirit and his values and the belief that there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish when we work for it together.

Joe Louis Barrow Jr II (Jo-Jo)
Member of “In the Spirit of Diversity” Advisory Board serving Joe Louis Distilling and other Victory Spirits client brands

Julie Watson

For close to two decades, Julie Watson has worked in all aspects of music promotion with hundreds of internationally touring artists in multiple venues. She’s also a freelance writer with a focus on music, art and culture, co-developer and co-executive producer of “Live From Cain’s,” a radio show concept for eventual syndication on public radio, and head of PR, marketing and business development for Tulsa’s Engine Room Boxing Gym. A longtime community volunteer, Julie has served on the board of numerous non-profits. She holds a B.A. from the University of Kansas and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma. She discovered her love of bourbon while teaching English in Japan years ago, and her passion for both spirits and travel continues to grow. She is thrilled to be a part of the Joe Louis Bourbon team, which allows her to combine many of her favorite things. She’s also honored and excited to help share the story of Joe Louis, a true American hero. 

Julie Watson
Director of Public Relations

Joe Louis Bourbon - Rafael Baffini - Creative Director

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Rafael Baffini is a very creative person. Encouraged by his grandfather, who was an artist, he started learning drawing and painting at very young age. “I remember I used to spend the best hours of my days at my grandfather’s atelier. Sometimes taking lessons from him, sometimes creating something by my own and sometimes just watching him work. Besides being a great artist, he was also an amateur boxer and a huge fan of Joe Louis”.

Rafael kept developing his skills using “traditional tools” until he turned 15 years old. At this point, he won his first computer and realised that he could use this machine to design instead of pencils and crayons. A few months later he was already creating pamphlets, banners and all sorts of graphic materials for his family’s business and charities.

His passion for advertising drove him to study Communications – Advertising at the university. The more he learned about this field, the more motivated he became to keep studying and developing skills that could make him a better professional. His current background includes an MBA, a certificate in strategic communications management and PR, and countless hours of practice of photo editing, illustration, video production, music production, 3D modelling and animation.

Even before completing his bachelors’ degree, he was already working as a marketing professional for a major Brazilian bank, where he had a very successful career. Throughout 15 years of hard work he was promoted multiple times and he was leading a team of 42 professionals when he decided to quit and move to Canada with his family.

Until today, Rafael and his wife (who is also a marketing professional and a craft designer) have helped many business owners and organizations find better ways to manage and advertise their companies by building or improving their business plans, marketing strategies, communication plans, creating aesthetic branding projects, promotional material, social media content and websites.

Being the creative director for Joe Louis Distilling is a great honor and pleasure for Rafael. “I am very excited to be part of this project. I like boxing, I love bourbon, and I am fascinated for drink labels. For me, a good label is much more than aesthetical choices. Besides being eye-catching and pleasant for the target market, it must perfectly represent the product and the company. It’s about storytelling. And with Joe Louis Bourbon, we have great stories to tell.”

Rafael Baffini
Creative Director

Tonya Cole

“Everyone has a story to tell…” – Savi Sharma

Growing up in a small town in Kansas gifted me the opportunity of many rich experiences within the safety net of a supportive and tight-knit community – the town seemed to live for the well-being of its children and youth.  One of my favorite memories was visiting family and hearing stories about what was going on within the family and the community…these stories, often fable or parable-like, were often utilized to keep the children occupied during our visits. I was amazed by the number of family members who had an amazing ability to tell stories – these stories, oftentimes elaborate with comedic undertones, offered entertaining insight and perspective that illuminated many ‘characters’ within the family and the town. (US census in the 1970s – 619 people.) By the time I graduated high school there were 4,000 people in the city and approximately 95 students in my graduating class. Going off to college and finding almost 1,000 students in my freshman Chemistry class was an eye-opener to say the least.      

Meeting new people, traveling to new places, and hearing their stories offered multiple perspectives often different than my own ideas and experiences.  An educator by profession and a scientist by education, I continue my pursuit of life-long learning and my love of a ‘good story’ by supporting educators as they document children’s learning processes and by supporting independent screenwriters and directors as an Executive Producer and actor.  Now as a ‘bourbon curious enthusiast’, I look forward sharing stories within the context of and in solidarity with the legacy of Joe Louis and Joe Louis Bourbon with the Making of Champions podcast.  

“Telling stories is one of the most powerful means that we have to influence, inspire, and teach forging connections among people, and between people and ideas. Stories convey the culture, history, and values that unite people.”  Lani Peterson, Psy.D.

Tonya Cole
Podcast hostess

Terms and conditions

By entering this contest, you agree to the following terms and conditions:

(a) Entrants must be a real person, at least 21 years old  (proof of address or age may be required)

(b) Prize winners will be notified of the competition result by email

(c) If the winner fails to respond to our notification attempts within 3 business days or fails to meet any of the eligibility requirements, we reserve the right to disqualify that entrant and offer the prize to the next eligible entrant and thereafter until a winner is found.

(d) No cash alternative to the tickets or other prizes will be offered.

(e) This contest is sponsored by Joe Louis Distilling, with tickets provided under agreement with specific event organizers.