Exclusive: Kentucky Owl Founder Dixon Dedman is Mixing it Up with Eli Mason

Eli Mason Cocktail Mixers
Eli Mason Cocktail Mixers

One of Kentucky’s brightest bourbon stars has taken a shine to Tennessee. Kentucky Owl Founder and gifted palate possessor Dixon Dedman has acquired a significant stake in Eli Mason: a cocktail syrup and mixer brand based in Nashville.

Dedman, who sold Kentucky Owl to Stoli parent company SPI Group last year, is still managing batches of the legendary, revived bourbon brand. But that he’s taken some of the profits from last year’s sale and invested in Eli Mason shouldn’t be surprising. The cocktail syrups, which currently are limited in distribution to Nashville and Chattanooga, has been bringing in major talent in recent months, in preparation to expand to the rest of Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and the rest of the south.

Premium cocktail ingredients are a huge and still growing market right now. As bourbon quality (and prices) rise, there’s more cultural and financial incentive to use better ingredients in the preparation of cocktails.

“I firmly believe there is great potential in the beverage industry for products that live in the Ultra Premium/Craft space,” Dedman said in advance comments shared with Bourbon Review. “Eli Mason fits that category perfectly, and I look forward to being a part of an ownership group that is dedicated to taking these delicious cocktail mixers well beyond Nashville.

As a partner, Dedman joins Made South Founder Chris Thomas, who is the largest Eli Mason shareholder. The two met and became friends through social circles, and Dedman actually approached him about getting involved. “Dixon has been kind enough to bring Kentucky Owl to our Southern Whiskey Society event for the last two years,” says Thomas.

The start of this conversation happened earlier this summer. “When he was in town for the event in August, [Dixon] asked me to think what it might look like to have him involved in some the way,” says Thomas. “We had enjoyed a modest amount of whiskey that evening, so I chalked it up to the fun spirit of the evening. Bright and early the next morning he texted me that he was serious. We were off to the races.”

Dedman will be joining the ownership group “in an advisory role,” according to Thomas. “He will share his knowledge and experience of the spirits industry, and when it makes sense he will create connections for the brand through his relationships.”

We bet Kentucky Owl and Eli Mason make a hell of an old fashioned.

G. Clay Whittaker
Clay is Editor at Large of The Bourbon Review. He has written about whiskey, food, drink, and culture for Esquire, Playboy, Men's Journal, Popular Science, Southern Living, Maxim, among others.