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In late August 2020, Steve Higdon picked up his iPhone and went to delete his TikTok account. The 58-year-old Louisville-based finance skilled had created his profile simply three days earlier. His contribution to the platform prolonged to 1 60-second clip of himself clumsily opening a bottle of Willett Pot Still bourbon, emptying a big pour right into a rocks glass, and sharing some easy tasting notes.

However when Higdon opened the app to finish his fling with the short-form video platform, he couldn’t consider his eyes. The evaluation had racked up over 60,000 views. Higdon jumped out of his seat and turned to his spouse. “Honey, if I’m studying this proper, I feel I went viral,” he mentioned. “And I’m not even totally positive what meaning.”

Evidently, he didn’t delete his account. Six months on, and a cumulative 450,000 likes and eight.6 million views later, Higdon has as a substitute grow to be one of many greatest names on whiskey TikTok. To his over 50,000 followers, he’s higher often known as the person behind 60 Second Bourbon Review; to loyal viewers, he’s Uncle Steve.

Higdon continues to share his movies in the identical low-production model of his first, fumbling to open bottles one-handed, and holding the digicam too near his face once in a while. Typically, he strays into comedy, poking enjoyable at neighboring states or pretending that his spouse used a cup of Pappy Van Winkle to make cookies.

He all the time comes again to bourbon, although, sharing brief, easygoing opinions in a distinctly Southern accent with attribute avuncular appeal. Relatively than use his TikTok fame for monetary acquire (apart from the odd free bottle of whiskey), Higdon has constructed a separate on-line neighborhood. And thru his new forum-meets-social-media-network, he goals to make bourbon extra accessible and produce it to the plenty, simply as he does on TikTok.

Regardless of dwelling in Louisville, Ky., and seeming to attract from an infinite properly of bourbon information, Higdon has by no means labored within the whiskey trade. Most of his skilled life has been spent in international company advertising, for corporations like UPS and Papa John’s. He additionally served because the CEO of the Louisville Chamber of Commerce at simply 36, turning into the youngest particular person to ever maintain such a place. These days, he works with an area monetary companies agency.

60 Second Boubon Review is one of the best drinks accounts to follow on TikTok

As a substitute it was Higdon’s 30-year love affair with bourbon that in the end led him to start out his TikTok account. Whereas the primary 60 Second Bourbon Evaluation video dropped final summer season, the story actually started three years earlier, when Higdon began filming the brief clips to entertain his 4 sons, three nephews, and brother-in-law in a shared textual content message group. “I might intentionally evaluation a bourbon in a really foolish, irreverent type of manner, such as you would suppose a boomer would,” he says.

Deliberately ignoring the selfie digicam, and paying no consideration to lighting or the amount of music enjoying within the background, Higdon would maintain his telephone in a single hand, wrestle to open the bottle with the opposite, then share some selection tasting notes with the occasional historic nugget thrown in. With out realizing it, he created the template for 60 Second Bourbon Evaluation.

Having constructed up a library of goofy movies over time, Higdon determined he needed to submit them on-line final summer season. His 26-year-old son Connor recommended TikTok, explaining that posting on Fb, Instagram, or YouTube can be like sharing into an echo chamber. “All of us loved laughing at dad’s dumb movies,” Connor says. “We by no means knew it might develop to be the dimensions it’s right now.”

So Hidgon set about opening his account and sharing his first video after first deciding on a deal with. “I’m a advertising man by background so I do know there’s no model fairness in any respect in Steve Higdon,” he says. Given that each one his movies lasted lower than 60 seconds and have been bourbon opinions, he stored it easy. “I assumed it was so silly, it might be straightforward to recollect,” he provides.

Just a few days after confirming along with his sons that his first submit had, certainly, gone viral, Higdon shared extra of his opinions. None fairly took off in the identical manner as his authentic however every nonetheless notched up tens of hundreds of views. Round a month in, lightning struck once more. An previous evaluation of Kentucky Peerless Bourbon skyrocketed to 350,000 views in lower than every week. “At that time I knew I used to be on to one thing,” Higdon says. “I didn’t know what I used to be on to, however I knew I used to be on to one thing.”

Quickly, Higdon’s function on the platform developed from fledgling bourbon reviewer to an on-demand supply of whiskey information. He’d obtain 25, 50 questions per day, with subjects starting from what’s a mash invoice and what’s the distinction between rye and wheat to what time does Buffalo Hint open?

“Each single certainly one of them I answered,” he says, noting that his advertising expertise informed him it might be one of the best factor for his model as a content material creator, and he assumed it might additionally please TikTok’s algorithm.

Moreover taking on an growing quantity of Higdon’s free time, the slew of questions sparked a realization. There gave the impression to be a disconnect between the variety of bourbon lovers on the market and entry to information. When he heard from some followers that entering into bourbon was intimidating, he took it nearly personally. As CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, he’d traveled internationally making an attempt to promote Louisville, the capital of bourbon, to the world. And right here he was being informed by People that they discovered the nation’s nationwide spirit to be unique; that they didn’t have entry to the tales and histories behind probably the most well-known manufacturers; and that they’d by no means been to Kentucky. In order an answer, he began a web-based bourbon membership.

“By no means as soon as in my life did I ever suppose I needed to be part of a bourbon membership. I’ve bought all of the bourbon I would like and I drink with my pals,” he says. However this was not about himself. This was an opportunity to decrease the barrier of entry to one thing he cherished, and create a web-based neighborhood of bourbon lovers.

BIG Bourbon Club isn’t the kind of boozy subscription service one joins to obtain month-to-month or quarterly bottles. It’s equal components discussion board and social media community, accessed by way of smartphone app. Members get pleasure from digital and in-person tastings (free or paid, relying on their subscription degree), and professionally streamed displays with manufacturers.

Customers can browse and submit in numerous channels, overlaying subjects reminiscent of “Bourbon Learners,” “Unicorns,” and “Bourbon Girls,” the final an try and create an inclusive area for feminine drinkers. Memberships vary from free (“The Rickhouse”) to $125 per yr (“Prime Shelf), although Higdon insists that is no money-making enterprise. “I’m investing my very own cash into this factor,” he says. “If we are able to cowl our prices, we’d be very comfortable.”

It’s not simply {dollars} he’s pouring into the platform, however time, too. Alongside the way in which, as membership has grown (now 2,500 and counting), he’s enlisted the assistance of others and arrange communities to assist share the workload.

Chris Randle, a Texas-based VP of gross sales for a radio frequency identification firm, got here throughout Higdon the identical manner his 50,000 different followers did. Scrolling via his For You TikTok feed, he encountered a bald man from Kentucky, sitting in entrance of a fireside, cracking jokes, listening to ’80s music, and consuming bourbon. “That is my type of man,” he mentioned to himself.

Like Higdon, Randle says he’s beforehand had no inclination to affix a bourbon membership. (“I’m not a giant ascot, sippy, sip kinda man,” he says.) But, he quickly migrated onto the app and located himself posting often. When Higdon seen Randle’s frequent exercise, he reached out on the platform and requested, “You’re posting rather a lot, you’re interactive, would you want to assist me out with this?” So Randle now chairs a 28-person committee overseeing the membership’s investor program.

“In right now’s world the place everyone is shut in and there’s a variety of negativity, you go to this app and also you simply neglect about it,” Randle says. “It’s superior.”

Requested why he thinks Higdon has been so profitable on TikTok and been in a position to create this rising neighborhood, Randle says it’s easy: “The plenty relate to Steve as a result of he doesn’t overcomplicate. There’s not an excessive amount of aptitude, it’s principally, ‘That is what I’ve poured in my glass. Right here’s what it smells like. Right here’s what it tastes like. Go get this, it’s good shit.’”

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Shana McGilberry, a St. Louis-based income officer for the Inner Income Service, additionally discovered Higdon whereas scrolling via TikTok. When she realized they shared related tastes in bourbon, McGilberry reached out with a selected request: Would Steve evaluation the whiskey named in honor of her nice, nice, nice grandfather Uncle Nearest? (Nathan “Nearest” Inexperienced was the slave who taught Jack Daniels the craft of distilling.)

Higdon uploaded his evaluation on New 12 months’s Day, pairing the whiskey with a Kristoff GC Signature cigar and describing the duo because the “good match” for his or her shared clove and pepper notes. The two started emailing, and Higdon later invited McGilberry into the BIG Bourbon Membership, asking her to affix the platform’s girls’s committee.

McGilberry has additionally discovered the membership to be an sudden breath of recent air, and describes it as a secure area the place everybody feels equal and everyone has one thing to supply. “Whiskey unites individuals,” she says.

When requested why she thinks Higdon’s been so profitable on TikTok, McGilberry factors to his easygoing instructional model. The proven fact that he lives within the “whiskey mecca of the USA” and has entry to high- profile trade professionals solely provides to his credentials, she says.

Talking with Randle and McGilberry about their experiences with Higdon in some ways echoed my very own. The first time I emailed him, requesting an interview, I used to be partly anxious that easygoing character may simply be his on-screen schtick.

However I needn’t have anxious. Higdon known as me throughout the hour and began chatting away as if we’d been pals for years. We’d be talking about his account, and he’d use quirky exclamations like “holy sheep dip!” and drift off on entertaining tangents, like how his nice uncle Carl Kaelin invented the cheeseburger. It was every part I hoped for as somebody who enjoys his account.

In a later name, I requested Higdon whether or not TikTok fame has modified his life in any manner, including that for some individuals, that will change the way in which they carry themselves. “Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” he says. “But it surely’s thrilling as hell and I’m humbled, I actually am.”





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