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The Spirits Company Giving Back, One Drink At a Time

For San Diego vodka and bourbon distillers Cyndi Smith and Basem Harb, being Fierce & Kind is a way of life
Founders of San Diego company Fierce & Kind Spirits, Cyndi Smith and Basem Harb, sharing a drink of their bourbon and vodka with friends
Courtesy of Fierce & Kind

“It’s not just a spirits company, but a way of life.” That’s what Fierce & Kind’s owners and founders, Cyndi Smith and Basem Harb, say when talking about the ethos behind their company. In addition to peddling high-quality vodka and bourbon, Fierce & Kind donates a whopping 25 percent of net profits to charity. To learn more, we asked them to come on Happy Half Hour.

Smith and Harb, former tech entrepreneurs, stopped by the SDM office one Friday with bottles in tow. Fierce & Kind’s American bourbon is aged two years and five months, clocks in at 86 proof, and drinks almost like a Scotch: It’s smooth, accessible. The cloyingly sweet aspect present in other bourbons is missing. This is intentional, Harb says. “I’m a Scotch drinker,” he tells us. He wanted to emulate some of the sippable qualities of Scotch, including its peatiness and vanilla notes. The bourbon is made with heirloom corn and other grains, adding complex flavor profiles that are missing from single-grain Scotch whiskeys.

Photo Credit: Jackie Bryant

And bourbon isn’t the only creation on the distillery’s lineup that is great on the rocks. While he doesn’t mind a good cocktail, Harb prefers sipping spirits neat. He and Smith wanted to make an exceptionally drinkable vodka that could stand up on its own, sans mixers. The result is a six-times distilled vodka that’s a far cry from the Dubra handles of college lore. It’s creamy and surprisingly light on the finish. It also won gold at the 2023 TAG Las Vegas Global Spirits Competition. Harb said that he’s been doing restaurant tastings around town and may have even convinced some barkeeps to offer it as a sipper.

But while the booze is fantastic, there are plenty of excellent spirits brands out there. Why buy from this one? The answer lies in ethics for those who may want to be more conscious about who they spend with. Fierce & Kind operates with an internal stock options program and equity crowdfunding campaign that is currently in-progress, making it an employee-and consumer-owned company.  

There’s also the aforementioned charity component, which feeds directly into The Fierce & Kind Equity Foundation. The first organization supported by the Foundation is City Heights–based Nile Sisters, which provides predominantly working-class and immigrant women training for healthcare careers. Since the brand is on the newer side, this endeavor is just getting started, but the duo said they will continue to identify and support building “economic opportunities and entrepreneurship in historically disadvantaged communities.”

In addition to tasting world-class tipples, we also talk about the news. Shearwater at the Del closed and world-famous Nobu will be taking its place as the final portion of the resort’s $550 million renovation comes to a close; Vegas-based Clique Hospitality will unveil The Kitchen and The Clubhouse in Del Mar with an exec chef formerly from Miho Catering; Burgeon Beer Company opened a new Vista taproom; and Vietnamese-Latin fusion joint Chao XO just launched in National City. Two words: BIRRIA PHO. We’ll see you next week!

By Jackie Bryant

Jackie is San Diego Magazine's content strategist. Prior to that, she was its managing editor. Before her SDM career, she was a long-time freelance journalist covering cannabis, food/restaurants, travel, labor, wine, spirits, arts & culture, design, and other topics. Her work has been selected twice for Best American Travel Writing, and she has won a variety of national and local awards for her writing and reporting.

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