Uncle Nearest Distillery - Founder Fawn Weaver and Master Blender Victoria Eady

The story of Nearest Green Distillery located in Shelbyville, Tennessee is both a new story and an old story.

The old story took place on a 300+ acre farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee in the mid-1800s. That farm was the home of Dan Call. Call was a preacher, farmer, and like many in his day a part-time distillery operator. Calls distiller, the person we would call the Master Distiller today, was a one-time slave named Nearest Green. Another person on Call’s farm was a young boy named Jack. The boy worked at the farm doing chores for Call. The way the story goes Jack saw smoke emanating from a barn on the other side of the farm where Green was distilling whiskey. Eventually, Call introduced Jack to Green and he soon taught him how to distill whiskey, Tennessee whiskey to be exact.

One day Call’s wife gave the preacher a choice, “Choose the cloth and being married or choose the distillery.” Call chose to stay married and gave up the distillery operation. Soon thereafter, Jack started a distillery across town with Nearest as his Master Distiller. Today, the world knows that boy named Jack as Jasper Newton ‘Jack’ Daniel, founder of Jack Daniel Distillery and his first Master Distiller Nearest Green.

Uncle Nearest Distillery – Established 2017

The new version of this story began with a story published in the New York Times on June 25, 2016. Author Clay Risen wrote a feature story titled –  Jack Daniel’s Embraces a Hidden Ingredient: Help from a Slave. Risen took what was an open secret at the Jack Daniel Distillery and surrounding community of Lynchburg, Tennessee and shared the story with the entire world.

Watch the video below and hear how Uncle Nearest Distillery Co-Founder and CEO Fawn Weaver first learned of the story and how she made it her mission in life to make sure everyone knew the story of Nearest Green, Jack Daniel’s and America’s first known African-American Master Distiller.

“[As I was reading the legacy of Jack Daniel] page after page after page of Jack’s biography [originally written 1965-67] continued to mention Nearests family,” said Weaver. “Which meant that Jack’s family wanted to make sure that Nearest would not be forgotten.

“As I continued reading this story I looked at it and said, ‘If this is what I think it is, it is possibly the first story between a slave and a white person, in the south, during this period of time, where love, respect, honor, and forgiveness is what reigns supreme.’

“And as I continued diving into that, I began picturing Britney [Fawn’s niece who died in a motorcycle accident shortly before the NYT piece was published] in Heaven, sitting next to this big black man and this little white guy, Jack was never taller than 5’ 2’. And I began to think in my mind about how awesome it would be if they were watching over my niece. So, if you want to know why I obsessed over this story, what made me dive into this story, what makes me go every single day into distributors and share this story. [It’s my niece] Britney.

“And it is my hope, and it is my prayer, that not only did Nearest and Jack get her to switch from tequila to whiskey. I love you Brit. But my hope and my prayer is that they are watching over her and the reason why this brand is doing so incredibly well, is because the two of them, along with my niece are saying, It’s about damn time.’

This original video was recorded in 2018, less than one year after Uncle Nearest Distillery was founded. Now let’s fast forward to today and take a look at the success this brand has had in the marketplace.

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Nearest Green Distillery Crosses $100 Million in Sales – Will Double Sales in the Next 12 Months

Uncle Nearest Distillery and its Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey was the most-awarded Bourbon and American Whiskey of 2019, 2020, and 2021. The company has announced that as of October 2022 its premium whiskey brand has exceeded $100 million in sales since it inception in 2017. While the first $100 million in sales took about five years the company says it is on-track to more than double that total by the end of 2023. 

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“To reach this and every other milestone on our horizon, we continue to push nonstop. Every penny this company has earned has gone back into the business, as well as to put Nearest Green’s college-age descendants through college and to invest in minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs through our Black Business Booster program (BBB), the Nearest and Jack Advancement Initiative (NJAI) and Uncle Nearest Ventures,” said Co-Founder and CEO Fawn Weaver.

“Every cent we make in the future will continue to do the same. We have an entire generation of women and people of color, who represent 70 percent of our country but still feel marginalized and underrepresented, counting on us. This group continues to look to Uncle Nearest as proof that anything is possible. We will not let them down. With the support of one of the most loyal consumer bases in spirits, we will continue to do the ‘impossible’ so they know, as long as they operate in excellence and refuse to give up, they can achieve whatever their heart believes.”

Last year, Uncle Nearest announced it had become the best-selling Black American-founded, owned, and led spirit brand in U.S. history. With this latest announcement, the company has taken on the world’s largest.

“For the longest time, folks were sitting around waiting for us to fail. First, they underestimated us, then they expected us to fail,” said Victoria Eady Butler Great-great-granddaughter of the company’s namesake, Nearest Green, and four-time Master Blender of the Year recipient. “I guess they do that with independent companies owned by women or people of color. Well, more than five years into this level of growth, y’all can stop waiting. We are not a fad or some trendy brand – we are a purpose-driven, mission-oriented company. Uncle Nearest and Nearest Green Distillery aren’t just here to stay, but to grow and sustain at a pace never seen before in our industry.”

On Juneteenth 2021, an expanded 323 acre Nearest Green Distillery opened to the public, a project that has cost approximately $50 million. Since opening, the distillery has welcomed more than 100,000 guests with that number increasing significantly every week.

Uncle Nearest Distillery - Chief Marketing Officer Brielle Caruso
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Uncle Nearest Distillery Chief Marketing Officer Brielle Caruso.

“I joined the team this year with one mission in mind: to make Nearest Green Distillery one of the top three most visited distilleries in the world,” said Brielle Caruso, Chief Marketing Officer for Nearest Green Distillery, who two years ago made history as the first Asian American female CMO in the spirits industry. “I have no doubt we will achieve that milestone even faster than we crossed the $100 million sales mark.”

On Black Friday of this year, the company released its much-anticipated Single Barrel Black Label at the distillery for $79 and sold out of the first set of barrels immediately, requiring an additional bottling before doors opened the following morning.

The company’s whiskey portfolio of seven offerings, available at its distillery in Shelbyville, Tennessee and in all 50 states, territories, and districts nationwide, ranges in suggested retail price from $49.99 to $149.

Learn more about Uncle Nearest Distillery.
View all Tennessee Distilleries.
View all U.S. Distilleries.

Jack Daniel’s Legacy – 50th Anniversary Edition Book

Originally published in 1967, Jack Daniel’s Legacy tells the story of one of America’s biggest brands created in Lynchburg, TN and distributed around the world. The Jack Daniel’s Legacy | 50th Anniversary Edition is a news story written by a newspaperman about an unusual American who becomes greater by the day. He is an absolutely “unique” character who produced a “unique whiskey” under circumstances unapproved by any other whiskey pioneers.

This 50th Anniversary Edition includes a new Preface and Foreword written by Fawn Weaver. Drawing on more than 2,500 hours of research and more than 10,000 original documents and artifacts, Weaver concludes, “I came to this story as a skeptic of Jack Daniel. His legacy seemed greatly exaggerated. After nearly a year of research around this country, with much of it happening right here in the small town of Lynchburg, Tennessee, I’ve become a genuine fan.”

Proceeds from the 50th Anniversary edition will go to the Nearest Green Foundation, dedicated to preserving the history of the first African-American master distiller on record in the United States, and the first master distiller for Jack Daniel Distillery.
Order the “Jack Daniel’s Legacy” book here.

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