Du Nord Social Spirits - Founder Chris Montana, First Graduate of the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative

Back in the mid-1800s two men, Nathan and Jasper, formed an unlikely friendship in the hills of Lynchburg, Tennessee. That friendship was formed when Nathan taught Jasper how to make Tennessee Whiskey on preacher Dan Call’s farm. Eventually, the preacher chose the church over whiskey, and he sold the business to Jasper.

Today, we know these two men as Nathan “Nearest” Green, the first African-American master distiller on record in the United States, and Jasper “Jack” Daniel the founder of America’s first registered distillery, the Jack Daniel Distillery.

Sometime after 1881, Jack moved the distillery from the farm to its current Cave Spring Hollow location. It was about that time that Nearest decided to retire from the distilling business but many of his children and grandchildren continued to work for Jack. The story of Nearest Green was well known around Lynchburg but not so much to the rest of the world. In 1967 Ben A. Green (not related), a reporter and author wrote the official biography, Jack Daniel’s Legacy. In that book he mentioned Nearest many times but for the most part, his name outside of Lynchburg was lost to the history books.

The tale of Nearest Green was rekindled in a 2016 page one New York Times article during Black History Month. It was that article that peaked Fawn Weaver’s interest into the life and times of Nearest Green that lead to the formation of the Nearest Green Distillery and the Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey brand was born.

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Today, thanks to the folks at Jack Daniel Distillery and Nearest Green Distillery the true story of Jack and Nearest are known around the world and together, they are working to change the world.

Du Nord Social Spirits Transforms Brand and Trajectory through the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative

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In 2020, Jack Daniel Distillery and Nearest Green Distillery launched the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative (NJAI). The partnership aims to advance diversity within the American whiskey industry with a Business Incubation Program, Leadership Acceleration Program, and the creation of the Nearest Green School of Distilling. The Business Incubation Program offers BIPOC entrepreneurs’ mentorship in all areas of the distilling business including access to marketing, branding, expanded distribution networks, and other assets and opportunities for growth.

Du Nord Craft Spirits in Minneapolis, Minnesota was the first business selected for the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative Business Incubation Program in 2020. As you’ll recall, Minneapolis was the site of George Floyd’s death. The city was rocked by protests for many days. During one of those days Du Nord Craft Spirits distillery was lit on fire and sustained serious damage. Without the support and mentorship of the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative the distilleries founder said it’s not likely they would be around today.

“Our Distillery Was Lit on Fire and Drowned Under 30K Gallons of Water”

Du Nord Social Spirits - Fire Damage
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Du Nord Craft Spirits after fire damage.

“If you had asked me if Du Nord Craft Spirits was going to survive 2020 I would have said, ‘It’s a coin flip,’” said Du Nord Founder, CEO and Head Distiller Chris Montana.

“Obviously Covid was hard on micro-distilleries, it was hard on everyone and continues to be. But we had also gone through the death of George Floyd. We’d gone through a fire in our distillery following the unrest after the death of George Floyd. Half of our stuff had been set on fire. The rest of it was under 30,000 gallons of water from the sprinkler system. Covid had taken away all our accounts. We didn’t have a cocktail room anymore. It was pretty bleak.

“We are not here today but for the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative. We were in a pretty dark place. For me, this is like one of my kids. It’s like a baby and I had to watch that baby burn. I didn’t think that we were going to survive. Now we are looking at growing. We’ve only been able to do that because we’ve had good friends and I just want to say, ‘Thank you.’”

Du Nord Craft Spirits Rebrands as Du Nord Social Spirits

As part of the program, Du Nord worked with industry experts to transform its branding identity and packaging while receiving mentoring from leaders at both Uncle Nearest and Brown-Forman, parent company of Jack Daniel. Through distributor networking opportunities, the distillery increased its sales footprint and is now available in 10 states across the country. Additionally, Du Nord recently partnered with Delta Air Lines to have its Foundation Vodka available on all domestic Delta flights.  

“Our experience in the Business Incubation Program has been a game-changer while providing the foundational elements of strong branding and helping us develop a path of growth. Without this program, we would not be in the position we are now,” said Montana. “Our partnership with Delta Air Lines is only possible thanks to the support from Jack Daniel’s. The Nearest & Jack initiative and Brown-Forman literally made the impossible happen.”

The Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative will soon begin accepting applications for the 2022 Business Incubation Program.

Learn more about Du Nord Social Spirits.
Learn more about Jack Daniel Distillery.
Learn more about Nearest Green Distillery.
See all Minnesota Distilleries.
See all Black Owned Distilleries.
See 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.

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