TN Whiskey Companies Uncle Nearest and Jack Daniel’s Pledge $5 Million to Advance African American Leadership in Whiskey Industry
Way back in the mid-1800s a black man name Nearest Green and a white man named Jack Daniel worked together to create what would one day be one of the most valuable brands in the world. The name of that brand is none other than Jack Daniel’s which Interbrand ranks as one of the top 100 global brands.
You see Nearest Green, known simply as Uncle Nearest to his friends is the man that taught Jack Daniel, known to his friends as Uncle Jack, how to distill whiskey. Together they didn’t distill just any kind of whiskey, together they made Tennessee whiskey using a method of pouring the fresh made whiskey into vats filled with charred Sweet Maple before placing it in barrels for aging where it picks up its color and mellow flavors. Back in the day it was no secret who Uncle Nearest Green was. In fact, in Lynchburg, Tennessee Nearest and his family were one of the most respected, wealthy and well known families in the area.
“Where there is hope, there is vision. Where there is vision, there is action. And where there is action, there is change.”
~ Fawn E. Weaver, CEO & Founder Nearest Green Distillery
Over time, the story of Jack and Nearest’s friendship was lost. Locals knew the story but beyond the town of Lynchburg the story was never really told. Years later in 1967 author Ben Green wrote the authoritative story of Jack Daniel’s Legacy including many references to the man that in modern terms would be referred to as his master distiller. That Master Distiller was Nearest Green. A man that had once been a slave is the man that is now recognized as the man that taught Jack Daniel how to distill.
The story once again faded away for nearly half a century until 2016 when New York Times writer Clay Risen penned a story during Black History Month that placed the tale of Jack and Nearest on page one of the Times. That story was read by another New York Times best-selling author Fawn Weaver. You can learn more about Weaver’s building of this new global brand Uncle Nearest Tennessee Premium Whiskey in the related stories below.
Since that 2016 New York Times story Weaver has made it her life’s work to make sure the world knows the story of Nearest Green, the man that was at the forefront of creating one of the most valuable brands in modern history. Weaver makes sure that story is told with love, honor and respect. And Weaver will often point out that her goal is to, “Tell this story…with honor… with love… with respect and make sure that the world knows who Nearest Green was but… make sure that it is told in such a way where it builds the legacy of Nearest, without harming the legacy of Jack.”
Weaver started Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey in 2018 and she’s been a beacon of light in the distilled spirits industry ever since. Similar to the way Elon Musk has disrupted the automobile industry Weaver has been a disruptor in the distilled spirits industry. If you’ve met Fawn Weaver you know that she is a force to be reckoned with, she is and will continue to change the world for the better, not just the distilled spirits world but the world.
That unlikely friendship from the mid-1800s that withered away over nearly two centuries has now come full circle.
Together We Can
Jack Daniel’s and Nearest Green Pledge $5 Million to Advance African American Leadership in Whiskey
Today what may seem like an unlikely partnership has just announced a joint effort to bring the lack of a minority presence in the distilled spirits industry to the forefront.
The Jack Daniel Distillery and the Nearest Green Distillery has announced the ‘Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative’ to further diversity within the American whiskey industry. Both companies are supporting it equally with an initial combined pledge of $5 million to help create the Nearest Green School of Distilling, develop the Leadership Acceleration Program (LAP) for apprenticeships and establish the Business Incubation Program (BIP), focused on providing expertise and resources to African Americans entering the spirits industry as entrepreneurs. This joint initiative will be guided by an advisory board with members from both organizations.
Motlow State College, the fastest growing college in Tennessee, has worked with leaders from both companies for the past year to develop a curriculum for the Nearest Green School of Distilling. The STEM based and employable skills focused program has passed Motlow State requirements and is now awaiting approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents to begin moving toward accreditation by the institutions accrediting body SACSCOC. The certificate program may be offered as early as Fall 2021.
The Leadership Acceleration Program (LAP) will offer apprenticeships specifically to African Americans already in the whiskey industry, who are wanting to become a head distiller, head of maturation or production manager. The inaugural apprentices have already been identified and will begin shadowing at top distilleries throughout the country.
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The third arm of the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative is the Business Incubation Program (BIP) that will offer African American entrepreneurs mentorship in all areas of the distilling business, including access to top marketing firms, branding executives, expanded distribution networks and other assets and opportunities to grow their spirits businesses.
“Generally, when companies talk about the need to improve diversity, few immediate action steps follow,” said Weaver. “Our group is different. We are doers, and we all agreed to work together to improve diversity in our industry, and specifically, a way to get African Americans into top positions within our industry.
“Nearest Green taught Jack Daniel how to make Tennessee whiskey and we’re incredibly proud our companies are joining forces to further their legacies of excellence, and to make distilling and the whiskey industry we love more diverse.”
“Given our deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, I am thrilled we are coming together in this way today,” said Lawson Whiting, President and Chief Executive Officer, Brown-Forman Corporation, the parent company of Jack Daniel’s. “This collaboration allows the extraordinary friendship of Nearest and Jack, and the hope they embodied during racially divided times in our country’s history, to help us advance the next generation of African American leaders in our industry.”
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey can be found in all 50 states and more than 170 countries. Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is currently available in all 50 states and 12 countries. Pretty amazing for a brand that has only been around for two years.
Uncle Nearest Distillery Promotes Nearest Green’s Great-Great-Granddaughter to Master Blender
History Meets Distilling as Uncle Nearest Celebrates Grand Opening of 1st U.S. Whiskey Distillery to Honor African-American [Video]
A Day on the Trail: Nearest Green Distillery Grand Opening – A Story of Love, Honor & Respect
A Day on the Trail: The Story of Nearest Green, America’s 1st African-American Master Distiller [Video]