It started with a tale from the mid 1850s. A tale that was mostly lost to time except for the constant reminder of Mammie Green, a stately woman who would sit on her front porch in Lynchburg, Tennessee and tell the story of her Grand-Daddy Nearest Green. “My granddaddy made whiskey for that man,” said Mammie. It’s a story that wasn’t being told but she made sure that her kids knew, her grand kids knew and every person that sat on her front porch knew. ‘That man’ was Jack Daniel and that whiskey was none other than Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. You see her granddaddy was Nearest Green an African-American man now and forever recognized as Jack Daniel’s first Master Distiller.
Nearly forgotten in American history the story of Nearest Green was revived in a New York Times page one story in June 2016. That story caught the attention of New York Times bestselling author and entrepreneur Fawn Weaver. She took the story, dug deeper, met Nearest family members, learned the family history and a year later in 2017 started Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey.
One of the descendants that Fawn Weaver Co-Founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest met along the way was Victoria Eady Butler a Great-Great-Granddaughter of Nearest Green. At the time Butler was working for the Department of Justice. In 2019 she retired after 31 years of service and joined Weaver and the Uncle Nearest team. In the short period of time since joining the executive team, Butler has been an integral part of the brand’s growth, including being a key player in preparing the Nearest Green Distillery for its opening on September 5, 2019. She also oversees the Nearest Green Foundation that provides scholarships to Nearest Green’s descendants that is funded, in part, by the sales of the Tennessee Whiskey.
Victoria Eady Butler Promoted to Uncle Nearest Master Blender
In her new role, Butler will oversee the blending process of all batches of Uncle Nearest 1884 Premium Small Batch Whiskey as well as the selection of all future iterations of Uncle Nearest 1820 Premium Single Barrel Whiskey. Bringing the decision to appoint her as Master Blender to a head was the successful release of the first two batches of 1884 this year – both curated by Butler and both having won multiple awards to-date, including two double-gold medals. With a familial connection to Uncle Nearest’s founding story, in combination with a natural gift for blending whiskeys, Fawn Weaver, co-founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest, felt elevating Butler to the Master Blender role was essential.
“I remember watching Victoria the first time she entered the blending and tasting room. She was intimidated by the 30 different barrel selections at first, but by the end it was as if she’d been doing this her entire life — the whiskey business is definitely in her blood,” said Weaver. “She proved to us all very early on that she was doing exactly what she was meant to do. Our entire team is grateful and honored to be here during this time in history when we’ve been given the opportunity to witness the continuation of Nearest Green’s legacy through his bloodline.”
How Important is Butler to the Nearest Green Brand?
Butler has been an integral part to the Nearest Green brand for a few years now. How important is she? On September 5th of this year the Nearest Green Distillery celebrated the grand opening of its new visitor center. During that ceremony Miss Victoria had the honor of pulling the levers on the excavator that broke ground for the brand new Uncle Nearest Distillery. As you’ll hear in the video, “Miss Victoria, your chariot awaits.” Let the fireworks begin!
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“It’s difficult for me to put into words what the creation of this brand has meant to me and my family,” said Butler. “Being able to contribute to my great-great-grandfather’s whiskey-making legacy as Master Blender is an honor, as well as a great responsibility. It feels like I’m picking up right where he left off and I am ready.”
“When we launched Uncle Nearest, making history was nowhere on our radar. We cared solely about cementing the legacy of the first-known African-American master distiller for generations to come,” said Weaver. “That we made history in many of these areas is both exhilarating and unfortunate. The latter because it took this long to bring women and people of color to the forefront of this great American industry. The former because no matter how long something takes, there’s something magical about the first time it finally happens.”
Uncle Nearest super-premium whiskey is now the fastest-growing independent American whiskey brand in U.S. history, as measured by sales. It is available in all 50 U.S. states and 10 countries.