:::: Photo Courtesy of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey ::::
It’s incredible to learn about Nearest Green’s legacy and his impact on the Tennessee whiskey industry. Despite the obstacles he faced as an enslaved Black man, Nearest’s skill and expertise were recognized and respected by those around him, including Jasper (Jack) Daniel.
As an enslaved man, Nearest was “hired out” by Landis & Green to work for Dan Call, a Lutheran preacher who owned a whiskey distilling company on his farm. It was there, on the Dan Call farm, that Nearest and Jasper (Jack) Daniel first crossed paths.
Green was 28 years older than Daniels, and would become both a mentor and friend to chore boy. As time passed, Jack started working as Uncle Nearest’s apprentice, learning the craft of making Tennessee whiskey under Nearest’s guidance.
It’s heartening to see how their relationship transcended the social norms of the time, and how they were able to share a deep bond as mentor and apprentice.
It’s also notable that it took over a century for Nearest’s contributions to be officially recognized and acknowledged by the state of Tennessee. The fact that the Lincoln County process is now a defining characteristic of Tennessee whiskey, and that other whiskeys cannot use the term without meeting the standards perfected by Green, is a testament to his skill and expertise.
“I have known about Nearest Green all of my life,” shares Victoria Eady-Butler, the great, great granddaughter of the man who perfected the Tennessee whiskey blending process. Her grandmother, Annie Bell Green-Eady, instilled in all of her grandchildren the importance of Nearest’s contribution to the Jack Daniel brand. She would often share stories about Nearest and was incredibly proud of his legacy.
The Lincoln County process is a filtering technique with roots that can be traced to West Africa where they filtered water through maple charcoal to distill it.
Nearest Green, in his infinite wisdom, recognized the potential of this process for creating Tennessee whiskey, realizing that if it worked for water, it could work for whiskey as well.
Victoria Eady-Butler joined the Uncle Nearest team in 2019 after retiring from nearly 31 years in law enforcement.
Within only two months of starting at the distillery, Eady-Butler was tasked with blending the label’s first small-batch release.
Though she never received formal training for whiskey blending, she found herself drawn to the craft and quickly immersed herself in learning the intricacies of the art.
“I couldn’t resist helping cement my great-great-grandfather’s name into history,” Victoria shares. “While he perfected the distilling process, I possess the natural skill of blending whiskey. I’ve never been taught – I truly believe it’s in my blood”.
As a blender, Eady-Butler expertly combines different single whiskies to create a blend that highlights the unique and desirable qualities of each of its component parts. Her primary objective is to produce a whiskey with a specific and recognizable character that stands out from the rest.
Her inaugural blend, Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Whiskey, was an immediate success with consumers and fueled her passion for the craft. Her unwavering dedication to whiskey blending has since earned her the prestigious title of Master Blender of the Year four times.
According to the Uncle Nearest website, Since its launch in 2017, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has received more than 550 awards and accolades, including 65 Best in Class honors. The brand’s impressive list of accolades includes being named “World’s Best” by the World Whiskies Awards, receiving two “Chairman’s Trophies” from Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and being named “Spirit Brand of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast. Cigar & Spirits Magazine has also recognized Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey as one of the “Top 5 Whiskies in the World.” The brand has received multiple “Platinum” and “Double Gold” awards at the SIP Awards, and four “Double Gold” awards at the SF World Spirits Competition. Finally, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has been named “Best American Whiskey” and “Whisky of the Year.”
“I believe that what sets our team apart is our unique approach – we run our own race and don’t measure ourselves against others. We’ve created our own space, and no one had to make room for us”.
We are proud to be diverse and inclusive, representing the true face of America. We believe that everyone deserves a seat at our table, and we strive to walk in love, honor, and respect in everything we do”.
The Uncle Nearest team sets a great example for other companies and industries. Their commitment to inclusivity and diversity not only makes for a more welcoming and supportive workplace, but it also contributes to the overall success and recognition of their brand.
Additionally, the Nearest Green Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to descendants of the Nearest Green family.
In 2017, the foundation was established with the mission of preserving and promoting Green’s legacy. One of the ways it achieves this is by awarding scholarships to direct descendants of Nearest Green.
The nonprofit organization, also supports other initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion in the whiskey industry. These initiatives include educational programs, and mentorship opportunities.
Through its work, the Nearest Green Foundation is helping to ensure the legacy of Nearest Green is preserved, recognized and celebrated for generations to come.
Thank you for doing this piece, I live in New Jersey and every time I get the chance to share this story it feels great! I love the 1884
Cass, thank you for your comments. I love 1884 as well.
Tis was an interesting read. For the longest, I thought she was the owner but it cool knowing the company is taking care of the family. I wish them the best of luck.
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is truly a masterpiece. The smoothness and richness of every sip take your taste buds on an unforgettable journey. It’s more than just a whiskey; it’s a testament to the legacy of Nearest Green, the first African American master distiller. The attention to detail and commitment to quality shine through in every bottle. Whether enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a classic cocktail, Uncle Nearest never disappoints. Raise a glass to history, heritage, and exceptional whiskey. Cheers to Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey! The story on Ms Eady-Butler was just a delicious.
What an amazing piece on Vickie. I am happy to see that she is doing well.
You all did not disappoint with this article. I felt pride reading about how well the company has done in such a short time. I was especially delighted to learn that the business is run in most part, by women. Kudos to Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. I said bye-bye to Jack when I met Uncle Nearest.
What an amazing story. I felt pride learning more about the Nearest Green legacy. Just incredible, now I have to go see what the whiskey tastes like.
That whiskey is the best I have ever had. When I heard the story, I never imagined you all would share it as well. Lucky woman,she certainly hit the jackpot!