Uncle Nearest Whiskey

It’s the greatest American story you’ve never heard.

Nearest Green was the first known African American Master Distiller. He used the same elements of earth, fire, and water as others, but he added his heart and soul to create a spirit. His special way of filtering water through charcoal made from sugar maple trees created the signature smoothness. It’s now known as the Lincoln County process, named for the area where Nearest Green developed it.

Born in Maryland in 1820, Nearest was a slave on a farm near Lynchburg, Tennessee that was owned by a preacher who was also a distiller. The preacher put Nearest in charge of that operation. He perfected his technique and by the mid-1880s, he had a reputation for making the smoothest whiskey anyone had ever tasted. Folks called him Uncle Nearest.

During this time, a white boy worked on the farm, too, and the preacher instructed Nearest to teach the boy all he knew about making whiskey. Among other things, Uncle Nearest taught the boy that the difference between Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey was how it was filtered. The boy learned quickly.

uncle nearest whiskey

The boy became a young man and started selling the whiskey to soldiers during the Civil War. He eventually partnered with the preacher, finally purchasing his distillery. In a move that was highly unusual, he asked Nearest, a free man at this time, to be his master distiller. Nearest held that role for years, eventually retiring, but his sons continued to work for the person he taught to make his unique whiskey. The man’s real name was Jasper Newton but his friends called him Jack. The world knows him as Jack Daniel.

Even though the locals knew that Nearest Green was the man behind the whiskey, his story remained untold until 2016 when author Fawn Weaver read a story in the New York Times about how Jack Daniels whiskey was made with a secret ingredient from a slave.

This inspired Weaver’s quest to uncover the story of the Black man who created one of the world’s most famous brands of whiskey. While talking to his descendants, she decided it was important to tell the world about Nearest Green and put his name on the bottle. She wanted to give credit to the godfather of Tennessee whiskey. In 2019, she founded Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey and opened a distillery in Shelbyville, Tennessee. One of Nearest’s descendants, Victoria Eady-Butler, is the master blender.

Uncle Nearest and his special process of making whiskey are no longer a secret. It is the most awarded new American premium whiskey brand in United States history, garnering 75 awards since its July 2017 debut including being one of two brands named “World’s Best” at Whisky Magazine’s 2019 World Whiskies Awards and earning 15 Best in Class. Cigar & Spirits Magazine also named Uncle Nearest one of the “Top 5 Whiskies in the World.” It’s the most-awarded bourbon and American Whiskey of 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Uncle Nearest. It’s more than whiskey. It’s more than a brand. It’s a movement. Taste it for yourself.