Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green was born in 1820, approximately 45 years before the end of the Civil War. He was an enslaved man who was known throughout Lynchburg, Tennessee and surrounding areas for his whiskey making ability. After the war between the states ended, Mr. Green continued to make his whiskey as a freedman. In doing so, Nearest became the first master distiller behind the famous Jack Daniel’s brand until 1884. He is also the first black master distiller of record in the United States. With the exception of his descendants, and people close to the family, the Nearest Green story was often overlooked.
In June 2016, future Uncle Nearest CEO Fawn Weaver, read an article in the New York Times that acknowledged a black man taught Jack Daniel’s how to make whiskey. Her interest in the Nearest Green story started a journey that launched a new brand of Tennessee whiskey.
The Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey officially launched in July 2017. Since then, it has experienced crazy growth for an independent whiskey brand. Even with 2020 being an anomaly in the global economy, the company still out paced their projections. Uncle Nearest whiskey is sold in 50 states, 12 countries with no doubt more will be added to their distribution. There is no stopping this brand at this point, the sky is the limit. Uncle Nearest is the largest selling African American owned spirit brand in history.
The distillery closed in March 2020 out of an abundance of caution, during the global pandemic. Upon the announcement that they would reopen on June 19, 2021, it was not lost on many the significance of that date. Surely nobody would have known that by the time the reopening happened, Juneteenth would be a national holiday in America.
June 19, 1865 was a 156 years ago. This is the date in history that the last of enslaved people were notified they had been emancipated. The Civil War was over, and they were now free. Fast forward 156 years and there will be another celebration on June 19th. A group of people with gather to celebrate the reopening of the Uncle Nearest Distillery. A distillery named after a former enslaved man who is being honored as one of the best master distillers to ever live.
There is a four-phase planned layout of the distillery property. The day of the grand reopening will reveal phase two for attendees. The distillery is a fully functioning operation and farm Monday through Friday. It is located on 270 acres in Shelbyville, Tennessee. As of now, the weekends are the only opportunity that visitors will have to take guided tours and/or tastings. When all four-phases of the distillery are complete, it will be a magnificent symbol of the legacy left by Uncle Nearest Green.
If you go:
Address: 3125 Highway 231 N., Shelbyville, TN. 37160
Hours of Operation: Saturday 9am-6pm/Sunday 11am-6pm
There is no longer a mask mandate in the state of Tennessee. However, if you are not vaccinated, the distillery does request for visitors to wear a mask whenever indoors.