It’s one of the oldest, largest and historic brands of liquor known to the world – Jack Daniel’s. With thousands of fans and consumers across the globe, many connoisseurs find the history of its origins very interesting. The first distillery was in a barn near Lynchburg, Tennessee where Jack Daniel hired a freed slave named Nathan “Nearest” Green. The simple deal they struck would make “Nearest” Green the first African American distiller in North America and his recipe would set the mold for Jack Daniel’s products to follow.
Details of Nathan “Nearest” Green’s life are limited; however, what is known is that at some point after he was freed, he worked as a master distiller, teaching a young Jack Daniel the craft. Born Nathan Green in Maryland, he learned the craft of distilling while a slave there. He ended up in Lynchburg, TN working in the distillery of a wealthy land owner named Dan Call. Mr. Call teamed Green up with a young orphaned Jack Daniel to work in his distillery and after the Civil war, Jack Daniel started his own distillery. His first hire was a newly freed Nathan Green as his master distiller.
Contrary to the belief of many, Jack Daniel never owned slaves and the relationship between Green and Daniel was one of mentor/mentee and later of close friendship. Green and his sons worked closely with Jack Daniel, perfecting the Jack Daniel’s recipe and ultimately, Green was the integral part of the perfection of the “Lincoln County Process.” This process enabled the whiskey to be filtered through sugar maple charcoal and then aged in charred oak barrels. This distinct process is only done with Tennessee whiskey.
Today, you can still taste remnants of Green’s legacy in Jack Daniel’s Whiskey. You can also find a direct reference to his legend in a brand created to pay specific homage to the master distiller himself – Uncle Nearest Whiskey. Uncle Nearest is a brand started utilizing Green’s own recipes and at the forefront of illuminating the master distiller’s history are Keith and Fawn Weaver. If you haven’t heard Fawn Weaver’s interview on the New Radio Program, The Breakfast Club, then take a minute to do so. You’ll find her story about how she came across Nearest’s story illuminating.
After digging out the history of Nathan “Nearest” Green and then finding his living family members, she and her husband ultimately decided to create the whiskey brand, as well as the Nearest Green Foundation. The Nearest Green Foundation, is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to breathing life into Green’s story and those similar. The Weavers poured more than 2500 hours of research and implored the help of over 20 historians in creating this foundation and soon you’ll be able to visit the Nathan “Nearest” Green Memorial Park. It will begin as a rotating art installment and culminate into The Tennessee Whiskey Museum, thus immortalizing the legacy of “The greatest whiskey maker the world never knew.”