“Uncle Nearest” – The World’s First African-American Master Distiller

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Uncle Nearest
Does the name Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green sound familiar? Ask anyone with a marginal interest in whiskey about the industry’s biggest names, and you’ll likely hear such legends as Jack Daniel, Evan Williams, and Jim Beam. While these brands are certainly the largest players in the industry – named for the real people behind their legendary spirits – there’s another whiskey name you may not know. However, efforts by author Fawn Weaver have led us to truly appreciate the contributions of the world’s first African-American Master Distiller – Nathan Green.

Who Was Nathan Green?

Born in Maryland circa 1820, Nathan Green’s life before whiskey is largely unknown. In fact, historians aren’t sure if he was born into slavery or became a slave at a later point. What is known is that Nathan was working in Lincoln and Moore County Tennessee on the farm of a preacher and distiller. He soon became the farm’s chief distiller, specializing in practices that would one day become known as the “Lincoln County Process”. It is a famed distillation technique many believe originated with the way West African slaves used charcoal to purify beverages.

The original Lincoln County Process involved using sugar maple charcoal to filter the whiskey. This results in a uniquely smooth, mellow product that was different from other whiskeys of the time. By the time a ten year old, white boy named Jasper Newton came to the farm to work, Green had gained notoriety for his process. The boy showed an interest in all the smoke coming from the rear of the property, was introduced to Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green, and the rest is history.

Uncle Nearest, Master Distiller

As Jasper Newton grew up on the Lynchburg farm, he learned all about the Lincoln County Process and how to make true Tennessee whiskey. After losing his father in the Civil War, Newton partnered with the farm owner, and eventually purchased the farm and distillery outright. The young man who became Jack Daniel continued to learn from Uncle Nearest. Now a free man, he was employed as Jack Daniels’ Master Distiller, becoming the first African American Master Distiller in the world. Uncle Nearest’s sons and grandsons continued to work with the Jack Daniels distillery long after it moved to its new Lynchburg location. Jack Daniels tours still credit him with creating the famed Lincoln County Process to this day.

Unfortunately, Uncle Nearest’s contributions to American Whiskey went otherwise unappreciated for decades. Author Fawn Weaver, some members of the Jack Daniel family, and Uncle Nearest’s descendants wanted to change that. What resulted was the 2019 opening of a distillery that bears the name of Uncle Nearest himself and pays homage to the Lincoln County Process.

Uncle Nearest Whiskey

Currently, the distillery produces three distinct whiskeys. They include Uncle Nearest’s 1820 Single Barrel Whiskey, 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey, and 1884 Small Batch Whiskey. All three continue to receive platinum and gold awards and comprise the most awarded American whiskey or bourbon brand of 2019. After a century in the shadows, Nathan Green is finally getting his due – his part in the Tennessee whiskey story that includes Jack Daniel and Uncle Nearest in equal, mutual accord.

Uncle Nearest
Photo Credits: Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey

To reserve your bottle of Uncle Nearest Whiskey, contact Payless Liquors or complete our online ordering form.

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