What do you think of when you hear Jack Daniels? Do you think of that one time at Bar XYZ? Does one particular tailgate come to mind? Perhaps you reminisce of the first time you and your father drank Single Barrel together. What we're willing to be you don't think of, though, is the slave trade. A New York Times best-selling author has recently made it her mission to let everyone know of one particular ex-slave's involvement in the founding of Jack Daniels whiskey. A foundation, the Nearest Green Foundation, honors the ex-slave who trained Jack Daniels.
In 2016, New York Times journalist Clay Risen highlighted the life of Nathan "Nearest" Green and its impact on whiskey as we know it today. Green was the master distiller where Jack Daniel himself learned the whiskey trade.
Risen's piece was seen by best-selling author Fawn Weaver, and Weaver was captivated by the tale. She found it striking that Green had played such a key part in creating one of the world's best-known names in whiskey without receiving any credit.
An article in PR Newswire quotes Weaver. "The idea that there were positive stories out there of whites' and blacks' working side by side, through and beyond the Civil War, resonated with me," she said.
Although Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel is credited with inventing Jack Daniel’s in the 19th century, the company revealed last year that Daniel learned the trade of whiskey making from a slave named Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green. (Green’s nickname is often incorrectly misspelled as “Nearis.”) Daniel then went on to open the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery in 1875, where Green worked as the master distiller until at least 1881. New York Times best-selling author Fawn Weaver says she discovered the story of Green from an article published by The New York Times that moved her to dig more into his history. That’s when she learned that Green was not the only African American involved in the process of distilling Jack Daniel’s whiskey. In fact, generations of Green’s descendants worked together with the Daniel family to make the iconic whiskey decades later. Some of Green’s offspring still work in the whiskey industry today. Now, Weaver will dedicate a book, memorial park, street naming, and museum to pay tribute to Green’s legacy. She also plans to set up a college scholarship fund for his descendants. #jackdaniels #whiskey #blackenterprise
The story goes something like this. Green was the master distiller for Dan Call. Call's operation was based out of Lynchburg, Tennessee. Daniel did chores for Call and became interested in the distilling business right away.
Because of this, Call had Green teach Daniel everything that he could about distilling and whiskey. Green was renowned as being one of the best whiskey makers out there.
When it came time for Call to (pun coming in hot) call it quits, he gave the business to Daniel. Daniels and Greens worked side-by-side for years. Weaver, after learning this, purchased the piece of land the original still was located on.
Compelled to write about this, Weaver and her husband learned as much as they could about Green and his relationship to Daniel and whiskey. The idea for a book was good, but something greater needed to happen. Thus, the Nearest Green Foundation was founded.
Now, dozens of projects honoring Green are in the works. A museum, memorial park, and college scholarships are potentialities. A Tennessee-crafted whiskey called Uncle Nearest 1856 is in the works, too. Although not a direct product of the Foundation, money from Uncle Nearest 1856 sales will go toward supporting efforts made by Nearest Green.