The master distiller who crafted Jack Daniel’s, the most successful American whiskey of all time, is finally getting his due recognition.
Lynchburg, TN – Although Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel is credited with inventing Jack Daniel’s in the 19th century, the company has revealed that Daniel learned the trade of whiskey-making from a slave named Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green. Daniel then went on to open Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery in 1866, where Green worked as the master distiller. In fact, generations of Green’s descendants worked together with the Daniel family to make the iconic whiskey. Some of Green’s offspring still work in the whiskey industry today.
Family members of Nathan “Nearest” Green say they always knew he was the secret behind the sacred whiskey recipe.
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 Greens’ history. There were generations of Green’s descendants who worked together with the Daniel family to make the iconic whiskey.
Weaver and her husband have purchased the farm where the original Jack Daniel’s Distillery was located to set up The Nearest Green Foundation to ensure that Green’s story “will never again be forgotten.”
Projects underway include: artifacts being placed on permanent loan to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.; plans for a museum in Lynchburg dedicated to the history of Tennessee whiskey; the renaming of a street to Nearest Green Way; the Nearest Green Memorial Park of Lynchburg, TN; an improvement project at Highview Cemetery in Lynchburg, where Green is believed to have been buried; and a scholarship fund to benefit his direct descendants. The scholarship’s first recipients are Matthew McGilberry and Marcus Butler, both now attending college.
Also, to correct the record, Weaver has also written a new foreword and preface for Jack Daniel’s official biography, Jack Daniel’s Legacy, which will be republished in honor of the 50th anniversary of its original release.
George Green, the son most known for helping Jack Daniel and his father, Nearest, in the whiskey business, was asked what he thought was the best way to honor Nearest. According to Fawn, his response was, “Putting his name on a bottle and letting people know what he did would be great.” So, to top it all off, Weaver will release a handcrafted, ultra-premium Tennessee whiskey called Uncle Nearest 1856.
“I think he should have gotten more credit,” said Claude Eady, a 91-year-old relative of Green. “Back then, they didn’t pay much notice to him, but now everybody’s trying to make a dollar off him, and he was the one that did all the work!”
Greene was just one of the many African American slaves who were not recognized nor paid for crafting spirits and running distilleries owned by white men during the 19th century. According to Fred Minnick, the author of Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker, it’s simply not possible to credit or document the slaves who contributed to the growth of whiskey in America. “It’s extremely sad that these slave distillers will never get the credit they deserve,” said Minnick. “We likely won’t ever even know their names.”