Author Fawn Weaver learned about the story of a Black man that reportedly taught Jack Daniel the art of distilling in Lynchburg, Tennessee. With her research efforts, she uncovered that there was more to the man named Nathan “Nearest” Green and has created a foundation to honor his whiskey-making legacy.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, the top-selling American Whiskey brand in the world, has long told the tale of its origin started with a white moonshine maker. However, the company revealed last year that a former slave might have been the actual mastermind behind the hard stuff.
The original story is that preacher and moonshine man Dan Call took in a young, orphaned Jack Daniels and taught him the family business. The pair reportedly went into business with one another in the late 1800s, with Daniels splitting from his mentor and found fame at the turn of the century.
Nearest Green or “Uncle Nearest,” was one of Call’s slaves. According to oral history, documents and other informational tidbits, Green actually taught Call how to make the hooch. Daniels, being a quick study, reportedly adopted what he learned from the men to make his own barrel-aged brand of spirits.
Weaver, who wrote the best-selling book “Happy Wives Club,” found that not only did Green pass on his knowledge but that he worked alongside Daniel after the Civil War ended. She also uncovered other truths such as the proper spelling of his nickname Nearest instead of Nearis, and also found his actual first name after months of research.
Across the Deep South, it is known that slaves worked in distilleries and helped improve or create several techniques for the production of liquor. Some historians allege that white moonshine men abused their authority and stole some of the slaves’ liquor-making recipes. In the case of Green and Daniel, there was a different dynamic as Daniel never owned slaves and considered Green his mentor.
Skeptics of the Green story say it is nothing more than a convenient tale and marketing tool, given that Jack Daniels was celebrating its 150th year in 2016. The brand gave a slight nod to Green but nothing to the level Weaver is undertaking.
Jack Daniel’s finally gave Green his proper title as its first master distiller because of Weaver’s efforts. Weaver’s Nathan Green Foundation will push to promote Green’s history and a planned memorial park in Lynchburg will be coming in the future. She also released her own brand of whiskey, Uncle Nearest 1856, with proceeds going towards the park and foundation.
Sign Up For Our Newsletter!