Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey was founded by Fawn Weaver to honor the memory of Nearest Green, an enslaved African American who helped Jack Daniel to start his distillery.
The 270-acre distillery became the first in U.S. history to honor an African-American whiskey maker, and one of the few distilleries in the country owned and operated by a Black, female lead.
“The spirits industry has never seen anything like this in all the years that data has been tracked through the three major data collection agencies for the industry,” according to Donn Bichsel, creator of 3 Tier Beverages, a spirits data collection and analysis company.
“No African American founded and led spirit brand has ever come close to what the Uncle Nearest brand and the team have done. We analyzed every piece of credible data and Uncle Nearest is undoubtedly the top seller of all time, with the rest of the top 10 being so far behind, that they barely registered.”
The whisky brand, which debuted in 2017, is available in more than 21,000 locations and at least 50 states across the world. “Built on its knack for sourcing the best of Tennessee Whiskeys and Bourbons, the whiskey is made using a non- temperature-controlled aging process and a unique post-aging double filtration method, which is then blended to perfection by fifth-generation Nearest Green descendant and Uncle Nearest’s master blender.
From New York Times bestselling author to whiskey connoisseur, Weaver said this project ends when she is satisfied that Nearest Green is known anywhere around the world she visits.
“As I began working on this, I realized the significance of the story of Nearest Green. I didn’t really truly understand the significance until I began digging in. He wasn’t just the first African American distiller on record in the United States. He to this day remains the only one of any major brands — period,” she told Essence.
“And we’re not just talking about whiskey, we’re talking about of any spirit. When I learned that there was no African American ever that had been commemorated on the bottle that was crazy to me because we were apart of this industry from the very beginning.”
Despite the effect of COVID-19 on many businesses, particularly Black businesses, Weaver weathered the storm to top the chart of bestselling African-American-owned whiskey brands. “Our bottling and distilling partner did an incredible job of ensuring every area of the distillery was socially distanced and followed the strictest COVID-19 guidelines, which meant we could only move so quickly and had to cap our third full year at 120,000 cases sold,” said Weaver.
Nearest Green is on track to sell 250,000 cases this year, all things being equal. What is more gratifying about the spirit brand is the fact that it is the only major whiskey with an all-female executive team.