Mixology at Home - Nathan Green

‘Uncle Nearest’ was the first African-American master distiller
Nathan Green, the first African-American master distiller, is the man who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey.
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 8:53 AM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - When most people think about American whiskey, one brand always comes to mind, Jack Daniel’s.

What a lot of people don’t know is that without the help of a slave, we might never have tasted that iconic sour mash. On Mixology at Home, we honor the country’s first African-American master distiller.

Nathan Green, Uncle Nearest to his family, was a slave in Tennessee in the mid-1800s. As the legend goes, Green became a master distiller (the first known African-American master distiller) at a distillery owned by a preacher. In distilling, Green’s method of charcoal filtering was commonly used to clean water in his West African homeland. That method is still used today.

While at the distillery, Green taught a young boy named Jasper Daniel how to make whiskey. After the Civil War, Jasper bought the distillery and named it after himself, using his nickname … Jack.

Daniel asked Green to stay on as Jack Daniel’s first master distiller, a position Green kept until his retirement. Several of Green’s children also made careers at Jack Daniel’s.

This bit of whiskey history was lost until a newspaper story in 2016 corrected the myth of who taught Jasper Daniel how to distill whiskey. People believed it was the preacher who taught Jasper.

Fawn Weaver, a historian, and entrepreneur visited Tennessee in 2016 to interview Green’s descendants for a book. She was inspired by the family and ended up starting the Nearest Green Distillery a year later. She was the first African-American to run a major spirit brand.

Adding to its firsts in 2019, Victoria Eady Butler, a great, great-granddaughter of Nathan Green, became the first African-American female whiskey master blender.

Today, Uncle Nearest is one of the country’s fastest-growing whiskey brands today.