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The Enslaved Man Who Taught Jack Daniel To Make Whiskey

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Oct 05, 2020

In 2016, Jack Daniel’s announced the company would make changes to its official history. They planned to honor Nathan “Nearest” Green, the African American man who taught the real Jack Daniel to make whiskey in the mid-1800s. Green had been enslaved on the farm of a preacher and distiller named Dan Call; Jack Daniel, 30 years younger than Green, was a chore boy on the same farm. It fell on Green to teach Daniel how to work the still and use a charcoal filtration process that likely originated in West Africa. (That process, charcoal mellowing, is what separates Tennessee whiskey from other types.)

The Jack Daniel's company, however, didn't realize that its announcement would cause an uproar — or that it would inspire a woman named Fawn Weaver (below) to set out on a quest to unearth Nearest Green's full story.

Fawn Weaver

This week, we talk with Fawn about what drew her to this story and what she’s doing to honor Green’s legacy, with help from his great-great-granddaughter Victoria Eady Butler (below, with a guest, at the Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey distillery).

Victoria Eady Butler

Also: earlier this year, Jack Daniel's and Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey announced they were partnering to increase diversity in the American whiskey industry; you can read more about that here.

Special thanks to our friends at the podcast Brought to you by... for their tape of the Jack Daniel's Distillery tour.

Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:

  • "Kenny" by Hayley Briasco
  • "Get Your Shoes On" by Will Van De Crommert
  • "Hang Tight" by Hayley Briasco
  • "Talk to Me Now (Instrumental)" by Agasthi Jayatilaka
  • "Legend" by Erick Anderson
  • "Comin For A Change" by Stephen Sullivan
  • "Madame Prez" by Karla Dietmeyer and Olivia Diercks
  • "Rooftop Instrumental" by Erick Anderson

Photos courtesy of Uncle Nearest, Jason Myers, and Stacy Preston Photography.

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