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Uncle Nearest Grows Legacy, Brings Others Along For The Ride

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Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has been around since 2017, but its namesake has a long and unique history. A Black man named Nathan Green started creating the coveted spirit in the 1850s near Lynchburg, TN. When working with a local Lutheran reverend, people mistook Green’s first name as “Nearest,” but many knew he was creating incredible liquor on the reverend’s farm. 

He worked as a free man after the end of the Civil War, perfecting the “Lincoln County Process.” Green even taught another distiller the art of Tennessee whiskey: Jack Daniel. 

In December 2022, the Uncle Nearest brand reached a remarkable milestone. It hit $100 million in sales, with an outlook for double that number in 2023, making it the most successful Black-owned distillery in the world! The whiskeys are highly decorated, winning multiple awards in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Much of Uncle Nearest’s success is thanks to the work of Fawn Weaver, CEO and founder, and Victoria Eady Butler. Butler, a four-time Master Blender of the Year, is also the great-great-granddaughter of Nathan “Nearest” Green.”

“We are not a fad or some trendy brand — we are a purpose-driven, mission-oriented company,” Butler said. “Uncle Nearest and Nearest Green Distillery aren’t just here to stay, but to grow and sustain at a pace never seen before in our industry.”  

Photo Courtesy Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey

The company offers seven different whiskeys, available in all 50 states. In 2021, an expanded Nearest Green Distillery opened, becoming one of the most coveted liquor makers in the country. It’s even earned the nickname “Malt Disney World” because of the historical influence Uncle Nearest’s heritage has in the American whiskey business. 

On top of being the most successful Black-owned distillery, the leadership team is all women, opening the door for others to follow suit.

“I’m proud that the Uncle Nearest executive team is the first all-female executive team in the whiskey industry and that we’ve set a standard of excellence for others to model,” Butler said.

Photo Courtesy Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey

To honor the legacy of Uncle Nearest, the company has enacted several philanthropic initiatives to bolster entrepreneurship and education for Black and minority-owned businesses. With the Black Business Booster program, the Nearest and Jack Advancement Initiative, and Uncle Nearest Ventures, money is allocated to mentor and teach a new generation of Black beverage producers

“Every cent we make in the future will continue to do the same. We have an entire generation of women and people of color, who represent 70% of our country but still feel marginalized and underrepresented, counting on us,” Weaver said. So far, $50 million has been raised for these programs. The funds are a testament to Uncle Nearest’s desire to promote the expansion of minority and female leadership in the beverage industry. 

One business owner that benefited greatly from Uncle Nearest’s efforts is Jackie Summers, founder of Sorel. Summers had the first Black-owned distillery post-Prohibition in America, a massive achievement. Sorel is a homage to colonial Caribbean alcohol, but with a twist: it’s made with hibiscus. He says the liquor represents his West Indian heritage and his grandparents, who settled in Harlem with other Caribbean immigrants. 

As a recipient of Uncle Nearest’s first two venture fund rounds, Sorel’s growth potential is incredible. Summers has expressed his gratitude for Uncle Nearest’s help. 

“Fawn is personally investing her time in me to help me really understand the nuances of the business. Help me really build a team that will actually be able to articulate all that needs to be done, to make sure that we’ve got the resources — mental, physical, not just financial,” Summers beamed about his relationship with Weaver.  

As Uncle Nearest grows, it will continue to help other Black-owned distilleries, breweries, and wineries flourish. Weaver has affirmed her commitment to helping these entrepreneurs succeed. “This group continues to look to Uncle Nearest as proof that anything is possible. We will not let them down,” she said.

“With the support of one of the most loyal consumer bases in spirits, we will continue to do the ‘impossible’ so they know, as long as they operate in excellence and refuse to give up, they can achieve whatever their heart believes.”


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