Many who study history, and others who Drink Jack Daniels, do not know that the recipe for Jack Daniel’s Whiskey was invented by a black man named Nathan “Nearest” Green. Nathan “Nearest” Green was the first African American head distiller on record in the United States.
It is believed that he was born into slavery in 1820 in Maryland and was given his freedom after the American civil war. This man who taught his distilling techniques to Jack Daniel was also the first master distiller for Jack Daniel distillery and the one who invented the world Famous ‘Jack Daniels’ Whiskey.
You can read more about his legacy at unclenearest.com, but below is a summary of the Jack Daniels and Uncle Nearest story.
The Recipe For Jack Daniels Whiskey And Nathan “Nearest” Green Story
Uncle Nearest, as he was fondly called by family and friends grew up in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and began working on the farm of a country preacher and distiller in Lincoln County around the mid-1800s. It was there that he learned the skill of distilling and specialized in a process of distillation known as sugar maple charcoal filtering which was also called the Lincoln County Process.
Nearest was such a skilled distiller in the process he specialized in but he kept working with the preacher in the Lincoln County and fortunately it was there that Jack Daniels met him.
In the mid-1850s, Jack Daniels who was just a young white boy from a large family and who also lost his mother to a sudden illness at the age of four months began working as a chore boy for the preacher whom Uncle Nearest worked for.
It is said that Jack Daniels was a curious young boy who kept asking about the smoke coming up through the hollow on the 338-acre property and why men kept hurrying back and forth from that area which he was never allowed to go with mules and wagons.
He never stopped asking, until the preacher whim he worked for decided to give in to his curiosity took him to the area on the property where the smoke came from.
As later described in the boy’s biography, it is said that the preacher introduced the young boy to a “coal-black negro” which was uncle Nearest.
He introduced Uncle Nearest by saying “This is Uncle Nearest. He’s the best whiskey maker I know of”. The preacher went further to ask Nearest to teach the young (Jack Daniels) everything he knew about distilling and also the process of sugar maple charcoal filtering. A request Nearest obliged and taught the young boy the special filtration process of the Tennessee whiskey.
As the years went by, the young boy grew and began selling this unique whiskey to people and in other towns near Lynchburg. The young boy selling of this whiskey made the whiskey popular and also proved to the boy that he had it in him to be a great entrepreneur so, following the civil war and after Nearest was made a free man the young white boy who was then a grown man partnered with the preacher in the distillery, eventually bought the preacher’s shares in the distillery and renamed the distillery after himself.
He also asked Nearest to be his first master distiller, an extraordinary request Nearest obliged. However, at that time Nearest had retired but his sons and later his grandsons went ahead to work with the young man at the new distillery.
Finally, this is how a young white boy went on to become a businessman and one of the most famous whiskey makers in the world. Sadly, the story of the Nearest Green(the man behind the picture) became lost in time, but as time ticks by the true story becomes known and the credit long due is given to whom it deserves.