An Untold Story of Friends & Whiskey- Nearest Green Distillery {Tennessee}

One of the hallmarks of Tennessee is whiskey. And when you talk of Tennessee whiskey, the first name that comes to mind is that of Jack Daniels who learned to make whiskey at a young age and went to defy prohibition and create a thriving business of a world renown fame.

But there is another part of the story of Jack Daniels and his Tennessee whiskey- a part that was untold until just a few years ago about the person and mentor who taught young Jack how to make whiskey. The story and influence of Nearest Green.

Young Jasper “Jack” Daniels left home at a young age and was taken in by Reverend Dan Call to help work on the farm. The Reverend was like many others at this time with a side business of whiskey coming from his farm. People would see the smoke rising from behind the hills of the farm and know that the best whiskey was being made. But it was not Reverend Dan Call making the whiskey, but one of his slaves named Nathan “Nearest” Green. Nearest would take Jack under his wing and teach him how to make whiskey and Jack learned from the head distiller.

Dan Call farm (photo:

Nearest Green remained a honored friend and mentor to Jack Daniels as he rose in the ranks of whiskey making. From the beginning, there has always been a descendant of Nearest Green working at the Jack Daniels distillery. The story of Nearest Green and his influence was whispered throughout the hills of Tennessee for centuries. But it would not be until 2016 when the whole of the story would come to light. With that story, a new distillery was established to honor the man and the whiskey.

Jack Daniels (middle right) sitting next to Nearest Green’s son George (middle left) (photo:

When it was decided to create the Nearest Green distillery an opportunity presented itself in the form of an hold Tennessee Walking Horse farm in Shelbyville. Instead of tearing down the horse farm, they embraced this other part of Tennessee history and used it as the backdrop of the distillery. This distillery did not create any animosity or competition between Nearest Green and Jack Daniels but brought their connection and support of each other all the closer.

Nearest Green Distillery Welcome Center

Our tour began in the Welcome Center where the delightfully funny tour guide named Chris would be taking us around from. After a brief introduction the tour was taken first to the concession stand. But this is not a working concession stand though it has all the appearance of one. On the signs out front it highlights some favorite snacks that have all come from Tennessee including Moon Pies, Goo Goo Clusters, Little Debbie, and Mountain Dew.

concessions with Tennessee originals

But just as in the days of prohibition, for those with the password this front would give way to a speakeasy in the back where people could come and enjoy their drink of choice. The distillery has created their own speakeasy complete with turn of the century ambiance and tributes to the women’s rights movement that was happening around the same time.

The speakeasy behind the concessions

With symbolic representations of women and their rights to vote in the stained glass behind the counter, old pictures of women marching through the streets, and important quotes laid out in the floorboards- this created speakeasy was a beautiful tribute to the suffragettes of the time.

Chris the tour guide took around around the once farm turned distillery showing us the different buildings used in the whiskey process. Having the horse stables and the white fences around really gave the whole place a lovely appeal. This distillery is still very new and they have big plans for growth and expansion. Already nicked named ‘Malt Disney’ they plan on using the space they have to keep creating spaces that will bring people together no matter their age or drinking interest.

We had a stop in the tasting room where a row of whiskeys were put before us to try. When you book the tour you are given the option of tastings and not tasting. (tasting tour is $35/person, non tasting tour is $25/person). The 1856 had a subtle vanilla and butterscotch taste. The Rye whiskey however does not technically count as a Tennessee whiskey since rye doesn’t grow here and needs to be brought in.

After the tasting we walked through the one story barrel house where the sweet smelling vapors permeated the air. The guide gave us this pro tip: if you ever get the chance to purchase an entire barrel of whiskey, always select the barrel with the candied looking excess coming out of the seams because the whiskey will have more character to it than one in a clean and pristine barrel.

The tour ended back at the Welcome Center where a turn to the end of the building would bring you to the Humble Barron restaurant that holds the world record for longest bar. The 518 foot bar winds through the space skirting around the stage where live music is always playing. They also have a great BBQ cafe next door.

world’s longest bar

It was so interesting to learn about the lasting friendship between Jack Daniels and Nearest Green. The story of Tennessee whiskey was missing an important part, but now the story is full and complete with the lasting influence of Nearest Green included.

If you have enjoyed learning about Nearest Green, be sure to check out more on the Tennessee whiskey story with these places:

Jack Daniels Distillery

Barrel Tree Lighting at Jack Daniels

Thanks for joining me on this tour of Nearest Green Distillery. May your whiskey be smooth and your story be told.

18 responses to “An Untold Story of Friends & Whiskey- Nearest Green Distillery {Tennessee}”

    • Thank you! I loved learning about this unsung hero, someone who everyone talked about but he didnt have the recognition he deserved. But I also really love the contining friendship of the two of them and the partnership they have now between the two distilleries.

  1. I love reading about friendships and connections like the one between Nearest and Jack. What an interesting and heartwarming story, and I’m happy to hear that Nearest’s influence is carrying on.

    • It was such a important and wonderful part of the Jack Daniels story and I really love how that friendship and partnership carried on through all that time even after they are gone. 🙂

  2. What a great post and story. I’m glad the previously ignored contribution (and skills) of a black man are finally being celebrated. I’m not a big whiskey person (tastes like nail polish remover, I always say), so I’d pass on the tasting, but I would enjoy the tour, and I love the idea of the long bar.

    • I’m not much for whiskey drinking either. I took a sip of two kinds and that was enough for me. I really love the story of Nearest Green and how great to finally be recognized in such a way. I also love the continued friendship between them and how even now that they are both gone that influence and partnership remains. 🙂

  3. I love this post and all of the story. However, having a bit of Scots blood in me, I have to point out a spelling error, proper whisky, which of course, to a Scotsman, only comes from Scotland, is spelled without the “e”. It is interesting that both Japan and France have excellent products, and they also spell it “whisky”. I guess it is a bit like Roquefort and blue cheese, or Champagne and sparkling wines.

    If we ever happen to be in Tennessee though, I would want to visit the distillery and give it a taste, and to give honor to the man who inspired Jack. Great investigating on your part, thanks.

    • Thats a fair and excellent spelling error check 🙂 I actually think that maybe I misspelled it and it is whiskey-at least with Jack Daniels. Oops. The tour was great with the beautiful farm background and the story of their friendship. I think you would really enjoy the tour .

  4. I never really know much about Jack Daniels except that there’s a whisky named after him. Glad to hear that the story of Nearest Green has surfaced and is now being recognized. Sounds like it was a wonderful friendship that continues to live on. And the tour sounds like a fun activity!

    • The tour was really fun -I loved the speakeasy behind the snack bar! And their continued friendship even long after they are both gone is really amazing. Great tour all around 🙂

  5. Nearest Green, what a name and what a story. As you know I’ve been to the Jack Daniels Distillery and yet you’re the first person to bring me this story. How could this history have been buried for so long? It is FANTASTIC that they have created a new distillery in his honour, I would visit in a heartbeat if I’m ever back in your neck of the woods. Love the speakeasy, which I showed Sladja, who is always keen to absorb anything related to suffragettes and women’s rights. The grounds are so handsome and green, from the grass itself to the buildings, doors and other decorative touches. While I’m not much of a whisky drinker, I do find myself tempted by the 1856. Brilliant piece Meg.

    • It really is amazing that the full story of Nearest took so long to really be made known, especially since his family worked side by side with Jacks family for all those years. But when it came out, it was a great move to honor and remember his part in the whisky story. I think Sladja would love the speakeasy hidden behind the snack bar with the pictures of the women and their shoes along the mantel. The whole tour was really great even though Im not much of a whisky drinker 🙂

    • Its so strange that his story was one that everyone talked about and no one knew about at the same time. It was a great tour-I would highly recommend for your next visit to TN 🙂

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