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Monday, December 12, 2022

The (Actual) Father of Tennessee Whiskey

A little over six decades ago, Frank Sinatra went onstage with what appeared to be some kind of beverage.  Before starting his set, he stepped up to the mic and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Daniel’s, and it’s the nectar of the gods.”  Jack Daniel’s wasn’t a household name back then.  Their output was a mere 150,000 cases per year (they make millions today).  Sinatra’s endorsement put Jack Daniel’s on the map.  The distillery has always appreciated this, and frequently churns out releases in his honour.  Recently, they’ve started to appreciate another man who had a huge impact on Jack’s life.

Nathan “Nearest” Green was a slave on Reverend Dan Call’s farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee during the middle part of the 19th century.  Call was devoted to more than just his faith, he also had a small still behind his farmhouse.  When parishioners caught wind of this, they demanded he step aside from the endeavour.  He complied, and handed over the reins to an associate.  It was Nearest who ran the still.  His whiskey was thought by many to be the best in the state.  One day, a young man started working as a hired hand on the farm.  He expressed an interest in distilling, so Call asked Nearest to teach the boy everything he knew.  That boy’s name was Jasper (Jack) Daniel.

There probably wouldn’t be Jack Daniel’s whiskey without Nearest Green.  It was Green who mastered early charcoal filtering, a practice commonly used in West Africa to purify water.  Sadly, Nearest Green, the true “Father of Tennessee whiskey,” is rarely referenced in whiskey literature.  Thankfully, that’s all starting to change.  The Jack Daniel’s website now acknowledges Nearest and his contributions in their history section.  They even launched an initiative with the Nearest Green distillery to advance diversity within the American whiskey industry.

Jack Daniel’s Bonded is 50%, made from one growing season, and (at least) 4 years old.  Tennessee whiskies have an unmistakable flavour profile.  Every drop of this whiskey takes a nearly week-long journey through a 10 foot vat of JD-infused sugar maple charcoal before finding its way into a barrel.  Brown sugar, caramel, cinnamon, oak.  There’s a bit of a nip to this one, but those rough edges will soften if you give it some time in the glass.  A solid buy that’ll probably make you rethink your thoughts on the brand.

Happy dramming,


Instead of dying she shall merely fall into a profound slumber that will last a hundred years. -  Charles Perrault,  The Sleeping Beauty in ...