Fawn Weaver had already realized her own life’s ambitions when she first learned about Nathan “Nearest” Green—or, as she tells it, when his story found her by way of a newspaper article. In the mid-1800s, Green, a formerly enslaved man, perfected the charcoal-filtration process specific to Tennessee whiskey and taught a young Jack Daniel how to distill, yet his legacy had mostly been forgotten. Weaver was a best-selling author, owned a nice home with her husband, Keith, and had traveled the world. She came to Tennessee to interview Green’s descendants for a book project but soon realized she had the ability to contribute much more. The fact that she had achieved her own goals allowed her to be “singularly focused on elevating Nearest Green’s legacy for the world to see, and for every future generation to know,” she says.
With the encouragement of Green’s family and the backing of investors, Weaver launched Nearest Green Distillery and the Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey brand in 2017. As CEO and cofounder, she aims to make Nearest Green a household name akin to Jack Daniel and Jim Beam, giving him the recognition he deserves. “It will happen,” she says. “Perhaps not in my lifetime, but it will happen.”
Toward that end, Weaver, who is forty-three, is working at an energetic pace. In just a few short years, Uncle Nearest has become the fastest-growing and most-awarded new whiskey brand in America, thanks in part to the keen talent of Victoria Eady Butler, Green’s great-great-granddaughter, whom Weaver elevated to master blender. The first phase of the $50 million Nearest Green Distillery opened on a former horse farm in Shelbyville, Tennessee, last September. And through the Nearest Green Foundation, every direct descendant of Green’s can receive a full college scholarship from the proceeds.
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