Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey announced its plans for a new distillery in Bedford County have been approved.
The distillery, which will honor the memory of America's first African-American master distiller, will include a tasting room and music venue for the historic Tennessee Walking Horse farm and event center on Sand Creek Farms in Shelbyville.
“We look forward to continuing to work with our Tennessee distillery partners to create and bottle our award-winning premium whiskey; but as the brand continues to grow and excitement around Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey increases, we need to be prepared to keep up with the demand,” said Sherrie Moore, a 31-year veteran in the Tennessee whiskey industry and director of whiskey operations for Uncle Nearest.
Following a public hearing and unanimous approval of all 18 commissioners for the chief legislative body in Bedford County, as well as unanimous approval from three additional commissions, Sand Creek Farms was rezoned on Dec. 12, paving the way for the Nearest Green Distillery to be built.
According to a press release, the 270-acre farm will be restored to its former glory days. With an expressed intent to hire local contractors and vendors, the community has outwardly expressed its excitement about the revitalization efforts.
Several of the current buildings on the property will be converted for distillery operations. A large hay barn is being reworked into a 3,500-barrel rickhouse, and the largest building on the property will be expanded to include a gift shop and tasting room.
A 300-foot former horse barn is being converted into the Nearest Green History Walk.
More than 100 acres of corn will be planted with walking paths throughout and wells delivering natural spring water. And the current 600-seat sales arena is being reimagined to double as a private concert venue for country music artists.
Guests leaving the visitor center will be guided to walk through the interactive gallery that will tell the history of African-American contributions to the whiskey industry, as well as the history of Nearest Green.
The whiskey is named for Nathan “Nearest” Green, known by those in his hometown of Lynchburg, Tenn., as Uncle Nearest.
He was the first African-American master distiller on record in the United States. He was also the first head stiller, now commonly referred to as master distiller, for Jack Daniel Distillery and remained in that capacity until at least 1881. He is also thought to have helped perfect the Lincoln County Process, a special charcoal filtering method required to be considered Tennessee Whiskey, named after the county in which Nearest lived and made whiskey.
The whiskey currently being produced by the company, called Uncle Nearest Premium Silver, is made using a 19th century recipe, which was saved from a fire in Lynchburg.
“We know most expected us to build at the historic Dan Call Farm. But if you’ve ever been to Lynchburg, you know it’s Jack Daniel country. They’ve spent more than a century and a lot of marketing dollars putting Lynchburg on the map,” Uncle Nearest Whiskey Vice President of Sales and Marketing Kate Jerkens said about the 313-acre farm where the original Jack Daniel Distillery was located until May 31, 1881, and where Nearest Green taught a young entrepreneur named Jack Daniel the fine art of making Tennessee Whiskey.
“We decided to build outside of Lynchburg for a few reasons," Jerkens said. "One was our enormous respect for Jack Daniel, making sure we always reciprocate the respect he paid to Nearest and Nearest’s children. Another was the opportunity to broaden regional economic benefits through the creation of new and exciting opportunities in the neighboring community of Shelbyville, as the Tennessee Whiskey market and tourist activity expand.”
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is currently being made in concert with a whiskey-maker in Nashville and will continue as such until the Nearest Green Distillery is complete. The inventory of barrels previously sourced from two Tennessee distilleries will continue to serve as the base for their award-winning whiskey. The final filtration step, which gives Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey its ultra-smooth taste that has been winning rave reviews across the country, will be brought in-house following the build-out of its own processing plant.
“When a writer for Whisky Magazine does a blind taste test of a slew of 100-proof whiskeys with a group of whiskey connoisseurs and your whiskey ‘wins hands down,’ you know it’s time to start planning for the brand to grow and put quality assurances in place to ensure that, as we get bigger, our product just gets better,” Jerkens said. “Not to mention, two of our vendors have already told us that, at our current pace, we’re going to outgrow their capacity much sooner than forecast.”
The sale of Sand Creek Farms was represented by well-known Shelbyville attorney John T. Bobo, who grew up in Lynchburg and has a distinguished family heritage there that remains. Famed Tennessee Walking Horse grand champion owner and architect Thom Meek is serving as lead architect.
The Uncle Nearest brand encompasses a Premium Aged and Premium Silver product, distilled, aged, bottled and hand-labeled in Tennessee using locally sourced grains.
Uncle Nearest Premium Aged Whiskey, which recently won the gold medal at the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, is wholly owned by Uncle Nearest, Inc. For more information, please visit the Uncle Nearest website, and follow on Instagram and Facebook.