Ep. 3 - Uncle Nearest's CEO Fawn Weaver
UNCOVERING A WHISKEY LEGEND // Meet the woman who is changing an industry after uncovering an amazing lost legacy.
Listen to the Episode
This interview pairs nicely with the Whiskey Lore Story Episode: The Story of Jack Daniel and Uncle Nearest.
Fawn Weaver has done more than just build a whiskey brand. And after a year of racial strife, she is sharing a story of love that should be a blueprint for how we heal and unite.
It all started with a trip to Singapore with her husband Keith, a little free time, and an article in the New York Times International Edition that sent her on a quest to uncover a missing legacy. And what she has done since, is nothing short of a miracle.
In this interview we discuss:
- The moment Fawn found the Nearest Green story
- Who was this guy Jack Daniel?
- Click bate and soundbites vs the subtle nuances of history
- What inspired this trip to Lynchburg?
- The statement made by the black man in the photo
- The culture at Jack Daniel Distillery at the turn of the 20th Century
- The families Fawn interviewed
- Mrs. Ellen' revelation about the photo
- The small town culture of Lynchburg
- Sensing unease
- Finding a hidden gem on the market: The Dan Call farm
- D.H. Call Sour Mash Corn Whisky to Daniel and Call Distillery to Jack Daniel Distillery
- Old No. 7 and figuring out dates
- Dan Call's legacy and a rented Nearest
- The best whisky maker I know of
- Aunt and Uncle
- Jack as a boy and meeting Nearest
- The story that tells of Lynchburg's race relations
- Tennessee Whiskey's origin
- Feeling like a member of family
- Paying on tenure
- One of the wealthiest men in the area
- Misunderstood history
- Getting back with the New York Times
- Grabbing the tax records for distilleries
- Nearest Green Foundation and Legacy Scholarship Fund
- Going at a massive pace
- Learning a whole new industry as an entrepreneur
- The real estate broker with a whiskey history
- How did the story of Nearest disappear?
- Challenging history but remaining positive
- Honoring Nearest with a bottle or a distillery
- The real voice of Jack Daniel
- Sourcing whiskey
- The real challenge for a master blender
- The current status of the distillery
- The CEO giving the tour
- The Motown influence on Uncle Nearest, Inc.
- The lens of grace
- Understanding the difference between an organization and a concept
- The art of empathy and expanding your circle of influences
- The three branches of the Jack and Nearest Advancement Initiative
- Nearest Green School of Distilling: Creating a pipeline for diversity
- Business Incubation Program: The gift in the challenge
- Leadership Acceleration Program: Tracie Franklin
- The Uncle Nearest brand story
Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on Spotify, Apple or your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript and resources talked about in this episode are available on the tab(s) above.)
For More Information:
Welcome to Whiskey Lore, the interviews. I'm your host, Drew Hamish, Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey Lord's Travel Guide to Experience in Kentucky Bourbon. And in this encore interview that was recorded back in 2020, I speak with a woman who went from New York Times bestselling author of books like Happy Wives Club, and the Argument Free Marriage to Founder of the Nearest Green Foundation and CEO of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, one of America's most awarded whiskeys. Now, Fawn Weaver is a nonstop serial entrepreneur, but as you're gonna hear, she also loves traveling down rabbit holes with research. And while she was in Singapore in 2016, she started looking at an article in the New York Times International Edition, an article written by Clay Risen called Jack Daniels, Embraces Hidden Ingredient, Helped from a Slave, and the photo showed a black man sitting in the middle of a group of white distillery workers.
Well, something just didn't seem right about this photo to Fawn, and so she headed straight to Lynchburg seeking the truth, probably not realizing how much this photo was gonna change her life and the lives of others. Now, when I started creating my season three whiskey lore episode about Jack Daniel and Uncle Nearest, well, I needed to get a little bit more deeper into my research. And so that's when I reached out to Vaughn. And as you'll hear in this Zoom based interview, she provided me with so much more information than I ever could have hoped for. And we're gonna start off by talking a little bit about her trip to Singapore, her impressions, when she first saw the photo in headline. And she'll also tell us how she came to meet the descendants of the Daniel the Malo, the call in the Green Families. We'll talk about something that's very close to my heart.
Motown and her family's ties to the record label, and she'll give us the full low down on what's coming in terms of her new distillery and the amazing initiatives that Uncle Nearest and Jack Daniel inspired Get ready for a firecracker of an interview as I talk with Fawn Weaver, CEO of Uncle Nearest. So you are like me. It sounds like from, from what I've heard in your interviews and from reading about you, that once you get curious about something, you're not gonna let it go. You gotta, you gotta figure out what the truth is behind this is as, did you just jump right on the web and try to maybe start investigating this right away? Or did you it was this kind of in the back of your mind for a little while and then you said, Oh, wait, you know, I really do wanna learn it more about that.
Well, the irony is, is I think the only reason that what I am doing, I'm even doing is because I was in Singapore, so it was a last minute decision for me to hop on a plane and to head out. I had been in, invested in or behind a couple of founders that were having a really, really, really hard time getting along with staff <laugh>. And it was, I am a team first person, I am a people person, person. So it just was absolutely driving me insane. And I needed to just get away and to clear my head. If, if I hadn't been on that trip in Singapore, there's absolutely no way that this story would have captivated my interest in, in this manner, meaning that I would've dove and continued so on. My husband and I observed the Sabbath every, every weekend. And so 24 hours, we do absolutely nothing.
So one of the things that I do is I do go down rabbit holes. This is absolutely true. And so at some point on, on the Sabbath, I will end up literally getting online and just looking up something random and for two hours, just out of nowhere finding all of the facts that are related to whatever it is that I was interested in. And the reason why I do that, I think, and the reason I've done it for years is, one, I love history. I love to research, but also I love what I do. I always have. And so it's hard for me to turn work off mm-hmm. <Affirmative> in order to not do work for 24 hours. That doesn't come natural to me. So this is sort of my transition every weekend, <laugh> is this, these rabbit holes, but I come out of the rabbit holes every, you know, I may go into it for an hour for two hours, but I do in fact come out of the rabbit hole and just enjoy the rest of the day. Well, on this trip, I was there with nothing to do for, I wanna say it was like two or three days in a row that never happens. And my husband was in meetings all day, so it wasn't a vacation. He was there as a part of one of his boards that he sits on. So for eight, nine hours a day, he's in all these board meetings. I'm just in the room googling <laugh>.
So I had three straight days of just Googling. And the interesting thing is, is when I first went back to the room, so I, I had read it, We were in the club lounge, I go back to the room, he goes off to his meetings, and I just, I googled nearest green at the time. Of course, they had it spelled incorrectly, n e a r i s mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. But I, I look at it and there's almost nothing there except for the article from the New York Times, the Clay re rising piece. And then you had had a whole bunch of journalists that basically republished, not journalists, but a bunch of online papers that just picked up the story, changed the title, and then republished it. But that was it. And wow. I, I was blown away that there could be a story this important, and no one had written about it online before.
I just, that just to me was baffling. Then about mm, maybe a few hours later, I came back to it and I started trying to search in any, like, in different ways. And then the Wikipedia page had popped up mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. So at some point from the time I started to the time I went back that afternoon, someone had started a Wikipedia page. Oh, wow. Wow. And it didn't have a whole lot, but what it did have, it, it really didn't have anything other than what was in the <laugh> New York Times piece. Right, right. But what it did have is it had a reference at the bottom that someone had added to Jack Daniels legacy. So I went on to Amazon, I realized I could order it, I ordered it. And my thought process when I ordered the book is you're talking about a book that's written in 1967 High of the civil rights era, about a enslaved man.
I didn't expect them to name him. My thought was someone is putting the two and two together, like maybe the book mentioned that it was a, a, an enslaved man, or may have mentioned him as a negro, or may have mentioned him as any anything, but I didn't expect him to be named. Right. And then when I got the book and began reading it, I was floored by two things. The first was how many times, how early Nearest is introduced into the story, how often he has spoken about in the story, and how much he and his boys were made a part of the story. They're not on the peripheral, they are literally in the story. And so that, that was the first thing that I, I found captivating. The second thing is, is I wasn't a Jack Daniel drinker. I didn't know very much about it.
And so I'd see the pictures, I'd see the ads, but outside of that, I just didn't know very much. And I remember starting to read the book and probably being about, I don't know, maybe 40 pages or so into the book. And my husband walks into the room and I said, Babe, I really like this guy <laugh>. And he said, Who? And I said, Jack Daniel. And I mean, that, those were the two things that really caught my attention, the how integrated Nearest and his his family were in the story, but also how much I found myself really liking Jack as a human being, because I only knew him up until that point, point as a brand. And I'm trying to think if I go back, did I even really truly know him as a human being versus a brand? So if you take for instance George Dickel, that, you know how they have that photo when you go over to the distillery and you've got the photo, you know, he was a human being.
Right. But when people talk about the brand, it, they don't really talk about the man. Does that make sense? It's, it's, it's more of a, it's more of a brand. Like he could have existed or didn't exist. And I don't think that it matters to people. Yeah. With Jack, I felt the same way. I I, he could have existed. He didn't have to exist. He could have been a composite of a number of people. There was just, I don't know that I'd ever put that much thought into it because I didn't have a connection to the brand. And when I began reading it, and not only discovering that he was a human being, but that he was a, a good hearted human being.
So, what's fascinating about your story to me is that this is the thing I bump into all the time. We get fed these little sound bites. You read these headlines, and if you walk away with just a headline on something that's so much more deep and complex than that, it's almost impossible. Wouldn't you say, for somebody to be able to come away with that with a real true sense of who Jack Daniel was and what this the story was. Story
Was. Yeah. Our history in general, sp I mean, around the world, but especially in America, is so nuanced mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, and we want things to fit in a very black and white type of manner. And that doesn't exist. All of us. There, there is this nuance to our history for everyone who's here in this country. And, and I think that we like to create these click bait type of headlines that really fit things in perfectly into one box or another. And quite frankly, they're certain stories that it's like a fricking spider where they've got legs in like eight boxes. You know what what I mean? Right. Exactly. It just doesn't neatly fit into one thing or another. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And that is just, I mean, if you, if you think about this story, after that original headline came out, that original story came out. Then they began creating these click bait types of titles, and then folks stop reading mm-hmm.
<Affirmative>. And it was really, it just became about the title. So then all of a sudden, Jack is a slave owner, Nearest I is is a person who was hidden, His recipe was stolen, He was never, never given credit. All the rest of these things. And that's what was going on online when I got the book mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so the juxtaposition of these two things were extraordinary to me, because you have this book that makes it very clear that somebody wanted to make sure that nearest relationship to the family, him teaching Jack, him being a mentor, not just in in whiskey, but even in music. I, I think even that piece of the story I thought was fascinating. And so when you're reading this, it, it just did not mesh with what people were saying online. Still now, I'm constantly being tagged, Well, not constantly, not as much anymore, but in the beginning, I would be tagged constantly from people who did not understand the story and thinking that they were saying something that I would want, which is, you know, going back to these earlier negative stories.
And they'd be saying it in a way of trying to bolster the Uncle Nearest brand. And I'd literally have to go on and respond and go, Yeah, no, Jack wasn't that guy. And no, this isn't, this isn't, this isn't payback <laugh>. Right. Right. That's not that. And, but understanding that people are responding to click bait titles, Right. And that becomes a social media thing, and then they just kind of go from there. So that's what was going on at the time that I read the book. And I think it happens now where if we would actually take the time to dig into what really was, I, I, I think that for a lot of the stuff, even right now where there's so much going on in our country in regard to race relations, and I actually think if people would take the time and not read the clip bait, not read the articles that are absolutely one side or skewing one way, but if, if we actually took the time to really dig in, yeah. We will find that a lot of these things are really nuanced that we're trying to fit perfectly into. It's this or it's that. And really, truly, it's a little bit of this and a little bit of that
<Laugh>. Right, right. Right. Yeah. So, so, so you're a lover of history and you've probably, through reading about history there, there's a lot of discoveries, I'm sure you came across where you said, Wow, that wasn't exactly how I envisioned that story going, or that's not really what I was, was taught when I was growing up, that sort of thing. So was this a, a culmination of all of those things kind of building up in you over time? Now you see this, this figure, Jack Daniels who's being misrepresented, is that, was that, is that what drove you to get on a plane and fly down to Tennessee?
I don't know if it's the fact that he was being misrepresented. I wasn't really paying attention to that stuff. I, I saw it, but once I read the book, I had come to my own conclusions mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. So I didn't really care what people were saying online. But one of the things that I had concluded in reading, if you, when you get the book and, and you read it, you'll find that the tone in how Uncle Nearest is referred to is the, the level of respect that the author speaks of Uncle Nearest is the same level of respect that he gives to Uncle Jack. Mm. The story is about Uncle Jack <laugh>. Yeah. Right, right. And, and, and when he speaks about both of them, he's doing so with the same level of respect. And in some parts, in the earlier parts of the book, I would venture to say a greater level of respect for Uncle Nearest, because Jack was a young boy. Right. And so, knowing that this is a white reporter from Tuscaloosa, Alabama doesn't have a dog in this fight coming up to Lynchburg, Tennessee to tell the authoritative biography of the most famous American whiskey maker of all time, he could have just left the story out. And not only did he not leave the story out, but he mentioned Nearest and his boys 50 times
In Jack's biography. And in, it's not that large of a biography, by the way.
Yeah, yeah. I was gonna say he was he was around during the most important years of Jack Daniel's life.
Right. And, and so what I, what I took from that, because it wasn't Jack who was being interviewed, it was all those who knew Jack. So it was his descendant who took over the distillery, and then it was his, his descendants. Descendants that then were running the distillery at the time, Li Malos four boys. And then you had the people who, if, if they worked for Jack, Touch, Jack were friends with Jack if they, because Jack Jack died young. Right. And so you had people that were able to know him. Those are the people who were interviewed. And for them to spend that much time on someone who was not the focus of the biography, what that said to me is they knew that Jack would've wanted his name written in a way that no one would ever be able to erase him. That's what it said to me.
Do you, do you sort of sense that that's also the positioning in the picture is, is kind of here's to the world my statement that you know, this, this black man deserves this position in this photograph.
100%. Because that's not where African Americans were positioned at that time. There is another African American in that same photo, but you can barely even see him. I actually, it wasn't until I saw a an original of the photo, or at least a, a really good duplicate of the original that I even saw that the person in the back left was that, that was a person. I actually thought it was just kind of, it's just the way that it shaded. I had no idea that there was a person up there that is where blacks would have usually been, and those kind of photos in the back and off to the sides. And so that means that the photographer <laugh> had to position everybody around George Green, which is nearest his son. That's the black man that's in the photo, had to, to position everyone around George and Jack.
Wow. And so there is actually another group photo, but I think this is during the Le Motlow years.
But also it, it is, Well, I know it's group photo you're talking about. And I actually think it is at the same time, most people Misidentify li Malow in that second photo. Okay. They think that he's the older man because the older man actually looks like Limb did in his older age, But it's not, it is actually limb younger. And so if you look at that photo with Jack, you have Jack that's a little off center. And then if you look to his right, meaning, you know, to, to his right hand, then you have George Green that's right there. And if you look right behind George Green is Jack's nephew, Li Malo.
And most people don't identify him because that's a young limb, so they don't realize that that's him. But that's, that is who is in the center of the photo, is essentially George Green and then his own nephew who would then take over the distillery.
So the thing that strikes me about that picture is also the comfort with ev with which everybody is in that photo. It is such a natural group photo that it, to me, it speaks of a culture. And that's kind of what I wanna talk to you about when we start getting into the life of Nearest Green, is this, this idea of how this culture may have developed over time with you. I mean, cuz you've interviewed what the Green Family and the Malo family and the Daniel family, is that Correct. Uhhuh <affirmative>. Okay. You've talked
That there's not really many Daniel family members left. At least not in this area. It's mostly Malow family members that are around also Wagners. So when, when Jack was born, he was the 10th child. His mother contracted Typhus fever when he was four months, and she died in seven days from the time she contracted it. So mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, you have this, this boy who's then wet nurse by the next door neighbor. So it was Felix Wagner's wife, ended up wet nursing Jack. So you see Felix talked about a lot in the book as well. So the, I would say the people who are spoken about the most are the Greens and the wagoners. And so you do still have a lot of wagoners that are here. And so that's who I, that's who I I spoke with the most were the Wagners, the Malos, and then obviously the Greens.
So one of the questions I had was about, I, I, I mentioned that sometimes marketing departments have a hard time telling a story. And so Jack Daniels have been getting all of this bad press maybe not, you know, intense, but there, there, there was that, And then you show up in town and you're wanting to do some research. Were they like open arms? Yeah. Come on in, you know, we'll give you access to whatever you want. Or was it kind of like, Oh, we're a little nervous about that, it's a touchy subject right now, Don't know what we wanna talk about it?
Well, I think first, first of all, it wasn't like a little thing, it was a big thing. It was everywhere. Jack's name was being drugged through the mud everywhere. And it wasn't just Jack, It then became the Malos and, and all the rest of that. So, no, it was a definitely a big story in terms of when I showed up, one of the very first people who I met when I was in the library doing research was the, who is now the eldest descendant of Jack Daniel. At that time, she was the second eldest because her mother Maryvonne was still alive. And then Maryvonne passed away at the age of, at the ripe age of 1 0 5. Wow. About a year and a half ago, right around the time that nearest granddaughter, Miss Nelly, May died at the ripe age of 1 0 8. So, holy cow, you know, you may wanna come down to Lynchburg <laugh>, you have a, if you have a desire to live a while, it, the, one of the beautiful things in researching this story is there were so many elders still alive.
Mm. Most of those sadly, have passed away over the last three years. And I'm so grateful that they were still here to be able to fill in these pieces because quite frankly, if they weren't, we'd be in trouble. Miss Miss Helen, one of nearest descendants, she's the one who identified the African American in the photo next to Jack, and she was able to identify him because he raised her until she was 11 years old. Oh. So those are the kind <laugh>. And she looked, we're all, you know, trying to figure out who's this African American, The word out there was, it was either nearest or it was, you know, someone, a descendant of Nearest, but no one actually knew. And she walks right up at, to the photo in Jack's office at Jack Daniel Distillery, and the tour guide is taking her around on a private tour, as well as some other African American elders of Lynchburg.
And she walks right up to the photo and she said, Yep, that's Daddy George. Mm. And she passed away, I wanna say maybe a year after that. Holy cow. And, and so there we were able to piece a good amount of this stuff together because the elders of both families were still here. And, but at that time, I, I came down, I'm in the library, the second eldest descendant of Jack is called to the library mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, which understandably so put yourself in their position. And, and this kind of goes back to me saying that it's usually not this or that. It's a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And so you could look at it and think, Oh, well, because there were these black people in town that were doing research on this story, then this woman got called to come shut it down.
Well, if you think about it, everything online was dragging her family through the mud. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And you have not just a black person who shows up, but a black New York Times best selling author USA Today best selling author, which I later found out they all knew because the person whose home I rented, you know how you do the VR B o and they have to approve you to be able to stay at the house. Right. Well, that person had done the Googling and then shared with everybody that there was a, a Sony movie exec, which is my husband and a New York Times bestselling author coming to town. So you have this black couple that comes to Lynchburg. Everybody knew <laugh>. Oh
Man. The small town's fault. Are you from a small town? Do you know this culture? No,
I'm from Los Angeles <laugh>. So this, so, so here, here kind of goes back to my, my point of if, if you think about it, if it's your family and Right, it's being like drug through the mud, specifically over a racial issue, there is no way in the world you would think that a black New York Times bestselling author and her movie executive husband was coming down here to give you a fair shake.
Right? Yeah. That's true.
Wow. And so she walks through the doors, I look in her eye, she introduces herself immediately as Li Milo's granddaughter. And I look into her eyes and I could see, I don't know that it, I could say it was fear, but definitely major unease. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> and I understood it immediately. One of the gifts I think that we could all benefit from at the current moment is having an ability to put ourselves in other people's shoes. And at that moment, my first thought wasn't, How dare you come down here and try to stop this. My first thought was put myself in her shoes and how would, what would I think I was doing there? Right. And so, putting myself in her shoes, I immediately looked into her eyes and, and I said, Listen, I am not here to harm your family's legacy. I believe that social media has the story wrong. I believe that the press has a story wrong. Not Clay RISE's original piece, but the stuff that got picked up after that where people started making stuff up. Right.
I said, I believe that they have it wrong. And I shared with her things that I had read in the book and why I believed that they had that story wrong. I said, Listen, if, if, if, if Jack was trying to still a recipe and hide an enslaved man, all they'd have to do is leave him out of the book. <Laugh>. Right. <Laugh>. Absolutely. It's not like it was required to give credit to a black man at any point during when it actually happened. The story of Jack and Nearest nor when the book was being written in 1967. You didn't have to give credit in either time. Yeah. And so, understanding that, I said, I believe this to be a story of love, honor, and respect. That is what I am here to prove. I said, if I begin doing the research and I discover that Jack is not who I believe he to be, if I discover that this is not a positive story, that some of the stuff that is out there online is true, someone will come down here and they will do the research.
Nothing that happens in the dark stays in the dark. It always comes to light. Right. Someone will come down here and do that research and they will get the exact same information. I will see, but you have my word. It will not be me. I write books on love. I share stories on love. That is what I am here for. And she what she has told her cousin and other people around Lynchburg is she looked into my eyes and she knew that I was, I was telling the truth. She knew I was not there to harm her family. And so she pulls out her cell phone and she said, Then I wanna help you. And she begins giving me the names and numbers of nearest greens descendants. Wow. Information I did not have, by the way.
Oh man. Connections. very, very important. It's really good to know people who know people. And again, this, now here's the advantage of being in a community where word gets around really quickly is that your access actually probably was a lot quicker to be able to, to get to people because of the connections. Mm-Hmm.
<Affirmative>, Well, because of the connection. And it wasn't just that connection. She also, one of the things she said before she left is she said, Do you know in the book that you read where Jack grew up, where the distillery was, where Nearest Green was the distiller, you realize that farm is for sale?
The farm had been on the market for 15 months.
There is absolutely no way, number one, she could have known that I was a real estate investor, <laugh>. And there's no way <laugh> that I could have known that the farm in the book would still be there and the house intact. Absolutely. No way. Second.
Hmm. I was gonna say, you, you would think that being that tied to the history of Jack Daniels, that, that they would have invested in that property.
You'll have to ask Nelson about that. I still, I still don't understand what happened there. What I do know is it was on the market for 15 months and it wasn't a quiet listing. I mean, there's literally a for sale sign out front <laugh>, and everybody knew that Dan Call Farm. What it was, this is what I think though, is that they, from, from from my conversations with them, and, and please confirm this with Nelson, from my conversations with them, they understood that this is where Jack grew up and they understood that the distillery where Dan Calls whiskey was made and where Nearest Green made Dan calls whiskey and taught Jack. Right. That is what was there. They did not know until my research, until I brought them three different documents that were signed by Jack and Dan call, that made very clear that Daniel and Call was the distillery that came after DH call Sour dh call Sour Mash Corn Whiskey.
No, E is the, was the official name. Okay. When it went from that, that distillery became Daniel and Call. And these three documents then showed that it went from Daniel and call to Jack Daniel Distillery at the request of Jack. And so he leased the two acres around the distillery and the water source the spring, and he renewed the lease every 18 months. And so it's basically over and over again. He's doing it well in the, in the paperwork. It refers to distillery number 16 in district number five. So that really would not have any significance to them. It had no significance to me either until I was going through a bunch of old newspaper clippings and there was a newspaper clipping from, I wanna say it was I can get it for you exactly. But I wanna say it was 1878 maybe. And in the newspaper clipping, you had all of the distillers in the area that were complaining because they had been given a new district number, a new revenue came through there redrew the lines, there were too many distilleries.
And so they went from being in district number four to being in district number five. But it makes clear, and it, and it lists all of the distillers that were impacted by this. And it lists their distillery numbers and it lists exactly how much they were making. I mean, that's invaluable information for us to have as we're do as we were doing this research. But if you continue reading in the article, it says that all of the distillery numbers remain the same from district number four to district number five, except Distillery number 16. That was changed from distillery number seven. Okay. So there's absolutely no way they knew that Distillery number seven sat on that property, otherwise they, they would've bought it
<Laugh>. So, and the years are kind of con confusing for me. And I don't know if anybody's nailed these down yet or not, because of course you,
You talked about, my name is Bennett, I ain't in it <laugh>. If it's not <laugh> <laugh>
I will say that the documents I have don't necessarily line up with a lot that I have seen out there in terms of dates. Okay. And so, I, I never get into the date conversations. This is what I will say is that the leases that I have that take the distillery from being Call Daniel and call to Jack Daniel Distillery, they, the last one that I have expires in 81. Okay. Jack's current distillery location he bought in June of 85. Okay. What I do not know is where he was in those four years in between
Yeah. Takes time to move
<Laugh>. Well, but that particular property actually was a foreclosure, so Jack bought it at auction. Okay. And the, and the distillery had been inoperable for quite some time because the reason why it was even available at auction is because the IRS essentially shut it down. It was a whole big old backstory behind that. But the bottom line is it wasn't operating. Yeah. Which means that either there's another lease that I just wasn't able to find between 81 and 84 at the current location, or that means that he moved somewhere else. And I just haven't, I haven't found that yet.
Okay. So the, the main reason, and this is what I've learned, I had a history professor who always said, dates don't matter. And I, and I sort of agree with that. Where I come in with the dates is really trying to piece together when it was that it was Dan Cole's business. And then, then it was Dan Call and Jack Daniel came in. And then where Jack kind of just to kind of figure out where where the other players all kind of worked in. Cuz I know there's a whole, and, and Nelson and I talked about this about that year, 1866 and trying to pin that down. And, and he said, you know, if, if, if evidence comes up, then we'll change. But at this point there was no firm evidence. So, you know, I get how sensitive dates are, but trying to figure out, for instance, you know, when Nearest Green got to the distillery, was it just Dan called there at the PO at that point, and then Jack Daniel came in as a young boy. Did he come in at the same time as Nearest Green did, or was Nearest already pretty much kind of establishing himself there before Young Jack came along?
So this is, this is what we do know based on Jack's biography, based on Dan Cole's family. So Dan, Dan call also very lucky. He's got some pretty elder descendants that are still alive. And one of them has adopted me as her <laugh> as one of her grand babies. Nice. And she, she is absolutely just a, a beautiful human being. And one of the things in, in our conversation, and she and I have spent a lot of time together and, and one of the things that was really important to their family is that I did the research to show that Dan call did not own any slaves. And I in fact, did. And that was accurate There, his uncle who had the same name Daniel Houston call, he did in fact own slaves, but this Dan call did not. And so the only thing that we can really surmise is that Nearest was being rented.
Okay. And a lot of times really skilled enslaved people would be rented because they were far too costly to purchase. If you had a skill like distilling. And if you look in Jack Daniel's biography, Dan call introduces a young Jack Daniel to Nearest Green by saying, This is Uncle Nearest, He's the best whiskey maker I know of. Well, that's an important statement because there were 16 other distilleries in a four mile radius, and all of these distillers were a part of the Masons together. And, you know, I'm not supposed to have a Mason book, but <laugh> that supposed to be at the Grand Lodge. But two of the Mason books during that period of time in 67, 18, 67 and 18 68, those books, whoever was, whoever had them passed away and it never made it to the lodge. So those books sit at the archives.
Oh my gosh. In Lynchburg, Oh my, the more county archives I know. Can you imagine two Mason books, <laugh>. And so you could see every person who came in, every person who was a part of the Masons, every person who they blackballed, that's where the term comes from, is Wow. The black Ball term. And, and you could see who they blackballed made sure did not get in every single distiller in that area, with the exception of Jack Daniel was a part of the Masons. And I've, you know, got my own theories as to what happened there. But nonetheless, they all knew each other really well. They would've known each other's distillers really well. They bought product from each other, so they knew who had the best product. So for him to introduce him that way, Yeah. It really said what he was doing was not only special, but it was established.
Well, again, we, we talk about this comfort level, you know, in the photograph. And, and I almost want to suggest that maybe it traces all the way back to Dan call and the whole concept that here's a guy who's calling. I mean, uncle is kind of a term of endearment for somebody that isn't really a relative. And so Well,
It, well, well, let me, let me clarify that point, because in this instance it was, but here in the south in general uncle and aunt weren't terms of endearment to people of color, meaning that was a way of signifying you were a good negro. Oh, okay. And so that is, that's how they got the, the term. So when you look at Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima, and that's actually perpetuating a mammy type of person. Right. And it, it, it is so uncle and aunt generally speaking, and that period of time was not a positive term of endearment. This is what I find. Another thing I find interesting about this story is in Lynchburg, both whites and blacks went by uncle and aunt if they were well respected. And so people, if you look in Jack Daniel's legacy, when he gets older, how they refer to him as a person of respect is Uncle Jack.
Okay. And so, one of my favorite labels that they have, and and I I tried to get them to put it back out, let's see if they ever will. But there, there, when Jack was alive, there wasn't Uncle Jack label. That's what he was called. That's how people knew him in Lynchburg. So that term in reference to Nearest Green was in fact Yes. A, a positive term of endearment. Absolutely. And I do think that just in the conversations, the familiarity, but there is this really beautiful photo of one, one of nearest descendants and, and one of Jack's descendants that Nelson can get to you, or if you remind me, I can get it to you as well. And it's one of my favorite photos because the, these two women were such great friends to the very end. And they're these photos that capture the two of them and capture their friendships so well.
And so this was a generational relationship between these families and on Dan Cole's farm, generally speaking, you would have blacks and whites would be buried in separate cemeteries, even if they're on the same property, you would separate them in the south. That is just what was, it is very, very rare to see blacks and whites buried next to one another in the south. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I've actually only come across at one time, and it is on the property of Danko. Wow. He was also a preacher and his church was on his property. So, I mean, it's the most fascinating thing. You have 338 acres. It's now three 13 because of easements and all that. But you have 338 acres. And if you look at it as a triangle on one end of the triangle one tip is his home. On one tip is the distillery, and on one tip is his church.
So he was keeping his three worlds separate because he married a teetotaler. Oh my. And he had a distillery. And then you had the tempers movement. It was a problem <laugh> Yes. For his business. But, but according to Dan Cole's family, when, when Jack grew up in what has always been passed down from the eldest descendants is he came over when he was somewhere between six and eight years old. Okay. six and seven years old. Okay. And I know that seems really odd now because we really coddle children, but at that time, I mean, the moment you could pick up fire logs or go take a pill out to go get water from the, Well, the moment you were able to be a, an able body Yeah. You had to, because the land was so, so vast at that time. And so the kids were working very early on.
And so Dan calls family believes, and this is is also what is in Jack Daniel's legacy, that he arrived at the farm somewhere around six, most likely seven years old. And he arrived there to be a chore boy. That meant he was doing those chores that I just mentioned, going out and, and getting water from the well. And because we own the property, it's been nice to be able to walk those footsteps to know how far it was to the wells and how far it was to the barns and how far it was. And so it's, we've been able to really not only piece the story together, but really to bring it to life because the property is still there and it's in excellent condition. And so when you look at what Jack was doing, he wasn't there as a privileged kid. He was there to work. Yeah. But you also had him working for the family near the house. And it would've been about a 25 minute walk to the distillery on the same property.
So he would not have been able to just randomly disappear for an hour and pop over to the distillery to sneak around. He would've had to have been taken over there. And Dan call would've had to have taken him to introduce him. And, and according to his, according to his biography, and this is the story that Dan Cole's family continues to believe, is that it, it took about a year before Dan Call finally took Jack over to the distillery and introduced them. If that is the case, that introduction would've happened when Jack was eight years old. And we now know because of, of my research and being able to definitively prove that his mother died on January 27th, 1849, which means she could not have been dead when he was born. <Laugh>. Right.
Important. Birth year in 1848. So that means that he, at the time of that introduction, it would've been 1856. Okay. Nearest Green would have already been well established as the best whiskey maker in the area before he was introduced to a young Jack Daniel.
And so, if he was being rented, which seems really weird to say, but if, if he was being rented, was his family around what, because I've heard stories that maybe Jack was around Eli and George, and maybe that's where those bonds, cuz they were around the same age really started to happen.
Well, I think that you have the, I think you have the bonds that began that actually preceded the Dan call Farm, proceeded Nearest. And Jack, I actually think in talking to some of the Wagners, the elder Wagners, I actually still have on my phone, I've gotta transfer it. But I have a a, an interview that I did that lasted about two hours with Richard Wagner, and he's now passed on. He passed on a couple of years ago and I was able to give the recording to his family recently, which was really cool. But he shared a story that predated all of them in terms of what he believed was the catalyst for blacks and whites beginning to look at each other as, as if not equal, most certainly as respectable of one another. And it's, it's when a a a black enslaved man here saved a, a white man that was here, and that that was really what turned, how people were viewing that.
And so his view, and you know, of course every family believes it was their family that <laugh>. Right. That was, that was the reason. But if that is the case, and I have heard a lot of people tell this story and the significance of this other story, then it did predate this. But it still is something that carried through. And I don't find it that odd, that Nearest and Jack and, and Jack and Nearest boys, that they would've had a familial type of relationship. I don't find it odd because they were all workers. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> Jack was not a, the, the kid that was able to tell them what to do. Right. He was in a similar position. I mean, granted, he was being paid and he was living in the main house. Although if you, if you look at his book, there was a lot of days he decided to stay in the barn instead. And when you go and you're there, you understand why, because Mary Jane had 18 children, O and 11 of them lived, seven of them died. And, and on our property you have the tombstones of the ones who died at six months, or the one who died at a year, the one who died at birth. And you do have all those baby tombstones, but 11 of them survived and the house was not that large
<Laugh> and, and not, definitely not for 11 kids, plus Jack, plus Dan and Mary Jane. That's a lot of people in that house. And so I am am not surprised at all that the story is that, that Jack spent more time in the barn to get away from all those crying babies.
<Laugh>. I was surprised that that, that Dan and his wife weren't hanging out in the barn. Instead
Listen, oh my gosh. There, there was literally nothing else for them to do. So they just kept having babies. <Laugh>,
Man. So, so talk a little bit about do we know anything about Near Green's life before he came there about his, where he learned his skills, and of course he's credited with the, the Lincoln County process and by some people and others say, Well, this was being done all around the area. He just he was in a place of significance to, to have an effect on its you know, replication in the future.
So let me, let me, let me clarify that point because that I, I can tell you with 100% certainty because we've got all the documentation to back it up. Nearest Green, 100% did not invent the Lincoln County process. Okay. We see that process being utilized in Kentucky and the 18th century before it ever came to Tennessee. The difference is, is in Kentucky where you first see it, it, it's still using charcoal for this filtration process, but it's literally o in only a few inches versus it comes to Tennessee, it becomes a, a bigger part of it where people are putting it in more of, you know, buckets or, or barrels or whatever you wanna call it. But the reason why people credit Nearest, at least the reason why I credit Nearest, is not for the invention of it. It is because Tennessee whiskey, as we know it today, would not exist if it were not for Jack Daniel becoming so famous and that brand being be, being known around the world, we would simply have bourbon.
If you travel outside of the us you know that Tennessee whiskey doesn't really exist outside of the US on every menu. It is read as bourbon <laugh>. Right, Right. That is, once you leave our soil, people look at it as bourbon. It's all the same. Well, the only reason why it is different here is because Jack and his family fought for there to be a distinguishment to their product. They are the ones who put all the money behind actually making Tennessee whiskey its own category. So Tennessee whiskey does not exist without Jack and his family. Period. That's indisputable. It does not exist. And because Near Green is the one who taught Jack Daniel, that is why I I say that the only difference between Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey is what Nearest Green taught. Nice. But he most certainly did not invent it.
Okay. Yeah. There's, there's the story that it it potentially actually what has been brought over as a from Africa as a as, as something that they would do to filter out water rather than doing it for, for whiskey purposes. This,
This is true, but it would not have been nearest. You've gotta remember if you're talking about Nearest being born in 1820. Right. This preceded, this would've come over with the enslaved people who would have been probably three generations before him.
So it coming in through the slaves and it coming in with nearest or two different things, <laugh>. Okay. It came, it came in with the enslaved people. But it did. And and the reason again, that we even know that is because Jack's descendants went on record in saying it. It's literally in the press. They did. Yeah. So that's the reason why we know how the Lincoln County process came into Tennessee, that it was with the enslaved people and it's the enslaved people that taught everybody else here how to do it. We know that because of Limb Motlow and Regor and Connor and, and all those other, the, the four short, short sleeve brothers as they would call him.
Yeah. So when Nearest was then hired by Jack to work as his master stiller, as they called it back then were George and Eli also already working for the, the business at that time? Or, or do we know anything about how they became connected to the distillery?
We don't. So what we know is that Nearest was the head stiller. And what we also know is that George and Eli, they, that whole family would've lived on the property. Nearest had 11 children and his wife Harriet, they would've all lived on the property. We know where they lived because there's still a lot of original stone from original fireplaces from the original distillery, from the original Gristmill, those stones. That's the beautiful thing about the south. Nobody gets rid of anything <laugh>. So they're, they're all on the property. They're just repurposed. Yeah. And so it, it's, it's been e it's been easy to track that area and, and essentially his commute to work was like a three minute walk from his <affirmative> from where he was to the distillery, but him as head stiller. And where, when Eli and George got involved, I have no idea. And a part of that is, is we don't really see them as a part of the distillery at the Dan call farm. We don't see them as a part of the distillery operating until Jack moves to the new location. And Eli, George and Lewis go with him. Okay. George Lewis was nearest his eldest son.
So there's a Lewis and there's Eddie, I think
E d d there is Eddie, but Eddie didn't, Eddie didn't actually work for the distillery. He worked for the Eddie worked for, if I'm not mistaken, I'd have to go back and look on the family tree cuz I did the family tree, but I do not remember everybody's occupation on it. Yeah. And, but I believe if I remember correctly, that Eddie actually worked for Miss Mary Bobo's. That she, that he worked for the actual hotel that was no, no, I have to go back. I don't rem I don't remember how he's connected, who he worked for, but he did not work at the distillery, I can tell you that. Oh,
Okay. So I worked out a genealogy for a story. I was follow cuz I just finally, there were so many names coming at me, I was like, I have got to put this into a tree or I am not gonna be able to relate and say whose grandfather great-grand and all that sort of stuff. But what's funny is when I started building out the tree, I started feeling like I was part of the family. And then I'm going to talk to all of these people and, and I'm talking to family members and I'm hearing their history. And did you get to a point with this where you're like, Man, I feel like I'm just a, an honorary green here.
Oh, well it's not a i it's not, it's not that I had to feel that way. They will tell you that <laugh> and if you like, I have them all on, on text message, obviously we all text a lot and on social media a lot and whatever they address me on social media. It's always as cousin. Always. Yeah. It's very rare. Or if they, if they say something, you know, Fawn, whatever, it's our cousin Fawn. And so there there's a running joke that I, I am a green and I just don't know it yet and I'm going to uncover it. And I tell them, I promise you I did the family tree. It is complete at this point. It took me years to complete your family tree. It's done. I am absolutely not on it <laugh>. But the thing that's really interesting is, is there was another green family here, and because we pay for all of nearest as descendants to go to college, what ended up happening is, is there was another green family here who actually thought they were from Nearest his side of the family because their family referred to Nearest as Uncle Nearest.
Ah. And so in their family, people would always talk about Uncle Nearest. And that was one of the hard things is that I would get these messages about the scholarship program and I'd say, Who is your, who is your parent? Who your parents, who are their parents? And do you know, you know their parents? And very easily, because I know the tree frontwards and backwards at least who's on it, I would know immediately that they weren't on the tree and I had to be the one to break the news to them <laugh> that they were from another family, William Green's family. And there was no relation whatsoever except one of nearest grandchildren married one of William's grandchildren. But outside of that, there was no relationship between the two families. But even that family was under the impression, and it wasn't until I shared with them that they weren't, that they began pulling out their own family trees and realizing that they weren't able to connect them to Nearest
Man. Yeah, that's tough. Well, and I'm sure that like for instance when I was researching the dance family in Kentucky, there, there are tons and tons and tons of dance all over the place. So it was really hard to work that out. And I, you know, I see greens throughout this entire story. In fact, the guy who wrote the legacy book, I think his last name, that's a Ben Green,
His last name is Green of no relation, but but he is his last name is his last name is Green. Yeah, Yeah,
Yeah. Go figure. So some somehow that all that all works out. But so apparently, and this is something I always heard about Le Motlow I didn't always hear about but recently heard about was that Lemmont Low had a philosophy that it was about your tenure and that's where your pay came from. And from what I understand, Nearest, when he left Jackson's employee was in pretty good standing. Him himself. Was is that true?
Well, there's a couple of things that wasn't a limb thing that was a Jack thing that was passed onto limb. Okay. So Jack paid people based on tenure and that continued on. So there's a few things that continued on under limb and then continued on on under limbs children, one of which was people bank being paid on tenure. Another was giving five pound boxes of chocolate every Christmas. I still don't understand that one <laugh>. And then the other was giving a hundred dollars in silver dollars in a velvet bag every holiday to every member of the team, even after dollar bills were available. Wow. Jack just had this thing with silver dollars. And so every year everybody knew for the holidays they were going to get this bag of this velvet bag of silver dollars and a five pound box of chocolate. And, and so those are the three things that continued on from Jack to Li and then to Li's four boys.
But yes, it is absolutely the case. And what we do know is immediately following the Civil War in 1870, as the first time that you see African Americans on the census as people, not property mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And when you begin looking at the wealth of those that are on those censuses, then Nearest green is yes, the wealthiest African American in the area, and he is wealthier than many of his white neighbors. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, which it, I still find incredibly interesting to say, say the least. Yeah. And then his children, if you come in to Lynchburg, I could point out to you so many parcels of land that were theirs. As a matter of fact, Eli and, well Eli actually live with ot, but OT and Jesse nearest, his two grandsons, they lived across from each other. They each had one house on a full block.
There was nothing else on the block on either side of the street, except Jesse's house was in the middle of the block on one side. And OTs house was on the middle of the block on the other side. And you're talking about downtown? This is downtown Lynchburg. This isn't like outskirts. This in the heart of Lynchburg. And I could literally even go around the square and the land where Daddy George, where Miss Helen's grandfather George Green, the land that is at the top of Jack Daniel Distillery, now, where all those warehouses are at the top, that was George's land. It's George's kids who decided to sell it back to the, the Motlow fam or sell it to the Motlow family. And I remember Miss Helen was not very happy about it because apparently her mother didn't like the price that the other, you know, siblings had agreed to, but, and thought that they would, they should hold out for more. But the other siblings decided to do it. But the bottom line is, is all that land that was up there at the top of, of Tenured Hill, that is now the distillery that was owned by George Green, and then right next to all that land that was George Green, was it belonged to Tommy Green and right across the street from that, that whole area was. And so you have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of acres all around this area that were owned by black people.
Wow. That's not common <laugh>.
Yeah. Yeah. You know, I, I was surprised that when I, I grew up in Asheville, North Carolina and in Asheville, when my dad was doing research, research on Bunkum County, he found that it was a pro-union area. And it was you know, I grew up around people there. You'd see Confederate flags and whatever around. But if you asked any of them, Hey, did you know that this area was actually a union area? And that parts of Tennessee were that way too. Tennessee was the last state to join the Confederacy. So there was some, well,
Where our distill, where Nearest Green Distillery is in Shelbyville, that was union. And there's actually in our square, there is a placard that shares the whole story of the union soldiers that were there, that were leading. So it is, it is, it is interesting because you did have, in Lynchburg, ironically, you had a Confederate stronghold in the heels around Lynchburg. Not in the heart of it, but in the heels around Lynchburg, and then in Shelbyville, which is right next door, that was mostly union.
Very interesting. Yeah. Tennessee has a, a fascinating hit. Kentucky does too, cuz it had to really straddle the line there too, between North and south. So a again, it gets back to this thing of history is complicated. We, we can't always just slap a label on it and it's it's gonna be a hundred percent true. So you know, it's, it's, it's fun that you've, you've dug into all of this story. Did you ever get back with the New York Times writer and say, Hey, look what I found with
This? Oh my God. Yeah. He did a, he did a piece the next year. Oh, did hearing so yeah, no, I got on a plane headed out to New York, and we did he did a, he did a full story that updated it because in the original piece, near spelled incorrectly, So one of the things that happened in the, the new piece was N E A R E S T is the correct spelling. So that was updated and I brought with him some of the things that I had found up until that point. So one of the reasons that we even began wondering if Jack Daniel Distillery began on the Dan call farm versus where it is right now, is because one of Jack's descendants came, well, came to the farm and he said, This belongs here. And it was a metal bottle jug stencil. It's the only one I've ever seen to this day. It's a metal bottle jug stencil that it says Jack Daniel, no apostrophe no s And he said it it, that he found it while doing the metal detecting about nine inches below ground where the original distillery sat.
And so the question became, why was there a bottle jug stencil for Jack Daniel next to that distillery if it wasn't Jack Daniel Distillery? So that was actually the first thing that tipped us off, was one of Jack's descendants who brought that over.
Wow. I've seen that too, actually. I saw a picture of that and didn't know what it was about. So that's, that's fun to hear the Yeah. Backstory
On that. Yeah. That one's in, that one's in my safe, <laugh> <laugh> and, and along with some other, some other things. But it was, it was actually his, it was actually him that brought over that. I took that out to New York. I also took with me to New York, something that Nelson Eddie gave to me, which was, and I hadn't had it. He assumed that I had, but I hadn't had it un until he gave it to me. And it was a 26 page magazine from Tennessee quarterly, Historical quarterly, You know how you'll get a newspaper and inside they'll have their own magazine, right? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> that they'll do every quarter or something. So that's essentially what this was for. One of the local papers, Well, the story was all on Lynchburg and Jack Daniel Distillery. And in that in that article that was from 18, I'm not looking at it right now, I wanna say it was, Oh, dog on it. I don't know. <Laugh>, it's those years. I have to go back. And
This wasn't 1972, was it? Cuz I thought I saw a link to article. Yes. There you go. 72. Okay. Yeah. Yeah.
Yes, yes. So that, thank you that I haven't looked at that in so long. It's been sitting in my safe. And so Nelson brought that over and in there they clearly identify their, their head stillers, their master distillers in order. And it very clearly says near screen was the first. Wow. And so that was, those two pieces were, were two of the, the artifacts that I took with me to Clay in New York about a year after the original story was, well no, about, about six months after the original story was written. That's what I had been able to uncover up until that point. And also every single tax book, a part of being able to piece this story together and figure out what distillers were doing, what, when, what year, and all the rest of that is that although the courthouse burned down twice, I believe, and all of these other things burned what never burned somehow miraculously are the IRS records.
I was able to uncover the IRS records for every single distillery in the area beginning in 1867. Oh wow. And going all the way through the time period that I was looking, not one book was missing. Now I had to go to four different archives. <Laugh> Yeah, yeah. To find it. Some, some of the books were in the archives in Atlanta, some were in dc some were in Maryland, and then some were here in Tennessee. But all of the IRS books I was able to get full copies of. And that took forever. But it, but it allowed me to see who was making what amounts, what taxes were being paid, what they had. And these are not things that are scanned in you can find electronically. When I went to the archives in Atlanta, for instance, the books had been shrink wrapped at some point cuz the, you know, the IRS books back in the day were huge. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, it's not like some cute little thing you could walk around it. Right. I mean it's, you know, like a, a two person thing. And those books had been shrink wrapped isn't the right term, but you know what I'm talking about. When they go to protect those books and it, they had never been broken. No one had ever pulled those IRS documents before I had. Mm.
And so were you, by the time you're taking this plane flight up there to see him, did you already have the seeds of the foundation or the distillery in your mind at that time?
By that point, we had, let's see, when I went to go see him, it would have been February or March of 2017. Yeah. Not of the distillery, but definitely of the brand.
Okay. Okay. And so you started the foundation first, is that correct?
Oh yeah. The foundation was started first we began the nearest screen Legacy Scholarship Fund before we ever had the Uncle Nearest brand. And a a, most of the things that happened first were foundation related. Okay. And then the brand came out in July of 2017. And, and really the only reason I remember Brown Foreman's, former cbo, who's just, he's a good friend of mine now, but, and he's, he's retired last year, but I remember him the first time he saw what we were doing. Cuz of course I shared it with them before it went out to the world. The last thing I was going to do is allow them to be blindsided. So they were the only people that knew it was coming beforehand. They had seen everything. And I remember him seeing it all and saying Harvard is one day going to do a masterclass on this because of how quickly we pulled it all together. But the reality is, is the reason why we pulled it all together is we weren't sure how they were going to respond. Right. So we're going a million miles a minute just in case they decided to point all their missiles at us <laugh>.
Speaker 3 (01:10:35):
Nice. And, and the irony is, is that as much as, as we, we talk about the growth of the brand and the brand is doing extraordinarily well, it we're still going at this massive pace we began with, because we started that out of, I don't wanna call it fear, but out of wanting to prepare for the worst. Right. Right. And we just have never stopped moving at that
Speaker 3 (01:11:02):
So a part of how well we've done as a brand is we've been moving at that feverish pace from day one. I mean, at some point I imagine we'll have to like, like slow it down, but as long as I'm not tired and my team's not tired, we're just gonna keep going at the same pace. Why not? I mean, at this point we've been doing it for, you know, three and a half or years.
So keep that train mo, it's hard to stop a train. So <laugh>.
So you now are running the fastest growing independent whiskey brand in America. And this is, we're saying this in 2020. You were on that trip in 2016. Yeah. So, so we're talking four years for this turnaround. And, and how does somebody go from doing research? Cuz I'm, I'm thinking of myself. I'm thinking here I am doing all this research and I'm writing all these podcasts and, and then all of a sudden what if, you know, a year from now I was owning a whiskey brand, you know, where would I even start to do something like that? How did you get moving in this direction?
Yeah, so, well, the, well, I had help, so this is helpful. So there's, there's a couple of things. Number one, I've been an entrepreneur my whole life and, and I've, and I've been successful in a number of different industries. So it, it's not odd for me to co go into another industry and to learn it and to do my best to, to, to perform at a level of excellence in an industry I'd never been in. So that, that's not abnormal. My husband actually used to tease me and he'd say that I was the only person he'd ever met that would go into an industry, perfect it, and then move into another industry. He was like, most people would just stay in that industry and just enjoy the ride. But nope, not you, <laugh> nice. And but the, the, the key to all of that is, is, is remember the first interaction in the library where Jack's descendant shared with me that the farm was for sale.
Well, just a couple of hours later, I get a call on my cell phone and it's her cousin and again, Lilo's family. And it's, it's her cousin. And she says, Hey, my cousin told me you met her in the, the library that you wanna go to the Dan call Farm. I'm a realtor, I can take you. And so she offers to take us the next day not thinking that, not knowing, number one, that we were real estate investors and why would we not buy a piece of American history. That's just nuts. Right. But also in addition to that, that she didn't think that we had any desire to buy it. She just thought that she was going to be taking us and she was excited to have a reason to go walk around and see the property herself. Mm. And so we went the next day and we put in an offer immediately.
So then she truly was our, our realtor and did the transaction and, and all the rest of that. And as we, as she began to get to know us and this was, you know, a little bit, a little ways after that. But after she, she got to know us and really got to know our heart and what we set out to do, she said, you know, if you ever decide to honor Nearest with a bottle, I will come out of retirement to make sure you get it right in a small town. Everybody knows what everybody does. We knew her as a realtor. We did not know. We knew her as a realtor. We knew she was Jack Daniel's family. We didn't know anything beyond that. And unless you're in a from a small town, you don't take the time to dig, to
Fight <laugh>. Right.
Who people are that are living. That's just not what you do. Yeah. And so we did not know her background. And so when she said it the first time, it was just kind of like, haha, you know, whatever. And did not really, really think too much of it. Number one, we didn't know her background, but also, I mean, anyway. And so we didn't, we didn't give any weight to it at all. And then she brought it up again for the life of me. I don't remember how much, how long after the first time, but she brought it up again. And this time she said, You don't know this, but whiskey is in my blood. It's all I've ever known is the family business. Hmm. And that's when we learned that for 31 years she had been at Jack Daniel Distillery, and when she left, she was the head of whiskey operations.
Wow. And she was offering to come out of retirement to be the head of whiskey operations for years Green Distillery. That's why we were able to do what we have done is because she was able to utilize her 31 years of experience. There is no one, and I, I don't believe you will find anyone to dispute this point. There is no one in the Tennessee whiskey business with more experience than Sherry Moore. No one, If you talk to Jeff Arnett, she hired him. If you, if Jimmy Bedford was still alive, he would tell you she trained him. Wow. The current vice president over at Jack Daniel Distillery, she hired and trained him. <Laugh>. I mean, this is, this is a woman who spent 31 years learning every aspect of Jack Daniel distillery.
Well, I was gonna say, she apparently really was connected into the Uncle Nearest story then if she's, she's retired from, from business. And she's like, Nope, this is the reason I wanna, this is worthwhile for me to come out and, and be a part of.
Well, her families grew up together. They ate around the same dinner table. They were friends, they played together. So she knew the story that the stories that were out there in the press about her family and near us' family weren't true. And she grew up knowing exactly who Nearest Green was. The thing that we have to remember, and I think a lot of people miss, is the story of Nearest Green. It's not that it was not told previously mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, when Jack was alive, everybody knew who Nearest Green was and what his significance was to Jack. When Jack's descendant Li Motlow took over, everybody knew who Nearest was and who nearest his boys were and their significance to their business. When Li's boys took over, the same thing continued. It wasn't until the eldest of Lis Lims boys died in, in 1978. So that's Regor Malow.
He had, they had long sold the distillery, but they had continued running it. And Regor was the last president and then he went on to the board. So they were still always very much involved at, with the operations of it and with the leadership of it in Lynchburg, Regor died in 78 and the story of Nearest Green appears to have died with them because by 79, when one of nearest descendants took friends to the distillery, as she always did, because she liked to let, she'd like to let them hear the stories about her her ancestor Nearest Green, cuz it was a part of their tour and it was a part of that whole experience. And when she went in 1979, her daughter recalls very vividly her calling her and saying they've whitewashed the story. My, my grandfather's, my, my grandfather's no longer in it.
Wow. Huh. Yeah, I mean that's, it's interesting cuz there, there had to be a point where the story just sort of of slid away. And I'm, I'm thinking the Greens have actually, there are descendants of his that are still working for the distillery and have worked continuously through. So there was always a, a heartbeat of nearest around. But, but to have this story have the impact that it had when it first came out in 2016, it had to have disappeared to be such a mystery to people.
Well, absolutely. Because the descendants that have been there for 40 years will tell you until, until the story came out in 2016, the story was never discussed. They, they were trying to get the story to be told. And one of the things that were so hurtful and they shared with me and through a whole lot of tears, was that for so many years they just, when they would just tell their colleagues this story, their colleagues would dismiss it as being untrue. And, and so for, so Deb Edy, for instance, she was there for almost 40 years before she's able to share the story and people believe it. And it was only after my research came out because in and so that is, that story was not a part the whole time they've been there.
That is crazy.
And so it would've been, well, what, you know, it, it's one of those things where I, I have chosen not to dive in too deep to try to figure this out because I wanna be focused on nearest in the future versus who erased them. Right. Right. That to me has never been a focus because what do I, what do we gain by knowing who erased them? You're right. That person is dead. Yeah. So we identify the person who erased them. And I, I actually have a really good idea because there are several people who retired and they're and they are now still living that are in their nineties <laugh> all African American. And they all share the same person who is not related to the Browns or the, the family that owns just a, a one of the workers who was sent down from Kentucky and who made a whole lot of changes.
And it appears to have been under his watch. And the stories that I've heard about this particular guy, I would hope he was rogue and that there wasn't any backing for this guy. But he made some pretty significant changes that that completely changed the fiber. So when Jack was alive, when Li ran the distillery, it was 50 50 in terms of blacks and whites mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, that's the, the, the community was about 40% African American. But the workforce at Jack Daniel Distillery was about 50% African American. Yeah. And that continued until this particular guy came into the picture. And but he's dead. I can't ask any questions. Right. So to me, it's unfair to say his name publicly
And he probably wouldn't wanna answer you anyway. Probably so.
Right. He, he, and but he, he's not here to defend himself. And that just seems unfair because it doesn't add to the story. But what it can do is send his family unnecessarily through what Jack's family went through unnecessarily, because no one was here until I came around to prove that what was saying wasn't true about their family. Does that, does that make sense?
Right. Yeah, absolutely. Well, I mean, we have to learn from history and we have to hear these things that that are negative. But I think the thing is, we don't need to dwell in them. And I think that's what we end up doing sometimes is we, we start chasing after things that are, are negative to try to prove a point rather than trying to see where we can go and how we can learn from the things that have happened in the past that we, we need to move on for. I mean, history is in a really interesting position right now because it is being challenged in a lot of ways. And and we have to decide, you know, what history is worth, even if we don't like it. Still acknowledging at least any way so that future generations understand what we don't wanna do again.
Absolutely. And, and I think that the, the one of the reasons why history continues to be challenged and why I do believe it should be challenged is because if there are still unresolved things now related to that history, then you've gotta, you've gotta get the history right. Yeah.
Absolutely. In this case, there is no impactful change possible by knowing if it was this particular guy. None.
Yeah. It, it's, it's not helpful in the least bit. And so I have chosen to focus on what is true, what is positive and what cement nearest Green's legacy. That's it.
So when did you go from Sherry Moore making the suggestion of a bottle to you saying, Okay, let's do this. And, and what was your original goal for what you were gonna do? Was it a bottle or and it just evolved over time or over a short time? Cuz this didn't take long. Yeah. Or, or was the distillery kind of the first thing that hit you when, when she said bottle,
The distillery never crossed my mind. <Laugh>, we never ever crossed my mind because even when we were having the conversation, it was more of a commemorative type of bottle. If you look at the original, I don't know if you've ever seen it, but if you go back, only the descendants owned this. But there were these books that were made in which the bottle fits into it, these beautiful leather bound books that is the story of Nearest Green and the bottles inside of it. And it, it was very much meant to be commemorative. And that where that, where that got challenged was when you, number one, the amount of money that had to go into just doing something commemorative <laugh>. Yeah. Right. You might as well build a brand <laugh>, because whether it was going to be commemorative or actually a brand, it was essentially going to cost the same to get it going.
Because in this industry, really in order to cut through the noise, you know, the number of brands that start and sputter out in a matter of a year, 18 months, three years, in order to really get it off the ground, it requires so much money. And so it did not make sense after a while as we began talking about it to have these, these low numbers. But if, if you talk to Sherry about our original conversations, it was not what it is now. <Laugh> and the distillery that came about out of necessity because what we realized is, is in the industry, if we were going to have our own brand, if we were beholden to other people, the the distilleries, you know, sell all the time. Right. So if we were contract distilling somewhere and someone bought them and decided they weren't going to be contract distilling anymore, well we're we're screwed.
Yeah. If we're bottling somewhere and that particular distillery grew to the size where they could no longer contract bottle again, we're screwed. And so yeah, we had to even though Keith and I really fortunate, really blessed we were able to put our own money into it, but there was no way we were going to be able to, to put enough of our own money in it to get this off the ground, that meant that I had to raise capital from friends and family. Well that meant I needed to figure out a way to get that money back to them as well. I had to figure out how to grow that money for them. And there it was impossible to do that with a commemorative bottle. So that is where it became a real brand. But I don't know that I thought about a distillery at all until we were in the marketplace for at least a year.
And we kept running into challenges with bottling and with our filtration being consistent and we would get complaints about moldy corks and that kind of thing. And we realized we better get in control of our operation if we're going to, if we're gonna have a brand. So it absolutely came out of necessity. And then also, even though we have a great relationship with Jack Daniels, most people did not know that. So you also had a lot of folks who would not take us on as clients that we needed to help us because they were loyal to Jack Daniel and thought that they were doing Jack Daniel a favor by denying us help.
Man. So the distillery came 100th percent out of necessity, not because it was ever a part of the plan.
Yeah. So you it's interesting because having traveled to over a hundred distilleries in my time and, and doing these different tours the craft industry is fascinating because you have to figure out how to get up and running. And, and so in planning all of this kind of out and, and figuring out what you were gonna do with it you had to go through a, a, a sourcing experience.
Oh, absolutely. At 100, 100%. And, and it's funny because I I I always find it really fascinating when people try to treat sourcing like it's a new thing. Right? Jack used to buy up all of the liquor in the area cuz he was a better salesperson than the other distilleries. And so I literally have a court case Li got in trouble. Lynn was always getting in trouble, but Lynn got in trouble. He was in court about something and Jack was deposed. And, and I, and I gotta tell you, it it is, it was so much fun to be able to read it because it was the first time I was actually able to hear Jack's voice. Mm. Because it wasn't an author who was doing the biography based on what his descendants said, or it was his words. And it was so funny to listen to how sort of, I don't wanna say Kurt, but direct, he was <laugh> where they asked him a question, you know, so Mr.
Daniel, can you say what it is that you do? And this, this is the prosecutor, and he says, I'm a farmer Mr. Daniel, could you say what else you do? I plant corn. Mr. Daniel, could you say what else you, He's like, Well, I think everyone knows here. I'm also a distiller. Like, that was <laugh>. That was his personality. And I loved being able to see that part of it. But one of the things under cross examination is the, the, the prosecutor asked about a particular distillery and said, Do you buy the, the whiskey from this distillery and the person and then Jack responds, I do. And the prosecutor says, How much? And Jack says all of it. Wow. But this wasn't the only distillery Jack was buying from. He was sourcing all over the place. So, Okay. This is not a new thing.
Yeah. for, for sourcing. So I never felt bad about sourcing. And the only reason that we were not able to name our sources. So we have, we have sourced from two, from very early on and one partic, both of them had us under NDA in the beginning mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And then as our brand began doing really, really well, one of them about a year ago released me from the nda and that was Tennessee Distilling Group. Okay. So we've been laying down our own barrels at Tennessee Distilling Group and a a co-partner distilling arrangement for since two early 2017. Mm. So we've got a, I mean, I think there, we probably have about the end of this year, we'll probably have about 10,000 barrels maybe there, that are, that are aging. And, and every year adding to that another, you know, next year we're gonna absolutely have to lay down at least 10,000 barrels.
But they've been a fantastic partner to us in Columbia, Tennessee. And we do our bottling there, we do our filtration there. The filtration that they utilize for Uncle Nearest is specific to what Sherry put in place, Uhhuh. And she went and showed them how to do it. And, and, and so that's, that's all unique to Uncle Nearest, but you have to start off with a really good product. And our second source, although I'm really good friends with their master distiller and we both think it's absurd that the company will not allow for me to be released from the nda, but they've been adamant about it. Yeah. It, it's definitely not my preference, but at this point we're going to be coming out with our own juice soon enough. So it would serve no purpose to confirm them now. But I have been under NDA with the second source for this entire time. So Okay. So, and, but they make a fantastic juice. So we are starting off with an incredible juice. And then Sherry is is doing her thing, Victoria's doing her thing on the blending, but we are starting off with, with some of the best, best Tennessee whiskey there is.
Well, and, and Victoria actually is part of the, she's actually a relative of near green. Is she not?
Yeah, she's fifth generation descendant and she is our master blender. She's phenomenal. Her, her, her blends are winning gold medals, double golds left and right. And so it's one of those things where she just has a knack for it more so than I do. Yeah. And so it's been really fun to watch her come into her own and to really understand her palette. And when she, for instance, when she blends the 1884, it's a lot of fun to watch her because she'll taste a barrel and it will be a good barrel, but it's not her taste and her whole face will go turn upside down. She's like, that was out <laugh> <laugh> that barrel's out. And I mean, and it's a good barrel. It's just not her specific taste for her specific blend.
Yeah. Yeah. That is a fascinating job. The, the idea I, I've gone over to Scotland and, and talked to Richard Harrison who's been doing master blending for 50 years. And you just wonder how your palette can stay fine tuned and you can repeat things. Because when I taste whiskey, I have to admit it's you know, sometimes I'll come to a whiskey and it'll taste one way and I'll come back to it the next day and it tastes completely different to me. So,
Well, because it, it depends on, it depends on a number of things. It depends on your hormone levels at the time. It depends on what you may have eaten earlier in the day. It, Right. There are so many variables to how something tastes, but the reason why I could never be a master blender is that whole put it in your mouth, chew it around, spit it out thing <laugh>, it's not for me. I, I am going to sip on it <laugh>. And I just haven't gotten the art of being able to put it in my mouth, chew it around, spit it out, and to be able to tell you what the profile is. I can't do it. I actually need to either, My nose does a great job of being able to pick up all of the notes. So if the, if the whiskey mirrors my nose, then I'm very good at that. But if a lot of times the nose doesn't necessarily match the palette. Yeah. And that's where it's a challenge for me cuz I have to drink it to be able to tell Right. What I'm tasting you want means that I am limited, I'm limited in the number of tastings I can do <laugh>. Right.
<Laugh> nice. So, so talk about the distillery because I know, you know, and I'm sure Covid hasn't helped out a whole bunch here, but I mean, where are you at in the process? Cuz I understand you're, you're gonna do distilling on site, you're gonna have warehousing on site. Where is that at, at this point?
Yeah, so we've opened up phase one back in September of 2019. And so we have a good, basically the left side of the property is done done. We are now working on the right side. And we will open that up next year and when we open it up, it will have a full steel house. Our first rick house is actually, the Ricks are being built right now, so that we'll start rolling in the barrels before the end of this year. Oh, nice. And so our, our first Rick house though is small, it only holds about 3000 barrels. So we'll roll in 3000 barrels from over at tdg. And then all of our other Rick houses that we are building are being through music and in Kentucky. And those are, you know, 20,000 barrel warehouses. And so yes, those are being done are permanent visitor center, the one that when you see pictures of the visitor center now, it's absolutely stunning.
But that is our temporary visitor center that is going to be converted once the permanent visitor center opens, that's going to be converted into the single barrel, the private barrel tasting area where, you know, you can come in in all the rest of that stuff. But that's been opened since September. This other one w we're really up in the air because unfortunately going back to this whole black and white this and that versus it being a little bit of black and a little bit of white and a little bit of this and a little bit of that, you have people in this country for whatever reason that have decided that mass are a violation of their civil liberties. And so they wanna argue with people that are in establishments that are requiring mass. And I'm just not going to put my team members through that.
It's just not worth it. Yeah. And so before what we were doing is, is Monday through Friday as a construction site, then on Saturday and Sunday, the construction crews would clean it all up on Saturday mornings and then we would take the tours through on Saturday and Sunday. And I mean, they were sold out. We were doing very, very well with them and with the sales. But now that it's been closed because of Covid, the construction crews have been able to just work straight through and not have to clean up at the end of the week. And so it's allowed them to be able to really push through and it's allowed us to also make some different creative decisions that have been fun because now we had a little bit more time to play. Yeah. Where before we had a, a really tight deadline, but now, you know, we can't open anyway.
So it's given us an ability to really, really play. So now it's a matter of when will we open up phase two? And the challenge for us is for phase one, for instance, I mean we, we didn't even, we barely had anything done. It was almost just the grounds landscaped and the bottling house was done. But that was essentially it for our, our phase one preview. And we, we still had literally, Lynchburg is about 25 minutes from our distillery people leaving out of Lynchburg to come to our phase one opening party. Were in traffic in downtown Lynchburg. Wow. That's how far the traffic backed up. It was backed up 45 minutes each way Wow. From the distillery. And so that's for phase one, before we grew to people knowing us really around this country that was, I mean, people were coming in from all over, but that was majority here. Home base. Yeah. Now we have grown this massive whiskey family all over this country. There is absolutely no way that we can do a party for less than 10,000 people <laugh>. There's no way. And so the question becomes when can a party for 10,000 people be done? And that is going to really dictate when we're able to open up phase two. You,
You've been doing the tours yourself, you've been the guide, is that, is that correct?
Oh no, I do a founder's tour, which was I could double the price of the regular tour <laugh>.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm like, okay, how many how many times do you get an opportunity to have the, the the owner CEO of this really large distillery come down and do your tour? But I mean, honestly you know, no price too much to, to come down and have the founder take you on a, a walk around the distillery.
Yeah. I was doing them once a week. I think when we reopen it'll probably be more like once a month just because of the, the sheer size. But I, I would only do, I would do one tour and tasting per week and you know, every week we'd say it's capped at 20 and every week it was that's said 20. It was never capped. Oh, okay. Wow. You know, they would eventually cap it when it was going to be a capacity issue, but outside of that they would just, Can we add one more? Can we add one more <laugh>? And, but it was, you know, it was, it was really great to be able to tell this story, especially in the current environment and the current climate because when you go on a lot of these distillery tours, and you know this, the majority of the people that you see are white males going on these tours. <Affirmative>, that's sort of the norm. And then you came to Nearest Green Distillery and it was a lot of white males, but it was everybody else. Yeah. You had a lot of women, a lot of people of color, and to do these tours and knowing that so many of them are kind of fighting out in the world and to be able to bring them together mm-hmm. <Affirmative> on these grounds, it just seemed so incredibly appropriate.
So this is an interesting correlation that I drew with your commercial that you just came out with, which has your, your father's music in it, correct?
Yes. And my husband's the voiceover.
Okay. Oh wow. So it is a family affair,
So it's a complete family affair.
So this is the thing that I find kind of interesting about that is that I, I'm from Detroit originally and love everything Motown. And what I always loved about Motown was that it really was like a, it was colorless music. It was bringing black and white. It was together in a way. Yes. You know, and so I kind of, when I see that commercial and I listen to that music in the background, I kind of get that same sort of sense that this is kind of wrapping it all up in a nice bow not only with your family, but also with this whole concept of, of bringing, you know, black and white together and looking at it as, as something you know, more open, more unity in in what it is do.
Absolutely. It's, it's, you know, I joke about us being the Motown of whiskey, but that's what we are, We are colorless, we are a black owned brand, but we have brought everybody to the table. If you look through our social media feed on any given day Haley, our social media manager who's brilliant, she's absolutely fantastic. But you know, you're gonna see a photo and it's a, an African American that's holding up a, a bottle of Uncle Nearest or pouring and doing a cocktail. And then you're gonna see someone who's white and someone who's Asian and someone who's Hispanic. And it's just, I mean, this, our whiskey family is everybody under the sun. Our buyer is almost 50% women. Wow. Unbelievable. In this industry. Yeah. And, and so I, I look at as truly as being the Motown of whiskey, because I set out from the very beginning to be a brand that would be not only welcoming to everyone, but would be beloved by everyone, and that there would be no color line, that there would be no gender line, that it would just be something where every single person could relate to raising a glass and honoring the first African American master distiller on record in the United States.
That's all that mattered. It didn't matter what race the person was holding up the glass. And I, I think the reason why our brand has been so successful is that we were adamant about that. Who we were going to market to everyone. You were not going to convince me to pigeonhole who we could market to, because if you tell me to only market to this particular population, that means you just told me that the rest of the population, my product's not good enough for them. Right.
And so I made the decision that from the very beginning that we would be a colorless brand. And I'm so grateful because in this moment I am able to say some, some things that are a healing bomb to those who are black and those who are white, those who are having a difficult time understanding what is happening out there. When I speak people listen. And I think it's because I've been really clear about saying I will not see race. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I absolutely will not see race. I mean, unless, unless we're talking about the human race or the Christian race, I won't see race. Right, right. And, and that is where I stand.
So, so it's interesting too, because that's the other correlation that I kind of pull into this is that I, I, I feel that and hear that and all of y what I hear you talking about. And I think of the photo again of how comfortable everybody looks when you know George Green is sitting in amongst right next to, to Jack Daniel. And we talk about the, the relationship of you know, your father being in Motown. Do you think some of that culture came through him and inspired you also into this, this mindset? Well,
My father didn't see color. He never, he, the best way that I can describe it is he saw people through the lens of grace never, ever through the lens of race. Hmm. And that is a legacy that he passed down to me. I don't know any other way. Yeah. I don't know another way to look at the world. I absolutely see the challenges that we as African Americans face, that so many do not face in the same manner in which we face them. But I also understand that everyone from every race will have a similar story, meaning in terms of a challenge that they may have had personally with their family. So to give you an example, I was in Georgia recently, and, and my husband and I, we stopped by, we were looking at this house just kind of pulled up to take a picture of the, the real estate sign that was outside.
This is for a a, a vacation home. And we went, we pulled up and this woman just that was at the house walks over to the car. So we're thinking that she's going to say, Hey, do you wanna come inside and look at the house? And she comes over and she says, Yeah, you know, the house is actually already sold. And, and we were actually moving in. And I said, Great. Okay. And so we're about to pull out and she says, Can I ask you a question? And this is an older white woman, and she said, What do you think about Black Lives Matter? <Laugh>?
Ouch. I said, Number one, that is not a quick question because the answer that you need ain't gonna be quick.
Right. Because I, you know, it, it, because one, what it told me is if you are asking me as a stranger, what you have determined is I have a friendly face that you believe you can ask this question to. But what that also says to me is you not surrounded by no black people. Right. Because if you were, you would not have had to have asked me these questions. So for when I tell you an hour, she peppered us with questions. And the thing that I was able to do was identify immediately the challenge that she was having, which was Black Lives Matter as an organization, rather than just being able to understand how important it is to say Black Lives Matter and to believe that. And and I think that that Chris Stapleton did a great job with that when they posed the question for him, because you don't have to support the organization if there's certain things about 'em that you don't like from a political stance or whatever it is, but the inability to be able to very clearly state Yeah.
That Black Lives matter. I think that that's where people are being challenged right now is that should not be a hard statement because it's not like anyone is saying Black lives are superior, black lives are better black, it's matter. That's a real low bar, by the way, <laugh>. Right? Yeah. That's a really low bar. All of us should be able to meet mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. But what I understood in talking to her was that she grew up poor, she grew up on welfare. She grew up not being able to, you know, pay for food or to get groceries and to have the same challenges in, in her mind as African American and in her mind in some cases more. And so I had to put myself in her shoes to be able to help her to see why the protests are necessary, why the changes in the reforms are necessary, while at the same time understanding and acknowledging that she as a a, a white woman who grew up poor, had not benefited from what she could tell, from what people would call white privilege.
So where she was struggling was not in that do Black Lives Matter. She was clear on that. Where she was having a challenge is not being able to get people to understand that she grew up poor and she grew up on welfare and she has never had a break in her life. And so I think that we have to get to a place where we truly are putting our ourselves in the other person's shoes. Yeah. Because if we don't, we don't fix anything if we all just surround ourselves with people who look like us. My, my my group of girlfriends, they have now and, and, and for a very long time look like the United Nations. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I mean my, my closest group of girlfriends is like everybody under the sun. And so I have an opportunity to understand the challenges that the Japanese went through during internment.
I have the opportunity to understand what the Holocaust really was to those who survived and the descendants of them. I have the ability to understand what it is like to be a Filipino here in a Filipino here in the United States, and the challenges that br because I've surrounded myself with these people. Yeah. And I think that the gift that my father gave to me and the gift that Motown gave to him is that he was always surrounded by people of every background, socioeconomic, race, everything religion. Yeah. And so he was able to see people's hearts and not their wounds. And I think right now what we're seeing are most people's wounds.
Well, and, and so, I mean, it is so well said. And I, the thing that's been eating at me is that I feel like it's that people are trying to write other people's narratives instead of understanding their own. And, and, and then also keeping their ears open and listening to what other people are saying, rather than trying to put words in their mouth or come up with a easy sound bite that that answers the question. Because that's the other thing that I think she was looking for was like a, a validation through a, a sound bite that no, you know, you are okay in a, in a way because people want to feel like they're, they're okay in one way or another. And if you're constantly saying, Well, you guys aren't treating me right, you guys aren't treating me right. That puts them in a defensive position, they stop listening and it's kind of counterproductive.
So to me that's a, that's a really big challenge. And for what you're doing that I so appreciate is that you are coming at it from love and you are coming at, at it from, I wanna learn and understand where you're coming from. And what's interesting is, is that once you get people to understand that they're safe in communicating with you, then the real dialogue can happen. And then it's, it can be a really good back and forth, but today I just feel like there's a lot of people talking at each other. But they're not really learning who each other are to be able to get that important dialogue going that that we're just missing out on right now.
Well, absolutely. And that, that has I think, a lot to do with the fact that people are talking in 160 characters, Right. <Laugh> Yes. That's just not a good idea Yeah. For communication. And, and so if you're, if you're busy trying to figure out how can you fit what you want to say into 160 characters, then you get people that are very snappy. You get people that are not reasonable. And that's the piece that I don't know that that can get fixed. I don't know that that can change because we're now a social media generation. Right, Right. We are now a, a generation of click bait titles and sound bites. And so the question becomes how do we have a conversation away from social media and click bait and, and titles and that kind of thing? And you really can only do that in the manner of, of the conversation that I had with this woman. Yeah. Because then it wasn't a debate. I, I, I could, I could tell her very clearly why it was important for her to say and to believe that Black Lives Matter, but I could also at the same time, acknowledge that she has had a rough life and how I, as an African American woman, I grew up in a Motown home mm-hmm. <Affirmative> with a lot of rich people, <laugh>
Speaker 3 (01:53:00):
That were black. Do
You see what I'm saying? Right. And so she and I had the reverse. Yeah. She's a kid on welfare. And I am growing up in a, a household in which, you know, my <laugh> we, we, we joked for the longest time in which my parents never had a job because they lived off of royalties, <laugh>. So,
Speaker 3 (01:53:24):
And, and so I think that we have to acknowledge that there are people who have had similar situations to us who are not black. And there are some blacks who have had similar situations to a wealthy white. So we, again, it's not all black and white, it's not all of this and all of that. It, it is a little bit of all of it, and it is nuanced. And if we would take the time to put ourselves in each other's shoes and to actually, you can't put yourself in another person's shoes if you're not listening. Right. Right. And so if our, if we go into a conversation, which I do with, with any person, especially in this moment that is, that is white knowing what's going on in our country right now, I always go into the conversation doing my best to put myself in their shoes, because then that gives me the ability to help them put themselves in the shoes of those who are protesting or in the shoes of the mother who, who lost her son senselessly to a a, a police shooting or the, you know, it gives, it gives that person the comfort of knowing, I am not saying you are the bad person.
Right. And I think that that's the piece that we're doing a terrible job at, is we are asking for an entire race to pay for the sins of some of the race. And that's, that's, that's the case overall. And, and that's the piece that we've gotta try to figure out how to fix. And, and only cool heads will prevail in that regard.
So I think one of the things that you're doing that's really important in that regard is this initiative that you've put together with Jack Daniels, the Nearest and Jack Advancement Initiative. Because if you want to have an opportunity for dialogue and people to get to know each other than what better way than to increase the diversity within an industry, which I can tell you going to all these different distilleries that I've been to, there are very few African Americans that I see working in distilleries at, at this time. So so talk a little bit about what you're doing with that initiative because you really, you, you're coming out from three different angles and and I think it'd be very interesting to hear what those are and, and how you came up with those. Yeah,
Well, absolutely. Well, the nearest Green School of Distilling is the easiest pillar of the program. And so what Jack Daniels and Uncle Nearest Nearest Green Distillery, what we agreed to do is each of us have pledged 2.5 million. So 5 million is the initial pledge overall. And it is to do three things to create the nearest green School of distilling that the curriculum was actually written by the VP of Jack Daniel Distillery, Melvin Kebler, African American, who was hired by our head of whiskey operation Sherry Moore. Nice. So the two of them reunited and wrote the curriculum that was approved by Motlow State College last year, and now it sits at the estate level, it, which obviously a lot of things have been disrupted at the moment, so it's taking longer than I would've liked. But, you know, bureaucracy at this moment, <laugh>, Yeah. There's, there's a whole lot going on.
But once that is approved at the current state level, then it will go to the accrediting body in order to receive accreditation. And then it is the first distilling program in America in which you will be able to get an a degree in specifically in distilling. Nice. And that is at Nearest Green School of Distilling here at Malow State College. You'll recognize the last name because Regor Malow is who donated that land that the school was built on and who donated a lot of money in the beginning to help to create that school. And so you have, that is the first pillar. We have to create a pipeline of those coming in. Nearest Green isn't just the first known African American master distiller, but as it relates to a major brand, he remains the only one That's a problem.
That is, yeah.
That means we've gotta bring in a pipeline that doesn't exist. So that was the reason for near Screen School of Distilling. But then as this, we came into this year and we really, we were given an opportunity, I think we have to look at every situation, every challenge as an opportunity. What is the gift in this challenge? And I think the gift and the challenge of the what is going on with the Black Lives Matter movement and even beyond that in racial relations, this racial reckoning in our country overall, what it gives us the ability to do is to be far more creative mm-hmm. <Affirmative> in how we figure this out and how we really impact change than we could have been before. So for instance, the business incubation program, we are literally currently at this very moment helping seven or eight, I have to go and look now, but seven or eight black owned brands.
And by helping, I mean everything from business plans to capital raises to marketing, sales branding, pr, expanding their distribution network, expanding their Salesforce, allowing them to borrow our Salesforce. I mean, we are coming be aside, we're coming alongside these black owned brands to really help to push them into not only national distribution, but an ability to be known and purchased nationwide. Because a lot of times if you push in national distribution and you don't have the ability to get the word out there, then you'll be delisted. And what was that all for? And so we have to be able to get them into the markets, but also be able to help them to sell. And those markets, Well, not only do we not own any percentage of any of these businesses that we're helping, we will not own any percentage of the businesses we're helping. That is not something that could happen in a normal environment.
Right. That's literally something that could only happen in this moment in time, that you have two companies that are not related except for the history of the two companies that do not have any type of business relationship outside of, We share a history that have come together for, on the non-profit side to help build competitors. <Laugh>. Yeah.
That's what I'm
Thinking. That ain't normal.
Well, the whiskey industry is, is always very friendly in, in certain ways. Usually it's the distillers that are all big friends with each other. But if it was gonna happen in any industry, it seems like the whiskey industry would be the one that, that would do something like help out your competitor, get them started, and, and get them rolling. That's a great story.
I agree. I, I, I absolutely agree. So that's the business incubation program. And I mean, some of the brands are just, just fantastic. And so I, I'm really excited about that. And then we have the Leadership Acceleration program, the what we call lap. And we, CBS this morning announced last week, and in a special that they did in a feature, Tracy Franklin is the first apprentice, and she was the face for Glen Fit here in the us. Wow. And what people didn't know is she's such a beloved brand ambassador. She was actually Scotch Brand ambassador of the year this year, a whiskey magazine named her that and the World Whiskey Worlds a new New York and London. And so she is so beloved in the whiskey community, but what people did not know is she was actually trained under Dave Pickerel.
She came into the business wanting to be a distiller, but the opportunity never presented himself. Mm. So she went onto the sales and marketing side, really the marketing side, because there wasn't an opportunity for her in distilling. Yeah. So we are now have taken her, brought her back to distilling. Right now she's actually shadowing Becky Harris up at Kato Creek. Nice. She is doing that while simultaneously doing her hazmat training, Green Belt, osha, <laugh>. Oh, wow. All of the manufacturing certification. Awesome. we matched her salary from Glen Fi because we didn't want for any of the apprentices to lose anything during this process. And so that's with all the apprentices we're matching whatever they're already making, wherever they already are. And then we're paying for everything on top of that. And so she begins traveling. She leaves from Katon Creek, and then I believe she goes up to Moonshine University, does all that stuff there. Then comes down to Nearest Green Distillery going over to our, our partner Tennessee Distilling Group in Columbia. And she's going to be training with our folks there. And then she goes from there. And, and, and at some point she, well, she was going to train under Jeff Arnett. So now I I assume it's going to be Chris Fletcher. We'll see. Yeah. And then she will also train under Chris Morris up at Brown Foreman. She'll train under Nicole Austin over at George Dickel. So you're talking about we're literally creating, you know, the distilling superhero
Is what we're creating here. Yeah. But again, this is something that an environment like the current one where it really causes everybody to stop long enough to not think about business and to think about how can we affect change? How can we be helpful? And for a publicly traded company, it's very rare to ever have the opportunity be able to stop and say, How can we be helpful versus how can we make more sales? And, and, and so those are the three pillars of the nearest in Jack Advancement Initiative. And we're, we've been off to the races from even before we announced it,
Man. Well, I, what I love about your story and, and all that's, that's built around this is how you find the silver lining and you really make it shine. And, and I mean, it's, it's great to see that energy and that that positivity that's going into every single aspect of what you're doing from the research that you did connecting the families up through doing the foundation and, and building the distillery and, and bringing up a whole new generation of people into the distilling industry. So, I mean, it's just it's impressive for four years,
<Laugh>. Wow. Well, you know, it, it is, if you talk about all of the stars aligning and fate leading to fate, leading to fate, leading to fate, that in itself is Uncle Nearest. That is the, the brand story that is everything about this people give me way too much credit. There are so many things that simply lined up Yeah. That I've never seen line up for anything in my life, <laugh> and, and that I can't give credit for. I, I, I joke, but I'm very serious that I think Nearest and Jack are sitting in heaven enjoying a drum, watching all of this and pulling puppet strings because it just doesn't make sense.
Yeah. Well, you know, it's right when it, when it goes I won't say it's easy, but when it, when it, when it flows like this, you, you gotta feel like you're in the right place at the right time.
I do. Yeah. I do. I, I I have no, I have no doubt that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. An every team member of Uncle Nearest is exactly where they're supposed to be. And we are making history every single day and we're going to continue.
Well, I really appreciate the time today. I know you're busy and you got lots of stuff going on. You have mushrooms growing in your house, <laugh>
Well, they have, they have resolved that they resolve that this morning. So somehow moisture got in through like a, what do you call it, One of those floorboards. Yeah. And that wild mushroom was like, Hey, lead me to the moisture. <Laugh>. Yeah. <Laugh>. But it was just, it was the most ironic. I mean, it was so interesting because it was absolutely positively not there yesterday, <laugh>. And it was just, I mean, in full effect this morning. And it actually scared me because when I came around the, the that into that room, no lights were on, and it's still dark outside and I see this thing sticking out that absolutely should not be sticking out. So I'm like, Is that an animal <laugh>? Yeah. Yeah. So I had to go back and turn on light to, to make sure that there wasn't an animal in my house.
<Laugh>. Well, I'm glad you survived. I I get those little mushrooms that grow whenever it rains, the, the mushrooms will come popping up. And it's amazing how fast those things grow. But
So fast. Yeah. So fast.
Yeah. And are you in Dan Cole's house? Is that what, where
You're Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. So we, so we, we obviously we own that, but we utilize that just for, you know, press tours, VIP tours type of thing. Okay. And, but it's a, it's a historical home. The, the second floor is a time capsule. It is. I mean, we, we literally had to plexiglass in Jack's room and the girls' room because there is so many, there's so much on the walls. Yeah. That tell that we a, I mean, the wallpaper in the girls' room is all dated October 10th and October 11th, 1898. Wow. That's insane. Yeah. And so we plexiglass it all in and it, it, so no, absolutely no one will live in that house. That will remain a part of this story. Our home is That's awesome. Is in Shelbyville, we're essentially halfway between Jack Daniel Distillery and near screen Distillery. So it, it's, it's the perfect place for us.
That's, that's awesome. I I actually used to live in Nashville and I used to deliver paint to, what we always heard was Shal. So have you learned to
It's, it, it is, it's it's shovel. Yep.
Shovel, Yeah. Shovel <laugh>. So I said that that's how I figured out that that Nelson was actually from my hometown in Michigan, because I said, You don't say Shal. And he said no, no, I don't. He says, You caught me. I'm from Michigan. And then we all of a sudden realized he went to school, high school with my brother <laugh>. So
Go for what? Yeah, no, it's, it's, it's it's Louisville and shovel. Sh
Yeah. I get Look, those
Yeah. Gotta get used to those. Gotta get used to them. Yep. Well, this has been fantastic. I really appreciate you taking the time and, and talking through all this stuff. I, I'm looking forward to putting together the Uncle Nearest story because cuz I think it is one that definitely needs to be told. And I have a probably 85% male audience listening. So we'll, we'll bring in more of the, the male listeners. Maybe you'll see a couple more you know, that will tilt the percentages maybe towards the men a little bit for a short time in, into the distillery. But you know, if you see that, then you can credit me for for
Absolutely 100%. 100%.
Well, thanks again, Toon, for a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening discussion. If you want to hear the full story of Nearest Green and Jack Daniel and head to whiskey-lore.com/episodes, look for season three at the podcast. Or you can find whiskey lore on your favorite podcast app. To learn more about Uncle Nearest had two uncle nearest.com. Thanks for being the part of the show. I am your host, Drew Hamish. And until next time, cheers and Lan Jabba Whiskey Lores of production of Travel Fuels Life, llc.