Kristen Uroda for NPR
While traveling abroad with her husband in 2016, Fawn Weaver became fixated on a New York Times article telling the little-known story of Nearest Green, a formerly enslaved man who taught Jack Daniel—yes, that Jack Daniel—how to make Tennessee whiskey.
After diving deeper into the story, Fawn ended up purchasing the 300-acre farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee where Nearest had taught Jack how to distill; and she began meeting the descendants of both men. She initially thought of honoring Nearest’s story with a book or movie, but decided the best way to preserve his legacy was with a bottle of the best Tennessee whiskey she could make.
With no background in distilling, she threw herself into the insular world of spirit-making, an industry mostly dominated by white men and a few major corporations. In the five years since Fawn first discovered his story, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has become one of the fastest-growing whiskey brands in the world, and one of the most awarded American whiskeys.
This episode of How I Built This was produced by Liz Metzger and edited by Neva Grant. Research help from Claire Murashima. Additional support from Jeff Rogers, Casey Herman, Rachel Faulkner, James Delahoussaye, J.C. Howard, Julia Carney, Elaine Coates, Farrah Safari, Analise Ober, and Harrison Vijay Tsui. You can follow us on Twitter @HowIBuiltThis, on Instagram @HowIBuiltThisNPR and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.