Episode 29 - Unearthing an Uncommon Friendship with Fawn Weaver


One of the great things about a legacy that goes back more than 150 years is that there always seems to be one more story to tell. In 2016, one of those stories captivated the world. It was the story of Jack Daniel and Nearest Green, an enslaved man who taught Jack how to make whiskey. Jack and Nearest had a lifelong friendship that spawned Jack’s famous Tennessee Whiskey and connected two local families for more than a century. On this episode of Around the Barrel, we meet Fawn Weaver, an author who was so captivated by Nearest’s story that she has devoted her life’s work to researching, honoring and celebrating Jack’s beloved friend.


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Jack Daniel created a legendary whiskey that has stood the test of time. But who taught Jack how to make whiskey? The answer to that question might be a bit surprising.


As a young boy, Jack left home to work on a neighbor’s farm. There was a whiskey still on the property, but it being the days before the Civil War in the American South, it was overseen not by the owner, but rather an enslaved man named Nathan “Nearest” Green. And so, it was Nearest who taught one of the most famous names in the spirits world his craft.


Over time, the relationship between Nearest and Jack developed from a mentorship to an enduring friendship, so much so that Nearest, as a free man, was hired as Jack Daniel’s first Master Distiller. Since then, there has always been at least one member of the Green family working at the Jack Daniel Distillery, including today.


The story of Jack and Nearest was common knowledge in Lynchburg, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the rest of the world heard the tale. Fawn Weaver was among those, and she was captivated. For the last four years, she has dedicated herself to learning more about Nearest Green and has honored his legacy through the creation of the Nearest Green Distillery and the Nearest Green Foundation.


On this episode, host Lucas Hendrickson speaks with Fawn about how one article spawned a new purpose in her life’s work. Previously, she blogged about marriage and relationships, even authoring a New York Times bestseller about the secrets to a happy marriage. While on vacation, she read an article about Nearest Green that sparked her curiosity. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to broaden and deepen the understanding of Nearest Green’s contributions and shine light on his legacy.


In June 2020, the Jack Daniel Distillery and the Nearest Green Distillery announced the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative to further diversity within the American whiskey industry. An initial combined pledge of $5 million will help to create the Nearest Green School of Distilling, develop the Leadership Acceleration Program (LAP) for apprenticeships and establish the Business Incubation Program (BIP), focused on providing expertise and resources to African Americans entering the spirits industry as entrepreneurs.


Join us for another visit Around the Barrel as Fawn shares more about Jack Daniel’s first Master Distiller, the genesis of a whiskey bearing his name, and their unique and lasting friendship.

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