The Enslaved Black Man Behind The Jack Daniel’s Whiskey

It seems like the major fans of booze owe a black slave some recognition for Jack Daniel’s Whiskey. What fascinates many is the fact that the real tale is only showcased now after years of concealment.

Jasper Newton popularly known as “Jack Daniel” is celebrated for inventing Jack Daniel’s in the 19th century. However, the company announced in 2016 that Daniel had learnt the skill of whiskey making from a black man named Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green. Daniel, equipped with the knowledge would go on to open Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery in 1875, where Green served as the master distiller until 1881. Who was Nathan Green?

Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green was a certified and unique African-American master distiller. Green, like many other black people, was born into the tragic life of slavery. To this day, he holds the record for being the first African-American master distiller in the United States.

The initial tale of Jack Daniel’s success was that he worked for a distiller named Dan Call who taught him the technique of running his whiskey still. Nevertheless, there has been a phenomenal twist to that story.

In 2016, The New York Times a reportage identified Daniel’s true mentor as Nathan Green who was one of Call’s slaves. The report highlighted that historians and locals have known this story for a long time. Documentation also proved that Green was loaned to call for a fee by a firm known as Landis and Green. An exciting Call when introducing Green to an 8-year-old Jack Daniel is quoted as saying “Uncle Nearest is the best whiskey maker that I know of.” Call reportedly said to Green, “I want [Jack] to become the world’s best whiskey distiller – if he wants to be. You help me teach him.”

A year after Jack Daniel opened his distillery, he employed two of Green’s sons, George and Eli Green, Some of Green’s descendants still work in the whiskey industry today. Nathan Green had 11 children.

Jack Daniel has rightfully been celebrated by mainstream media. But the history of Nathan Green is quite significant and he must be landed a fair share of the adulation. At least, his family members think so. They hope the inscription of Nathan Green will be placed on a bottle so that the world will learn and revere black excellence.

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