Nathan Nearest Green, an African American slave, rose above the hardships of slavery and played a significant role in shaping American spirits. Green worked as a distiller at a farmhouse owned by Dan Call in Lynchburg, Tennessee. It was there that he taught a young boy named Jack Daniel the art of whiskey-making. In 1866, Daniel founded Jack Daniel’s Distillery and hired Green as his first master distiller after he gained his freedom. Green’s descendants have continued to work at the distillery to this day.

Despite being deeply rooted in American culture, the processes behind Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and Tennessee whiskey in general, have influences from western Africa. These techniques were known by Green’s ancestors, who were sold into slavery and transported around the world. This demonstrates the international influences that have shaped American traditions, including the production of whiskey.

Green’s contribution to American spirits has gained recognition in recent years, with the establishment of the Nearest Green Distillery in Tennessee. The distillery has received acclaim for its dedication to whiskey history and the products it produces. Fawn Weaver, founder of the Nearest Green Distillery, describes Green as the “godfather of Tennessee whiskey.”

Little is known about Green’s early life, but he enjoyed a full life in freedom after the Civil War. He was married and had nine children, several of whom worked at Jack Daniel’s Distillery. Green’s impact on Daniel extended beyond whiskey-making, as he also fueled Daniel’s love for music.

Nathan Nearest Green passed away around 1890, leaving behind a legacy that extends beyond whiskey. His story highlights the power of collaboration and respect between people of different backgrounds, and his influence continues to shape the history of American spirits.

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