Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium whiskey was released in the summer of 2017. The bottling, which is made by an NDP (non-distiller producer) is named after Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green, a former slave who is historically credited with teaching Jack Daniels how to distil. Over the past few years, US Author and historian Fawn Weaver spent over 2,500 hours researching historic documents, letters and pictures, as well as interviewing hundreds of Greens’ decedents, unearthing the truth about how Jack Daniels first learned the distilling techniques which would help him found the world-famous Tennessee whisky distillery. The story featured heavily across the US media last year, resulted in the creation of the Nearest Green Foundation and the production of the Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey.
Uncle Nearest is a sourced Tennessee whiskey that is described as being the product of two distilleries. Whilst it doesn’t specify which, the blurb suggests that the contents are around 7/8 years of age – so this provides us with a useful hint. It seems like a logical guess that Jack Daniels spirit would form part of Uncle Nearest (especially given the background story), but I’m not aware of Daniels selling any barrels on to third party producers, so perhaps this is a red herring. Outside of Jack Daniels, George Dickel, based in Cascade Hollow seems like it would be a very likely constituent – they, like most other Tennessee distilleries utilise the ‘Lincoln Country Process’ of filtering or steeping the whiskey through charcoal chips – a process which is described on the Uncle Nearest website. Beyond this, it becomes a bit more of a guessing game, but the age indication of 7/8 years would lead me to posit that Pritchard’s distillery in Kelso (founded in 1997 and the first new distillery opened in Tennessee since prohibition was repeated) could have the aged stocks necessary to form part of Uncle Nearest. But, who’s to say. At least the bottling is transparent in terms of being a sourced product – no qualms there for me.
Nose: A fairly restrained combination of corns, cereals, maple syrup and vanilla that sit alongside a slightly unusual (and unexpected) aroma of sunflower seeds – savoury and a touch nutty. Interesting. Coconut shavings, cardboard and wood chippings are joined by toasted bread and cinnamon spices – the whole nose not being anywhere near as sweet as you might expect for this style of whiskey. A touch of water brings out some fruitiness – cherries in particular. It also emphasises some breadiness and the sunflower seeds. Quite different.
Taste: Full-bodied, mouth coating and preposterously drinkable at 50% - is it really 50%?!?! Corn, cereals and toasted bread again, now with caramel, maple, pecans and a host of reduced dark fruits – plums, cherries and damsons. Much sweeter than on the nose. Slight chocolate is joined by a cakey like quality, hints of wood varnish and cinnamon spicing that develops in the mouth – starting gentle, but building in intensity. Water increases the sweet caramel and maple as well was bringing out some of the oakier flavours – these add a touch of bitterness that was not present before.
Finish: Medium to long and quite cereal – toasted oats and corns, cinnamon spicing and drying oak.
Uncle Nearest 1856 has some commendable qualities – an interesting savoury side, high drinkability and real flavour development across the palate – it’s therefore a shame that it’s so hard to come by unless you’re living in the US, and in particular in Tennessee. The RRP is $60 – perhaps a touch high for an NAS sourced whiskey, but, nevertheless, I find this stands up to other bottlings in its price range. Should it start to be exported (of if you happen to see it whilst in the States), it’s well worth a look. Different, dangerously drinkable and with one of the more interesting back stories.
With thanks to David Bowles for the sample.