IWSC Bourbon Trophy winner: Uncle Nearest

Spirit news

Wed 12 May 2021

By Stuart Peskett

This inspiration behind this year’s IWSC Bourbon Trophy winner has had a huge impact on the American whiskey scene. Head back to the mid-1800s, and an enslaved African-American man by the name of Nathan “Nearest” Green taught a certain Jack Daniel how to make whiskey – including the Lincoln County Process (charcoal filtration), the key step that differentiates Tennessee whisky from Kentucky bourbon.

Green was an expert whiskey maker who was employed by Daniel as his first master distiller. Fast forward 150 years, and historian and entrepreneur Fawn Weaver launched a whiskey brand in Green’s honour, naming it Uncle Nearest, making it the only US distillery run by a black woman, and the only American whiskey honouring a black man on the bottle.

Less than 1% of Uncle Nearest whiskey barrels are selected as worthy of single-barrel status. Those selected are then aged for at least 11 years, must have an ABV of 54% or more, and are hand-picked by the Uncle Nearest team.

The bottle of Uncle Nearest 1820 Single Barrel Whiskey that the IWSC judges sampled certainly passed the test, racking up a staggeringly high score of 98/100pts and drawing praise for its “abundant dark, dried fruits on the nose” along with “appealing vanilla and sweet nut clusters and luxurious dark chocolate and rich praline”.

Here’s Victoria Eady Butler, master blender for Uncle Nearest, to tell us more about the brand and what makes her whiskey an IWSC award-winner.


Uncle Nearest master blender, Victoria Eady Butler

Tell us about the history and background of 1820 Single Barrel Whiskey…

We launched Uncle Nearest 1820 Premium Single Barrel Whiskey in early 2019 and sold out our first few single barrels online within minutes. Since then, single barrels have launched online and in several markets throughout the US, and they consistently sell out within a day when in store, and within minutes online.

What is your background as a master blender?

Prior to joining the Uncle Nearest team in March 2019, I didn’t have a background in the spirits industry; what I’ve been able to accomplish has all been on the job. And then there is my lineage as the great-great-granddaughter of Nearest Green – whiskey is in my blood! My approach to blending is simple: I trust my palate. In addition, I am a student of my craft. I’m always leaning in to learn as much as I can from those with more experience in the industry.

Who or what has been your most important influence, and why?

Fawn Weaver, the founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest, has been and continues to be my most important influence. Her confidence in me established the stage for my success.

What makes 1820 Single Barrel so special?

Every barrel of Uncle Nearest 1820 has to go through several rounds of qualifications. First, it must be at least 11 years old. Second, it must be 108 proof or above. Third, it is tasted by our team members, and only then do we bottle from those barrels that are deemed worthy.

Give one reason why every bartender should stock 1820 Single Barrel…

Besides from the obvious of it being delicious, it is the best barrel-strength bourbon on the market, and with each sip, history is made and cemented.

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