Fawn Weaver (left) and Victoria Eady Butler (right)

Fawn Weaver (left) and Victoria Eady Butler (right)

Women’s History Month with Uncle Nearest

30 March, 2023

To mark Women’s History Month, Drinks International caught up with female powerhouse Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey to look at its success in the traditionally male dominated space that is the whisk(e)y industry. 

Black-owned and female led, fronted by entrepreneur Fawn Weaver, the brand is the fastest growing independent whiskey brand in US history and is now proactively building a presence in the UK.


​​The brand began with an article by Clay Risen about Nearest Green, who was born into slavery but later became the man who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey, that Weaver read while in Singapore. Weaver, being an author and historian by trade, wanted to learn more, so she then asked her husband to go to Lynchburg, Tennessee to begin researching the truth behind the article for her 40th birthday present. 

When Weaver arrived in Tennessee in 2016, she started meeting with the townspeople of Lynchburg and Nearest Green’s descendants. After meeting them, one of the requests made by Weaver was to see Green honoured with his name on a bottle, not the direction she was initially heading in.  

Nearest Green was affectionately nicknamed Uncle Nearest by his friends and family in Lynchburg and was the world’s first known African American master distiller. He is credited with helping perfect the Lincoln County Process, which is the defining distinction between Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. This filtering of whiskey through sugar maple charcoal was named after the county where Nearest lived and made his whiskey back in the mid to late 1800’s. 


The company was then founded by Weaver in 2017, who was joined by chief business officer Katharine Jerkens and, in 2019, Victoria Eady Butler, the great-great-granddaughter of Nearest Green. Butler is the brand’s master blender and the first female African American master blender in history. 

On being asked to join the brand, Butler said she felt “it was an opportunity that I could not say no to. To be a part of continuing my great-great-grandfather’s legacy, one that lay dormant for more than 160 years, was my opportunity to be a part of something really special for my own bloodline.”

Speaking on the challenges of being a woman in the whisk(e)y industry, Butler said: “Fawn and Katharine endured some unpleasantries when they first kicked off our brand, knocking down doors and trying to get into the market. But I haven't personally had to endure any of that, and I think it's because of the work they did before me. 

“I’m the first female African American master whiskey blender, and I know I will not be the last. When people can see what we’ve accomplished as a team and our all women led board, I want them to know it’s more attainable. Now that history has been made, we can begin a new history where more women hold these same positions,” she added. 

On her hopes for the future of the whisk(e)y industry, Butler continued: “I hope to see more people of colour in positions that are visible like master distiller, master blender, people in decision-making roles, with more women in those positions as well. We’re already seeing a shift. The opportunities are there, and I hope others grab hold of them and reach for the sky.”


Made from a combination of corn, rye and malted barley in Shelbyville, Tennessee, the company's UK whiskey portfolio has two offerings, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey and Uncle Nearest 1884 Premium Small Batch Whiskey.  

“In 2022, we started distribution with Mangrove, who we believe will be able to continue to help us grow our presence in the UK through their network. We also have an incredible team member in the UK, Matt Neal, who has been with us building the brand for a few years. He is an accomplished mixologist and well-respected in the industry, and has continued to create fun and dynamic ways to interact with the hospitality community, while securing keystone placements throughout the UK,” Butler added.

“I think everyone in the industry should take note that more females are now drinking whiskey and bourbon. Our team has never targeted a particular demographic, but we have taken note of the upward tick in female consumers,” Butler concluded. 

Uncle nearest UK portfolio

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