During a virtual press conference yesterday, Nearest Green Distillery CEO Fawn Weaver beamed with pride as she showed off the finished pieces of Phase Two of the 270-acre, $50 million distillery in Shelbyville, Tenn. The whiskey distillery officially re-opens today, fittingly on Juneteenth, after being closed for a year due to the pandemic and construction of the immaculate, massive gift shop, tasting room, still house, rick houses, the longest bar in the world, and many more amazing features of the distillery tour.
Nearest Green was a formerly enslaved man who not only taught Jack Daniel all about making whiskey, but also worked right alongside him as he got his distillery up and running in Lynchburg, Tenn., just about 22 miles from the new Nearest Green Distillery. The distillery pays homage to “Uncle” Nearest and his dependents, many of whom still live in the area. And in fact, Victoria Eady Butler, a fifth-generation Nearest Green descendant, is master blender for the brand, which has won the most awards of any whiskey since 2019.
What’s most unique about the distillery is it goes beyond whiskey and how it’s made — it not only tells the story of Uncle Nearest, it also champions everything Tennessee, from famous snacks invented in the state (cotton candy, Goo Goo Clusters, Mountain Dew) to telling the role Tennessee played in women obtaining the right to vote and what the women of the Temperance Movement were really after.
“At Uncle Nearest, everything we do has significance beyond the product we sell — it’s why our main hashtag on social media is #MoreThanWhiskey,” Weaver said in a news release. “We could not be more honored to have the opportunity to share the history of Tennessee, and to couple that with honoring the history of one of the greatest figures in the spirits industry, Nearest Green. It’s a distillery experience unlike any other, and nothing can prepare guests for what they will see when we reopen our doors this weekend.”
Weaver also told us during the tour that limiting the Uncle Nearest Distillery just to whiskey “would have been a mistake to me.”
From Weaver’s quick virtual tour around the campus, you can tell every inch of the 270 acres was carefully thought out, planned and constructed with Uncle Nearest in mind.
Weaver joked it’s the “Malt Disney World” of Tennessee, and it’s no coincidence that the distillery not only owns a few trolleys purchased from Disney World, but the retail space was designed by the former president of Disney Stores Worldwide, James Fielding.
The grounds — which were formerly Sand Creek Farms, a Walking Horse farm and event center — also include the Welcome Center; a faux Concession Stand; Philo + Frank’s, a non-alcoholic speakeasy; Barrel House BBQ & Brew; the Family Tasting Room; Master Blender House; and a #WhatLiftsYou Angel Wings Mural by artist Kelsey Montague.
What’s also different about this distillery is that tours are self-paced and self-guided, so you won’t be led through by a tour guide and can take your time experiencing every detail. Tours can now be booked online.
Later this summer, Weaver noted, construction on the Humble Baron, an entertainment venue, restaurant and home to the world’s longest bar, will be completed, as will the Still House, featuring a still, mas cookers and more made at Louisville’s Vendome Copper & Brass Works.
Take a look at more renderings of the space below.