Before Prohibition in Tennessee shut them down, Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee whiskey was the largest maker of Tennessee whiskey. They also made brandy, gin and blended whiskey, but Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee whiskey is the brand that built the company. While Jack Daniel and George Dickel moved out of state to continue to make their whiskeys, the Green Brier Distillery was closed. The founder of the company, Charles Nelson, died in 1891, his wife Louisa ran the distillery until Prohibition forced them to close the doors in 1909. The family was not interested in continuing the business after the closure and they sold the remaining stocks and the brand is no longer on the market. It was hardly remembered as a distillery by the 21st century. That has changed as two of Charles Nelson’s great-grandchildren, Charlie and Andy Nelson, discovered their whiskey-making heritage and decided to revive the brand. They found some old family documents that included the mash bill for the Tennessee whiskey, researched the trademark and raised money to purchase a building in Nashville and purchased a hybrid still and started making whiskey. They have been making whiskey now for about 6 years. Not a lot of whiskey by modern standards, but they have made whiskey. They have also subsidized this product with some contract distilling at another Tennessee distillery. The contract distillery uses a column still and a doubler to make the whiskey, but the recipe and yeast are the same as used at the Green Brier Distillery in Nashville.
This whiskey is different from the dominant Tennessee whiskey brands, Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 and George Dickel, in that they are using wheat instead of rye as the flavoring grain. They are putting it in the barrel at 115 proof, a little lower than the 125 maximum. They are using 53-gallon barrels charred to a number 3 char. The whiskey in the bottle is 4-year-old whiskey that was contract distilled mixed with some 5 and 6-year-old whiskey made at the Green Brier Distillery. The bottle and label are as close to the original design as possible with modern regulations and metric sizes.
Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey
Age: No Age Statement
Nose: Caramel and oak up front with berries and hazelnuts in the background. There is just the slightest hint of smoke from the charcoal mellowing of the whiskey.
Taste: Caramel with a little smoke, followed by some blackberry and raspberry notes and ending with some white pepper and sweet oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the smoke and pepper fade into the background as the caramel rushes forward. Tasted with a pecan oak and pepper become the dominant flavors with just a hint of berries and caramel.
Finish: Long and dry with sweet oak and pepper with a hint of smoke. The cranberry made the oak dominate the finish with only a hint of pepper. The pecan made it very peppery on the finish.
I am pairing this with a Atsiniki cigar called Imaiya. It is a robusto cigar with a Habano wrapper. It has flavors of oak, toast and sweet spices. The whiskey brings out vanilla note in the smoke and enhances the spices. The smoke makes the whiskey very fruity with lots of berry flavors and the spice notes become more ginger and cinnamon than pepper, especially on the finish. It is a very good pairing.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller