Hailing from Maryland, one of the original capitals of whiskey making in the United States, we don’t know how or when Uncle Nearest made his way southwest to Tennessee. What we can confirm is he is the first African-American master distiller on record in the United States and thought to be responsible for helping perfect the Lincoln County Process, a requirement in being categorized as Tennessee Whiskey.
It should be noted that a 2004 book misspelled Nearest as “Nearis,” based on an incorrect spelling on the 1880 census. His name has always been and will always be Nathan “Nearest” Green—or to those who knew him best, Uncle Nearest. Now, it’s up to each of us to share his story and to make sure he’s given his due respect.