The story of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery is familiar to most whiskey enthusiasts, and the reason for its telling has finally come to fruition. Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey will be released in the middle Tennessee area on October 1, 2019. This Tennessee Whiskey is based on the 110-year-old recipe of the founder, Charles Nelson. Honoring the Nelson family heritage, this whiskey is the first complete product of Nelson’s Green Brier. It is milled, mashed, pot-distilled, sugar maple charcoal mellowed, and aged in their Nashville distillery.
Andy and Charlie Nelson, the distillery’s co-proprietors, brothers, and great-great-great-grandchildren of Charles and Louisa Nelson, set out to revive the family’s name in Tennessee whiskey after stumbling upon a historic marker in Green Brier, Tennessee in 2006. That fateful day launched a voyage both back in history and into the future. Over a decade later, Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey, bearing the original ivy-draped branding, is a 91-proof blend of two to five-year-old whiskey, aged in fifty-three gallon barrels. Eventually, they expect for all of the blend to be four years or older.
I sat down with the brothers and their new “baby” a couple of weeks ago, convinced I was just as excited about this news as they were. I was wrong. Keeping up with the brothers is challenging as they oscillate in conversation, finishing each other’s sentences and completing each other’s thoughts. First, we discuss the whiskey in hand, bottled just the day before, “it’s corn, wheat, and malted barley, at 91-proof,” explains Andy. When asked as to the decision to make it 91-proof, Charlie says, “everything we do, we have a reason behind it, tied into the history. 1891 is the year Charles Nelson passed away.”
Discussing the nose and palate of the Tennessee whiskey, Charlie describes “caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, and nougat” while Andy adds his impressions of “holiday baking spices- brown sugar, clove, and nutmeg.” Andy talks about the blended ages of the product, between two and five years old. He says, “you always think whiskey is better the older it is. But there are also certain elements with whiskey that give it good character in a spectrum of age ranges.” The blend hits a literal sweet spot with its majority 5-year-old whiskey. It’s nicely balanced with those sweet notes of brown sugar, the softness of the wheat, and the dryness of the spices. The finish lingers with a hint of heat and smoke.
This brings the story full circleCharlie Nelson
I was a bit surprised when they revealed that they expect the bottle to retail for about $30. “This brand, back in the day, was one of the largest, most popular brands in the country and that’s where we want it to go. We didn’t start this brand to be a small craft brand. The bigger you are, the better you can be,” says Charlie. “We knew that we wanted to become a national, and then international, brand. We also have plans of building a much larger facility eventually.”
Launch activities? Don’t look for a huge party at the distillery. “We want to spread it out all over the city,” says Charlie. Look for the release at “the liquor stores and the bars and restaurants… Those are the folks who have supported us and allowed us to get to this point.”
On the accomplishment of fulfilling the dream, “We’re excited. We’re a little tired. We’ve been sprinting toward the starting line,” says Charlie. “It’s only been 13 1/2 years,” says Andy, reminiscing about the journey to this release, “I remember the day we filled our first barrel [August 16, 2014] and thinking, ‘alright, only four more years to go’ and now it’s been five.”
The distillery, in addition to the Tennessee whiskey, is also putting up a good amount of rye whiskey and small amounts of a few experimental recipes including a four grain and a couple original recipes the brothers have discovered. But the award-winning line of Belle Meade Bourbons aren’t going anywhere, don’t you worry. The flavor profiles and categories of the Tennessee whiskey and Belle Meade Bourbons are quite different from each other and also complimentary. Andy adds, “The cool thing is… yes, they’re both whiskeys, yes they’re both the very best whiskeys you’ve ever tasted.”