Slave who taught Jack Daniel about whiskey

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Nick Allen in Wash­ing­ton

The mak­ers of Jack Daniel’s whiskey have ad­mit­ted that a Ten­nessee slave was be­hind its fa­bled recipe. For 150 years, credit for teach­ing the young Jack Daniel how to dis­til had gone to the Rev Dan Call, a Lutheran preacher in Lynch­burg. But the com­pany has now said that it was not the cler­gy­man but his slave, a man called Nearis Green, who in fact pro­vided the ex­per­tise. As a boy Jack Daniel worked for Rev Call, who ran a gen­eral store and dis­tillery.

THE mak­ers of Jack Daniel’s, Amer­ica’s favourite whiskey, have ad­mit­ted for the first time that a Ten­nessee slave was be­hind its fa­bled recipe.

For 150 years, credit for teach­ing the young Jack Daniel how to dis­til had gone to the Rev Dan Call, a Lutheran preacher in Lynch­burg.

But the com­pany has now said that it was not the Rev Call but his slave, a man called Nearis Green, who in fact pro­vided the ex­per­tise.

As a boy Jasper New­ton “Jack” Daniel, was sent to work for the Rev Call, who as well as be­ing a min­is­ter ran a gen­eral store and dis­tillery.

In the mid-19th cen­tury dis­til­leries were owned by white busi­ness­men but much of the work in­volved in mak­ing the whiskey was done by slaves.

Many slaves re­lied on tech­niques brought from Africa and be­came ex­perts, of­ten mak­ing it clan­des­tinely them­selves.

Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton had half a dozen slaves work­ing under Scot­tish fore­men at his dis­tillery in Vir­ginia.

In 1805, Andrew Jack­son, the fu­ture pres­i­dent, of­fered a bounty for a slave who had run away, de­scrib­ing him as a “good dis­tiller”.

The key role of Nearis Green in ad­vis­ing Jack Daniel had been sus­pected be­fore but, like that of many slaves, his con­tri­bu­tion to the de­vel­op­ment of US whiskey was never recorded.

One his­tory of Jack Daniel’s writ­ten in 1967 did sug­gest that the Rev Call had in­structed the slave to show Daniel how to dis­til. The min­is­ter was said to have re­marked: “Un­cle Nearis is the best whiskey maker that I know of.”

In 1866, a year af­ter slav­ery of­fi­cially ended, Daniel founded his own dis­till- ery and em­ployed two of Mr Green’s sons. Jack Daniel died from blood poi­son­ing in 1911 and the com­pany never of­fi­cially ac­knowl­edged the role Mr Green had played.

As it fi­nally did ac­knowl­edge its debt, it de­nied there had been any at­tempt to hide the work of a slave in cre­at­ing a whiskey that now sells more than 10 mil­lion cases a year. Phil Epps, the global brand direc­tor for Jack Daniel’s, told The New York Times there had been “no con­scious de­ci­sion” to white­wash Green from his­tory.

Re­search as­so­ci­ated with the brand’s 150th an­niver­sary had shown there was sub­stance to the claim. Mr Epps said: “As we dug into it we re­alised it was some­thing that we could be proud of.”

Nel­son Eddy, Jack Daniel’s in-house his­to­rian, said it had “taken some­thing like the an­niver­sary for us to start to talk about our­selves”.

On tours of the Jack Daniel’s dis­tillery in Lynch­burg, Ten­nessee, it is be­ing left up to in­di­vid­ual guides to de­cide if they want to in­form vis­i­tors about Mr Green’s role.

It has not yet been de­cided if in­for­ma­tion about him will be added to ex­hibits in the vis­i­tor cen­tre.

There have only ever been seven Master Dis­tillers over­see­ing the mak­ing of the whiskey, the first one be­ing Jack Daniel him­self.

‘As we dug into the claim we re­alised it was some­thing that we could be proud of’

Claude Eady, left, a re­tired dis­tillery worker who is a de­scen­dant of slave Nearis Green, with Nel­son Eddy, Jack Daniels’s in-house his­to­rian. Right: Jack Daniels in the late 1800s with a man thought to be a son of Mr Green

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