COFOUNDER, NELSON’S GREEN BRIER DISTILLERY
About eight years ago, my dad, brother Andy, and I were driving to a butcher in Greenbrier, Tennessee. We stopped for gas, and I saw a historical marker for the defunct Green Brier Distillery, which Charles Nelson had owned. I thought, That’s my name! Before the Civil War, I discovered, my great-great-great-grandfather had come to Nashville and later bought a whiskey distillery. It was known as Old Number 5, because it was the country’s fifth registered distillery. Jack Daniel’s is number 514. When we got to the butcher, we asked him about Green Brier. “Look across the street,” he said. A metal-barrel warehouse still stood, with a nearby spring. We drank the coolest, purest springwater you’ve ever tasted. Then we visited the historical society, which had two unopened bottles of Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey. Every hair on my body stood up. My brother and I looked at each other and said, “This is what we’re here to do.” Our plan was to raise money, build a distillery, and start barrel-aging whiskey. We’d sell it when it was ready. That was a tough pitch for investors, especially coming from guys barely old enough to drink. Instead, my family and I put up everything we owned to guarantee a loan, then we worked with a contract distillery to create Belle Meade bourbon. The new idea was to build a brand and a distribution network, then attract capital. It worked. This year, we’re bottling Belle Meade at our new distillery, and we’ll start distilling Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey according to my great-great-great-grandfather’s recipe. We didn’t have anything when we started out—just an idea, a dream, and a vision. We want to be in this business for the rest of our lives.