A New Tennessee Whiskey: Uncle Nearest 1856; yeah, they have work to do

Tennessee is really undergoing a whiskey renaissance of late. While the bourbon boom has revived distilling in Kentucky, Tennessee distilling has not recovered from prohibition. For the longest time, only two major distilleries operated in Tennessee, Jack Daniel’s and Dickel. But the bourbon boom is finally starting to seep into Tennessee again. Belle Meade in Nashville is a prime example. The Sazerac Company is building a new distillery in Tennessee.

Uncle Nearest is a new Tennessee whiskey brand, currently bottling stocks sourced at Dickel but they are distilling. Named for an African American ex-slave who taught Jack Daniel’s the art of making Tennessee whiskey, their whiskey like many others is trying to connect with history despite this being a new product. Incidentally, Jack Daniel’s now claims Nathan “Nearest” Green as their first master distiller.

What differentiates Tennessee whiskey from most Kentucky bourbon is the filtering of the whiskey through charcoal. The whiskey would otherwise qualify as bourbon and could be legally labeled as such. Tennessee whiskey also tends to have less flavoring grains (rye) than most bourbons in the mashbill.

Uncle Nearest comes in at an impressive 100 proof. Kudos on that before I even taste it. The whiskey is straw in color, I am betting this is five year old whiskey. Nice long legs. It has a very nice nose. Sweet. Not overly powerful but not bad. Taste is a little medicinal. Some caramel and vanilla there. But, the medicinal taste overwhelms it.

Trying to compare like to like, I pulled a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Single barrel from my bar; this particular bottle was bought at export and is also 100 proof. It is now generally available in the US along with a wonderful Barrel Proof whiskey.

The JD is darker, more like a traditional bourbon and is obviously older than Nearest. Nose is tremendously better. More rye spice and oak. Very nice. The taste is far better, nice vanilla, oak, and cinnamon. How 100 proof Tennessee whiskey should be.

I really can’t recommend Uncle Nearest. Dickel can put out some good stuff, ala Barrell Single Barrel, but that is obviously not what they sent Uncle Nearest. Uncle Nearest isn’t cheap either. A bottle is $60. It’s kind of a shame that Uncle Nearest’s name got slapped on this. I am hoping when they start bottling their own stuff it is better than this.

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