Nathaniel Green, known to his friends and family as Uncle Nearest, was master distiller of Jack Daniel’s. He was the first black master distiller after and during his time as a slave. We’ll touch more on the full story shortly. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the whiskey brand that uses him as its namesake and their two most prominent whiskeys – Uncle Nearest 1884 and 1856.
In this article, we’re going to compare Uncle Nearest 1884 vs 1856. Which is better? How are they different? Price? Before we dive too deep on the whiskey, let’s take a further look into Uncle Nearest himself.
The Story of Uncle Nearest
Not much is known of Uncle Nearest’s early life, but we do know that he ended up a slave on Dan Call’s farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Reverend Dan Call was a preacher who distilled whiskey as a side gig. Nearest Green was assigned to distill whiskey for him. Not long after, a young boy showed up to work at the farm. He eventually learned the art of distilling from Nearest Green.
This young boy grew up, purchased the farm and distillery from Rev. Dan Call and hired Uncle Nearest as the master distiller. You know him as Jack Daniel.
If you have some time on your hands, I highly recommend watching this 10 minute video on the story of Uncle Nearest Green. (Simply scroll down a bit from the home page.)
Now, Jack Daniel’s was the first whiskey that drew a distinction between Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon. That’s because of a process created by Uncle Nearest himself – The Lincoln County Process.
What is the Lincoln County Process?
The Lincoln County Process is what differentiates Tennessee Whiskey from Bourbon. It involves taking a straight bourbon and filtering it through sugar maple charcoal. It’s supposed to remove any impurities and smooth the whiskey.
History of Uncle Nearest Whiskey
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, founded in 2017 by Fawn Weaver, was created to pay homage to the first ever black master distiller. Weaver purchased the 300-acre farm once owned by Dan Call and Jack Daniel, met with the descendants of Daniel and Green, and has even brought on Victoria Eady Butler as Master blended. Eady is the great-great-granddaughter of Nearest.
In 2019, the Nearest Green Distillery opened after completing the first phase of building, which included a welcome house, bottling house, horse and cattle farm, and a bar/tasting room.
Uncle Nearest 1884 Overview
- Spirit: Tennessee Whiskey, small batch
- Owned By: Uncle Nearest Inc.
- Distilled By: Uncle Nearest, Inc
- Aged: At least 4 years
- ABV: 46.5%, 93 proof
- Mashbill: unknown
- Price: $40-45
As mentioned, this is a Tennessee Whiskey. Essentially, that just means the whiskey fits all the legal requirements of being a straight bourbon, went through the lincoln county process, and is distilled, bottled, and aged in Tennessee. It’s also a small batch whiskey, but we’ll get to more on that shortly. It’s named 1884 as that was the last year Nearest Green distilled and barreled whiskey before retiring.
Uncle Nearest, Inc is the owner of the whiskey, which is owned by Fawn Weaver. Fawn Weaver is African-American, so yes, Uncle Nearest is a black owned whiskey.
Now, the whiskey itself is distilled by Uncle Nearest Inc, but it’s not distilled at the Nearest Green Distillery, only bottled there.
What Does Small Batch Mean In Regards to Whiskey?
Most whiskey is blended. A distillery distills hundreds of gallons of whiskey, they barrel and age it, and eventually blend those barrels together and bottle it. An exception to this would be whiskey labeled ‘Single Barrel’, which would mean the whiskey comes from one single barrel. Self-explanatory there, right? Distillers will hand select their best barrels for the single barrel expressions, which is why they are priced much higher.
Small Batch Whiskey means only a select few barrels are blended together. How many barrels, you ask? That depends. Smaller distilleries may blend a couple together, some will blend 10-20, others blend closer to 50 barrels – it really depends upon how many barrels of whiskey you produce. Distillers may even differentiate between small batch and very small batch, such as Jefferson’s Bourbon.
I don’t know exactly how many barrels are blended in Uncle Nearest 1884, but they are all tested and selected by Green’s great-great-granddaughter, Victoria Eady Butler.
Uncle Nearest 1884 Tasting Notes
Alright, lets get into the real reason you’re all here. What does Uncle Nearest 1884 taste like? Is it good? Now, for the real reason I’m here… To pour myself a glass of whiskey at 1pm. Let’s go!
Nose: A nice oak and nuttiness comes together as toasted nuts. Some citrus and honey, as well as some faint brown sugar. Faint whiffs of ethanol come and go.
Palate: Vanilla and honey which is your typical flavor from a bourbon. Fairly smooth with an average mouthfeel. Toasted nuts and cinnamon spice make an appearance as well.
Finish: Medium in length, perhaps on the longer side, too. Oak, pepper, and some cinnamon are at the forefront.
I like Uncle Nearest 1884 more than I thought I would. In doing some research, I found other reviews that claimed it to be thin with a short finish. However, I found it to be opposite of that. The mouthfeel isn’t super thick, nor thin. Fairly average, but a little oily as well.
It’s a fairly easy whiskey to sip, and i really enjoyed the finish. It’s not extravagant or complex, but the spice tickled deep down the back of my throat….. eh, let’s move on from that. And a honey, citrus flavor coated the inside of my cheeks. It was a separated, but well balanced flavor that was nice.
Uncle Nearest 1856 Overview
- Spirit: Tennessee Whiskey
- Owned By: Uncle Nearest, Inc
- Distilled By: Sourced, Unknown
- Aged: 7+ years
- ABV: 50%, 100 proof
- Mashbill: Unknown
- Price: $50-55
Uncle Nearest 1856 is not distilled in-house, and I’m not even sure how long it’s aged. I’ve seen 8-14 years, and I’ve seen it 7+, so I went with 7+ to be more accurate than be specific and wrong. The bottle is a NAS bottle, meaning it’s age is not stated on the bottle. Their website wasn’t of further help either.
The whiskey itself is a little bit stronger than the 1884 expression as it’s bottled at 100 proof vs 93 proof and about $10 more expensive.
Uncle nearest 1856 Tasting Notes
Let’s see how uncle Nearest 1856 stacks up against the cheaper, lighter 1884 expression. As a note, I don’t have a bottle of this for pictures. I drank this at a whiskey bar, so as to cut down on my spending.
Nose: There’s a stronger oak and nut flavor here, or at least slightly different. There’s a sweetness to it, but not citrus or fruity, more so vanilla and caramel. There’s also an earthy pine needle aroma to it.
Palate: The nose transfers over to the palate pretty well, but a much stronger pepper on the palate than expected. A similar mouthfeel as the 1884.
Finish: Again, there’s a sweet undertone to it, but earthen spice and pepper make for a medium to long finish.
You can definitely tell this whiskey has spent more time sitting in barrels. The oak and nuttiness is stronger and more toasted as well as more pepper up front. The earthiness of pine needles is present. I had an ice cub added for my second round, and it didn’t necessarily help or hurt the whiskey. Some of the pepper and earthiness was dialed back, and more vanilla sweetness came through.
Uncle Nearest 1884 vs 1856, Which is Better?
There’s not an objective answer here because both are very similar in quality. 1856 might be a touch thicker and have a little more to the body, but not a substantial difference to really give it a nod. With that said, it really comes down to personal preference.
I liked Uncle Nearest 1884 better than 1856. 1884 is a lighter option that is sweeter. 1856 is darker, and instead of citrus, you get earthy. I usually prefer earthen notes, too but I was surprised by how much I liked 1884. Perhaps it was because it exceeded my expectations, and it’s $10 cheaper.
Uncle Nearest 1856 is a little more complex and nuanced than 1884, so I think it’s a fun pour, but when it comes to having a bottle on my liquor shelf, I’m choosing the 1884 selection.
Uncle Nearest 1884 and 1856 Differences
Aside from differences in taste, these are the primary differences between Uncle Nearest 1856 and 1884.
- 1856 is sourced whiskey from Tennessee Distillery(ies)
- 1884 is distilled by Uncle Nearest Inc
- 1856 is 100 proof
- 1884 is 93 proof
- 1856 is aged a minimum of 7 years
- 1844 is aged a minimum of 4
- 1856 is $50-55
- 1884 is $40-45
Uncle Nearest 1884 vs 1856 Summary
I don’t think you can go wrong with either of these options. They are both good tasting, quality whiskeys in their own right. The profiles are fairly similar, too, with some slight differences. 1856 is going to be your darker, more earthen option, whereas 1884 is a bit lighter and sweeter.
Regardless of which you prefer, I think the story behind Uncle Nearest Green is the most captivating part. Again, I highly recommend watching the video on him linked above. It’s a cool story, and it’s narrated well, too.
I’ve had my fair share of Tennessee Whiskey, well, mainly Jack Daniel’s, but Uncle Nearest 1884 is among my favorites. Give it, or the 1856 expression, a chance and let me know what you think. If you’ve had both, let me know which you prefer in the comments section below!