Uncle Nearest’s legendary lineup of whiskeys continues to grow with their latest release: rye.
“Today, we continue celebrating the legacy of Nearest Green, the godfather of Tennessee whiskey, with the newest addition to our Master Blend Edition Portfolio: Uncle Nearest Uncut/Unfiltered Straight Rye Whiskey, our first rye expression,” says Fawn Weaver, founder and CEO. “This rye represents the favorite barrels of Victoria Eady Butler, our master blender and fifth generation Nearest Green descendant and four-time Master Blender of the Year recipient.”
“My great-great-grandfather was known for his whiskey filtration method, but this 100-percent rye is so spectacular, we dared not cut or filter it,” says Butler. “The result is a classic rye spice and character, paired with the incredible Uncle Nearest smoothness.”
Uncle Nearest Uncut/Unfiltered Straight Rye Whiskey is sold exclusively at Nearest Green Distillery in Shelbyville Tennessee for $149. The whiskey itself won its very first award, a gold medal, at a prestigious spirits competition. That means that this whiskey will be as award-winning as the rest of Uncle Nearest’s whiskeys.
The Uncut/Unfiltered is more than five years in the making. To ensure this rye was uniquely Uncle Nearest, the brand determined that they would source it and then bring it back to rest in Uncle Nearest barrels.
The rye isn’t grown in Tennessee. For decades, farmers in Tennessee have been trying to grow rye, particularly for the whiskey industry, but no one has been able to grow it in any meaningful quantities because of the nature of Tennessee soil. “Anytime rye is planted, wild onions grow with the rye, so the Uncle Nearest team always knew that in order to make a rye, they would need to source the grain,” says a brand spokeswoman. “With so many sourcing their rye from Indiana, they wanted to look outside of that state to make sure their rye tasted like nothing that’s ever hit the market.”
The rye Uncle Nearest used had been a part of a special project of testing 100% rye. Although the barrels had been aging in New York since 2017, they’d originally been distilled in Canada, following strict American requirements for straight rye whiskey. “The taste of this rye whiskey was some of the best they’d ever tasted from any region in the world, and once they learned it was distilled according to American requirements, they moved forward with buying every single barrel in this experiment,” says the spokeswoman. “That is the reason no other straight rye whiskey on the market will ever taste like their current batch of rye.”
Weaver’s research inspired her to seek out the best possible rye. Founder and CEO Fawn Weaver came across a very peculiar letter. It was a letter from the White House, specifically from President William Taft, on May 16, 191.
In the letter, President Taft was thanking Jacob McGavock “Mac” Dickinson, former U.S. Secretary of War under Taft, for sending his favorite rye whiskey “of the Lincoln County variety.”
This unusual mention stood out to Weaver, who believes that there had been some whiskeys made with rye. Now, Taft could have been mistaken and attributed the wrong grain description. Because so many of the Jack Daniels Distillery records of that time period were either lost or burned, Weaver took the letter at its word. The letter, accompanied by the historical description of how Dickinson had been introduced to Jack Daniel likely means that at that time, some of their whiskeys were made with rye.
There’s also a good chance that the whiskey Dickinson sent Taft was made by Nearest Green’s son, George, based on the length of years Jack Daniel kept his whiskey in the barrels at that time.
“For those unable to make it to Shelbyville, there will be more rye to come from Uncle Nearest in the coming months, including Straight Rye and Single Barrel Rye,” says Weaver.
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