Tennessee whiskey brand Uncle Nearest is betting big on bourbon’s spicier sibling, rye whiskey, with two new expressions joining the core lineup—one available now, one on the way before the holidays. So even if there is a turkey shortage this year, it looks like whiskey is in no danger of running out.
Uncle Nearest is a distillery and brand named after the man who is now credited with teaching Jack Daniel how to make whiskey and being the first Black master distiller. The brand released its first rye earlier this fall, a distillery-exclusive, uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey that was pretty strong at almost 120 proof. That whiskey, like the new 100-proof version being released now, was distilled in Canada following the American standards for rye whiskey (at least 51 percent rye, aged in new charred oak containers, among other factors). It was then matured in New York State for a minimum of four years and then brought to Tennessee where it was put into used Uncle Nearest barrels for a finishing period, and finally blended by master blender Victoria Eady Butler (the great-great-granddaughter of Nearest Green). “If we were going to add rye to our lineup, it had to be worthy of all the accolades and awards our other whiskeys receive,” said Butler in a statement. “My great-great-grandfather’s legacy of excellence requires us to take our time to do things differently. I’m confident he would have been so proud of this straight rye whiskey.”
Uncle Nearest founder and CEO Fawn Weaver believes there is historical precedence for rye whiskey being made in Tennessee based on a letter written by President William Taft that she uncovered (even though this rye is not made in the state, as mentioned before). “The letter was dated May 16, 1911, and was addressed to [Taft’s] Secretary of War, Jacob M. Dickinson, thanking him for sending his favorite rye whiskey ‘of the Lincoln County variety,'” she said in a press release. “This letter led me to believe rye whiskeys were being made in this area, so after I found that letter there was no doubt in my mind a straight rye whiskey would one day be added to our portfolio of whiskeys.”
Uncle Nearest Straight Rye Whiskey is available for an SRP of $59. The other whiskeys rolling out over the next month are Uncle Nearest Single Barrel Black Label ($79, launching 11/25), a more widely available version of the brand’s single barrel Tennessee whiskey, and Uncle Nearest Single Barrel Rye ($89, launching 12/15). These are all part of the distillery’s 12 Weeks of Christmas promotion, which includes special gift sets and bottle signings at the distillery. The whiskeys will initially be available at the Nearest Green Distillery, and then on ReserveBar for purchase online.