Uncle Nearest Is Now the Best-Selling African-American Owned and Founded Spirits Brand Ever

"The spirits industry has never seen anything like this."

A bottle of Uncle Nearest whiskey next to a tray of glasses filled with the spirit.
Uncle Nearest has sold nearly 1.5 million bottles of whiskey.
Kirk Miller

Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, an award-winning but fairly new whiskey brand based out of Tennessee, is the top-selling African-American-owned spirit, according to The Spirits Business.

This was all accomplished in less than five years. The New York Times story that inspired Fawn Weaver to start Uncle Nearest — which honors the world’s first known African-American master distiller, Nearest Green — only came out in 2016. The brand launched in July of 2017; I visited the 270-acre distillery under construction in fall of 2019.

As of now, Uncle Nearest has sold nearly 1.5 million bottles of its whiskey portfolio, which is available in more than 21,000 locations and in all 50 states. (It still has a long way to go to catch another Tennessee whiskey, Jack Daniel’s, which sells roughly 13.4 million cases per year worldwide.)

“The spirits industry has never seen anything like this in all the years that data has been tracked through the three major data collection agencies for the industry,” Donn Bichsel, founder of spirits data analyst 3 Tier Beverages, told the publication. “No African-American-founded and led spirit brand has ever come close to what the Uncle Nearest brand and team have done. We analyzed every piece of credible data and Uncle Nearest is undoubtedly the top seller of all time, with the rest of the top 10 being so far behind that they barely registered.”

Uncle Nearest CEO Fawn Weaver speaks to guests at the distillery's opening celebration in 2019
Uncle Nearest CEO Fawn Weaver speaks to guests at the distillery’s opening celebration in 2019
Marc Bagani

Weaver and her all-female leadership team (which includes fifth-generation Nearest Green descendant and Uncle Nearest’s master blender Victoria Eady Butler) have done an incredible job in a short time; the brand also claims it is the most award-winning American whiskey of the last two years as well (and all evidence seems to back this up). Even with strict COVID restrictions in place, the company recently informed investors it had finished its ninth quarter in a row with more than 100% growth over the same time the previous year … and is on track to make that ten.

And somehow, in this truncated time, Uncle Nearest and Jack Daniel’s were able to commit $5 million to create and fund the Nearest and Jack Advancement Initiative to “support rising and aspiring Black distillers as well as Black entrepreneurs entering the whiskey spirits industry.” 

Besides providing a path for Black and women distillers, we also applaud Weaver for going outside the major drinks brands to deliver an excellent whiskey. As she told me in 2019, hard hat on during a walking tour of the under-construction distillery, “We’re independent. I love having no people with a spirits background investing in us.”


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