Jack Daniel’s Distillery gives a wider embrace to Nearis Green, its black distiller

When tourists travel to Lynchburg, Tenn., to visit the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, many of them will hear for the first time the true story of Nearis Green, an enslaved black man, who taught Jasper “Jack” Daniel how to distill whiskey, putting the company on the road to becoming an iconic international brand.

A black man was taught Jack Daniel how to distill whiskey

Nearis Green, a black man, taught Jack Daniel how to distill whiskey.

Jack Daniel’s Distillery, the nation’s oldest registered distillery, celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, and for all of those years, Dan Call, a preacher, received credit for teaching Jack Daniel how to distill whiskey, according to The New York Times.

That story isn’t true.

Daniel learned whiskey distilling from Green, one of Call’s slaves. The story of Green’s important role in the history of Jack Daniel’s was never ignored but not much attention was paid to it. But on the company’s 150th anniversary it is being more widely embraced, the New York Times reports.

According to the 1967 biography, “Jack Daniel’s Legacy,” Call told Green to teach Daniel everything he knew. Call said Green was the best whiskey maker he knew.

Green’s role is part of an optional tour of the distillery left to the tour guide’s discretion.  The company is still considering whether it will flesh out Green’s role in the company’s history with new displays at its visitors center.

Although Germans and Scots-Irish settlers have been given all of the credit for distilling their surplus grains into whiskey, black men were the muscle of the distilling business, and they held many of the skilled jobs required to make whiskey, the Times reports.

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