There are few brands quite so globally ubiquitous as Jack Daniel’s, which has been a whiskey mainstay for over a century.
But Jack Daniel couldn’t do it on his own, and a thorough look into the past has revealed some intriguing details about exactly who taught Jack Daniel everything about distilling.
Nathan “Nearest” Green is one of many black Americans to have had their legacy largely overlooked. This talented distiller was almost forgotten from the Jack Daniel’s story, before a recent effort to uncover his role brought his achievements to light.
And now the Uncle Nearest brand intends to honor his legacy.
But plenty of brands have an interesting backstory, while few have the product to match. The Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey is a sweet and spicy delight, with earthy undertones that provide a balance. Find out more with our review.
Uncle Nearest: The Basics
If you’re familiar with the Jack Daniel’s story, then the name Nathan “Nearest” Green might mean something to you. Green, affectionately known as “Uncle Nearest”, taught a young Jack Daniel everything he knew about distilling.
He was also an emancipated slave, and the first African-American master distiller on record.
But while Jack Daniel has become a name synonymous with whiskey, Nathan Green was largely forgotten. The Uncle Nearest brand was founded in 2017 as a way to honor his legacy, and to make some fine whiskey in his name.
The 1856 is the core of the brand at the moment, blended from two off site distilleries. It’s made using the Lincoln County Process of filtering through maple charcoal, before being aged in charred American Oak barrels.
Currently, Uncle Nearest doesn’t offer their own on site distilled and aged whiskey, although that is their plan for the future.
Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey Review
The deep copper tones of the Uncle Nearest are intriguing in the bottle.
The first thing that comes through with the Uncle Nearest 1956 is a punch of caramel sweetness, with some vanilla adding extra richness to the nose. This then mellows into something more floral, subtly aromatic, with perhaps a slight hint of citrus.
There’s some spice to it as well, a pepper and nutmeg mixture that really lifts the aroma. An undertone of oak and maple rounds the whole thing off, and speaks of the depth you can expect to find in The 1856.
You do notice the alcohol – this is 100 proof, after all – but it doesn’t overpower the nose. Give it some time to breathe, and you can detect more of the floral and fruity notes between the sweet aroma.
Overall, the balance of caramel sweetness with nut and corn undertones will bring to mind a freshly baked oatmeal and raisin cookie.
Uncle Nearest 1856 starts sweet. There’s an instant rush of caramel and vanilla, which feels creamy and rich, but with a dash of pepper to give it some spice. You can also detect a slight hint of chocolate as the whiskey rolls over your tongue.
The mid-palate mellows into something with more depth. The caramel lingers, taking on more of the chocolate. Maple and almond unfurl, alongside the nutmeg spice. There’s some fruitiness to it, a touch of apple, close to that of a freshly baked apple pie.
It’s underpinned by a deep oak, which adds a sturdy base for the flavors to grow on. Corn and hay mellow out the spices, which come through across the palate. The earthiness from the oak and corn add balance to the sweeter touches.
Heavy on the oak and the sweetness, The 1856 is more complex than you might initially suspect. The depth of cocoa, the spice of white pepper, and a creamy vanilla can be found in the layers.
Notes of hay really add to the character, while the occasional pop of spice keeps your palate on its toes.
The Uncle Nearest 1856 is bold and full-bodied, with plenty to chew on.
The finish of The 1856 is medium to short, and it doesn’t linger quite as long as you might expect. It’s still a strong finish, with some deep notes that play nicely alongside the remaining sweetness.
Oak adds a mellow depth, while vanilla and chocolate bring a light finish. A slight hint of tobacco rounds the sip off with subtlety.
Uncle Nearest 1856 is 100 proof, but it doesn’t finish with the burn that you might be expecting. There’s a pleasant tingle on the tongue, which hangs around along with the spiciness. It gives you something to think about between sips, and leaves you looking forward to the next mouthful.
A slightly abrupt finish to a fairly bold whiskey, the softness makes it an easy one to sip on.
A splash of water can really open Uncle Nearest 1856, letting those vanilla and cocoa notes express themselves fully. But we found in our testing that it’s definitely better to start neat.
Let those big and bold flavors sit on the palate, and enjoy the deeper notes as they come to dominate at the end. Then, you can throw in your ice, or add some water, if that’s how you like your whiskey.
Although The 1856 might seem brash on the first sip, it has a surprisingly soft finish which makes it easy to enjoy.
Uncle Nearest 1856 is absolutely a whiskey that can – and should – be enjoyed neat. If you prefer your whiskey light, then you may be surprised by how brash the notes of The 1856 can be. But let itself open up for you, and you’ll be charmed by the intricacies.
Because of the boldness, the Uncle Nearest 1856 is adaptable for cocktails. It will hold its own in an Old Fashioned, and the sweet notes can play well in a Whiskey Sour.
There are some definite “baked goods” notes to The 1865, making this a whiskey to enjoy with sweeter things. An oatmeal and raisin cookie, or a classic chocolate chip, will bring out the oak and corn undertones.
A bottle of Uncle Nearest 1856 can generally be picked up for around $60, and this is the easiest of the Uncle Nearest offerings to get your hands on.
The 1856 is priced roughly in line with other sourced whiskeys. It’s perhaps more than you may expect to pay for the slightly brash flavoring, but we still think it’s a decent price.
If you like your whiskey to be a conversation starter, then the Uncle Nearest 1856 comes with a rich history that’s bound to interest any good dinner guest. And while that may not be enough to convince you to buy a bottle, it is another tick in Uncle Nearest’s favor.
Uncle Nearest 1856 is a surprise, and it will continue to surprise you as you make your way through the bottle. Enjoyable with ice, wonderful with water, and bold enough to stand up in a cocktail, this is a versatile whiskey that will bring some life to your home bar.
And with a soft finish for 100 proof, this is a whiskey you can sip on.
What Else Does Uncle Nearest sell?
Uncle Nearest sell a limited range, with The 1856 being the staple of the brand.
The Uncle Nearest 1820 Single Barrel Whiskey is the hardest to get your hand on, and the most expensive. So naturally, it’s also the best of the Uncle Nearest range.
With a 115 proof and an 11-year aging process, The 1820 has a long finish and unfurls with spice and maple on the palate. If you spot some at a bar, we highly recommend trying it for yourself.
1884 is quite simple, and lacks the layers and balance of The 1856. Still a whiskey worth searching out, but perhaps not a regular drinker. It’s worth ordering if you see it at a bar, and you can enjoy the light and smooth flavoring for yourself.
The 1884 is a small batch, so there may be some more complex expressions out there. If you’re lucky, you might find a real pick of the bunch. Otherwise, you have a light and enjoyable whiskey that’s easy to sip on.
Uncle Nearest don’t currently offer any on-site distilled whiskey, although that does appear to be their plan moving forward. Based on the quality of their sourced whiskey, we’re excited to see what they can come up with.
Much of the story of Nathan “Nearest” Green remains largely unknown, but you couldn’t ask for a much better whiskey to honor his legacy. Bold with a soft finish, this is a whiskey to be sipped at when you’re in a contemplative mood.
Sweet notes are balanced out by oak undertones, while corn and hay add plenty of character. Enjoy the occasional burst of spice, and the pleasant tingles that linger without burn.
It could have been difficult for Uncle Nearest to create a whiskey that honors the heritage, without the story overshadowing the bottle itself. Instead, the black-owned business has successfully sourced a whiskey that speaks for itself, without looking past the legacy of a great man.