This article is a part of our inaugural Next Wave Awards. For the full list of 2021 winners, check out the whole series here.
With bourbon’s popularity continuing to surge, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is setting itself apart from the pack. Not only is it the best-selling African-American-founded spirit brand in history, it is the fastest-growing American whiskey of all time — and it continues to rack up awards.
At its helm is Fawn Weaver, CEO and founder of Grand Sidney, Inc., the private investment company that owns and operates Uncle Nearest. Weaver, who considers herself a “serial entrepreneur,” is also a New York Times best-selling author and philanthropist.
Weaver founded Uncle Nearest back in 2016, a Tennessee Whiskey brand named in honor of Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green, a former slave who became one of Tennessee’s premier whiskey distillers. Though Green’s account never made its way into history books or mainstream journals, Weaver discovered his forgotten story — that he was the one who first taught Jack Daniel how to distill whiskey, and became the Tennessee Whiskey brand’s first master distiller.
Crafted with Green’s legacy in mind, Uncle Nearest now offers three unique whiskeys: 1820 Single Barrel, 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey, and 1884 Small Batch.
Weaver is also the founder of the Nearest Green Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers full college scholarships to each of Green’s descendants. The foundation has also worked to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers and to disadvantaged communities amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This June, Weaver launched the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund, a $50 million venture capital fund intended to help grow women- and BIPOC-owned and founded businesses in an effort to diversify the industry and uplift business owners like her.
That same month, Uncle Nearest reopened the doors to its 323-acre distillery in Shelbyville, Tenn. Weaver says that one of the best parts about her job has been “seeing the absolute amazement and wonder when people walk through the doors of Nearest Green Distillery. Whatever they were expecting before they arrived is always surpassed.”
Between amplifying Black history and raising money to make the industry a better place, there’s no telling what’s next for Weaver and Uncle Nearest. But for now, Weaver is focusing on her continuous efforts to provide whiskey lovers with new and delicious spirits. “Our premium Tennessee whiskey that we began laying down in 2017 and 2018 is coming of age,” she says. “I just had the pleasure of tasting some today that’s nearly ready, and I am excited for the world to get a sip of what we’ve been maturing. It’s so good!”