In 2016, Ms. Weaver, then a Los Angeles-based writer and real estate investor, traveled to Lynchburg, Tennessee to research a potential book on Nearest Green, a veteran distiller whose real name was Nathan. Mr. Green had cared for a young Jack Daniel while enslaved there.
Mrs. Weaver’s ambitions grew rapidly; she persuaded Brown-Forman to officially recognize Mr. Green as the brand’s first master distiller, and the following year she created the whiskey on behalf of Nearest.
She said her futile search for a Black Master Distiller led her to fully understand the overwhelming whiteness of the world of American spirits. Margie AS Lehrman, executive director of the American Craft Spirits Association, said the lack of diversity has long been a problem for the industry and that only a handful of American distilleries are black owned or run.
“It’s not that colored people aren’t interested. We find that they have no entry route into the industry, no connections where others can, ”said Ms. Lehrman. “It’s a very, very difficult industry to get into, and if you’re a woman or a person of color, it’s even harder.”
In the summer of 2020, Uncle Nearest and Jack Daniel’s announced a joint $ 5 million initiative aimed at getting more black entrepreneurs into distillation, in part by providing resources and mentoring for a Black-owned liquor company each year . So many black entrepreneurs asked for help that Uncle Nearest started their own side project, the Black Business Booster program, to help 16 companies at the same time.
Ms. Weaver said she quickly realized that if these entrepreneurs continued to be excluded from capital, no support with branding, strategy and advertising would make a difference. “Fundraising is all about relationships,” she said. “If you don’t have these relationships, only a tiny fraction of the people who attract investors will see funding.”