Reviews for Love & Whiskey

by Fawn Weaver

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

On the trail of a pioneering distiller in the Civil War–era South. In 2016, Weaver, an entrepreneur and author of Happy Wives Club, read a New York Times story crediting the Jack Daniel’s bourbon empire to the help of a once-enslaved Black man named Nearest Green. Intrigued, she and her husband traveled to Lynchburg, Tennessee, to find out more. There, they formed friendships with several of Green’s descendants and confronted a corporation that was slow to acknowledge a fact that Weaver uncovered in her research: In “a complete reversal of the power dynamic the New York Times headline had implied,” it turned out that Daniel had been Green’s assistant, not the other way around. As the author notes, Green’s “Lincoln County Process” is still used today, but his contribution was obscured, the glory gone to Daniel—who, as Weaver notes, was more enlightened than most Southern white men of the Civil War era, his genuine friendship with Green mirrored by less fraught racial tensions in Lynchburg than elsewhere in the region. Even so, having discovered Green’s story and discerning not much interest in it on the part of the parent conglomerate, Weaver and her husband took out trademarks and launched a line of whiskey called Uncle Nearest. They expected—and got—resistance from their giant neighbor: “We were a tiny brand—and tiny is an understatement. It would have been easy for them to choke our supply lines in Tennessee.” Yet Weaver persisted, eventually coming to a sort of truce with Jack Daniel’s; as she writes charitably, “at the end of the day, we’ve made each other better.” In the bargain, Weaver created the fastest-growing new whiskey line in the marketplace and a model for other Black entrepreneurs. An enjoyable historical excavation to savor along with a dram of good Tennessee whiskey. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.