Change is a constant force in the world of whiskey, and the Nashville-based Nelson’s Green Brier distillery is no exception to this rule. The distillery, founded by brothers Charlie and Andy Nelson in 2009, recently underwent a significant transformation, which included a new hospitality-focused renovation. This renovation introduced a restaurant, bar, and updated auxiliary production equipment, providing a more immersive experience for visitors.
However, the winds of change didn't stop there. In the following month, co-founder Charlie Nelson made a surprising announcement. He revealed his departure from the brand, which he and his brother Andy had co-founded, aiming to revive their great-great-great grandfather's pre-Prohibition whiskey business. This decision marked a significant turning point in the distillery's journey, leaving Andy at the helm of this thriving enterprise.
Despite the departure of one of the co-founders, Nelson’s Green Brier pushed forward with their commitment to expanding their whiskey offerings. In their quest to recreate the diverse portfolio of whiskeys offered more than a century ago, they decided it was time to introduce their first rye whiskey to the world. Whiskey enthusiasts had long been clamoring for a rye expression from the company, but the initial focus had been on launching a range of Bourbons.
The company's Bourbon lineup, which includes the popular Belle Meade line, as well as the Nelson Brothers Classic and Reserve, launched in mid-2022. Now, the time has come for rye whiskey enthusiasts to rejoice, as Nelson Brothers Rye makes its debut.
Nelson Brothers Rye sets itself apart with a unique mash bill consisting of 64% rye, 30% corn, and 6% malted barley. This blend of grains was meticulously crafted at Kentucky's Bardstown Bourbon Company in 2016. What makes this rye even more intriguing is the deliberate shift in grain percentages. Andy Nelson, the head distiller, wanted to create a rye whiskey with a distinct flavor profile that diverged from the popular 95% rye made at Indiana's MGP and other locations across the country.
In a bold move, Andy inverted the rye and corn percentages from their Bourbon mash bill, resulting in a whiskey that harmoniously balances fruitiness, spiciness, and a subtle hint of spearmint. This unique approach to rye whiskey production has garnered praise from enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike, with Andy expressing his pride in this distinctive creation.
Nelson Brothers Rye boasts an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 46.25% and carries a recommended retail price of $37. This newcomer to the whiskey scene promises a delightful and unique rye experience for discerning palates.
The departure of Charlie Nelson from the company did not disrupt the brand's trajectory. Despite the change in leadership, Nelson’s Green Brier remains resolute in its commitment to crafting exceptional whiskey. Andy Nelson, the remaining co-founder, retains his roles as co-founder and head distiller, now shouldering the additional responsibility of public-facing duties previously handled by Charlie. Andy is excited about his expanded role and is ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead.
Charlie's decision to step away from the company was deeply personal and reflected his recognition that the brand needed a leader who matched the same level of excitement and dedication that fueled its growth over the past 17 years. His departure marked a significant change, but it did not disrupt the distillery's operations.
In 2016, Constellation Brands made a strategic move by purchasing a minority stake in Nelson’s Green Brier, followed by acquiring a majority stake in 2019. This partnership has undoubtedly contributed to the brand's growth and expansion, ensuring its continued success.
Nelson’s Green Brier's journey is one marked by change and innovation. From the departure of a co-founder to the creation of a unique rye whiskey, the distillery's commitment to honoring its rich heritage while embracing the future is evident. As the world of whiskey continues to evolve, Nelson’s Green Brier stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of innovation and dedication that drives the craft of whiskey-making.
About Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
Nelson's Green Brier Distillery, located in Nashville, Tennessee, is a storied and revived distillery known for its rich history in the American whiskey industry. The distillery's story begins in the late 19th century when it was originally founded by Charles Nelson, a German immigrant. At its peak, it was one of the largest and most successful distilleries in Tennessee. However, due to Prohibition and other historical factors, the distillery's legacy was lost for nearly a century.
In 2006, the Nelson family, descendants of Charles Nelson, resurrected the family distillery and rekindled the brand's heritage. Their mission was to revive the traditional methods and recipes that made the distillery famous in the 1800s. With a focus on producing high-quality, small-batch whiskey, Nelson's Green Brier Distillery pays homage to their forefather's legacy.
One of the flagship products of Nelson's Green Brier is their Belle Meade Bourbon, which is celebrated for its quality and flavor. This premium bourbon is crafted from a blend of high-rye mash bills, offering a complex and well-balanced taste with notes of caramel, spice, and oak. In addition to bourbon, the distillery also produces a range of other whiskey expressions and spirits, reflecting their dedication to innovation while honoring tradition.
Nelson's Green Brier Distillery welcomes visitors with tours and tastings, offering a glimpse into the distillery's history and the art of whiskey-making. The distillery's revival reflects a commitment to preserving the family's heritage and passion for producing exceptional whiskey, making it a respected name in the world of American whiskey.