Nelsons Green Brier: Andy Nelson

Nelsons Green Brier

Our most immediately identifying uniqueness is that our Great-Grandfather was one of the first to produce Tennessee whiskey

Can you give us a bit of background about yourself and how you started in the whiskey industry?

My brother & I started in this business by accident in a way. We discovered our family’s history in the whiskey biz and felt that is was such an intriguing story & history that we needed to revive it. I was a year out of college and had an internship at the Country Music Association while Charlie was still in college.

This is when we had the realization that we had to start it back up again. We took a handful of routes to research it, including interviewing family members and searching state & city archives, as well as the Greenbrier Historical Society.

We originally were going to build on the site of the first distillery, but it proved to be too impractical when we had no money in the first place.

Can you tell us about your distillery, and what makes it unique?

Our most immediately identifying uniqueness is that our Great-Great-Great-Grandfather was one who produced the Original Tennessee whiskey. He was a merchant & bottler who ended up purchasing the distillery where he sourced his spirit.

He was a contemporary of a couple other well known Tennessee Whiskey makers in George Dickel and Jack Daniel, though Jack was a bit younger and George a bit older. We still have some unopened bottles of the original Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey and other brands that Chas. produced.

The brand started in 1860, he bought the distillery in 1870 and we restarted the company in 2012, with the distillery opening in late 2014 in Nashville.

Are there any little ‘distilling’ secrets you can let us in on?

One secret I will say without diminishing our own process, is that distilling is not rocket science.

I think it’s crazy when people make too much of a thing out of it.

I find the simpler the better.

Whiskey has been phenomenally successful in the United States and around the planet, why do you think this is compared to other spirits?

I think because of the inherent soul of a whiskey compared to a vodka.

There is no romance or history or character therefore soul in a vodka or gin compared to a whiskey. You just get so much more out of a whiskey.

In your years in the industry, what have been the biggest surprises you have faced?

The biggest surprise has been fun, but it is the camaraderie with the distilling community.  Sales folks are another matter, but distillers have been very friendly and willing to share information, and it’s very refreshing.

What are the big trends that are affecting the whiskey industry at the moment?

Distilleries producing canned cocktails has been huge. I love the movement to create an American single malt category and don’t seeing that going away.

That should be a popular category in the future.

Are there any interesting stories from your time in the whiskey industry that you could share?

We have had a weird eclectic mix of celebrities stop by the distillery. Tedeschi Trucks Band has become friends of the distillery, along with Zac Brown, Vincent Neal Emerson, The Wood Brothers, Jon Hamm of Mad Men stopped in though he doesn’t drink anymore, plus many more. 

Also hanging out with distillers at the various distiller conventions (i.e. ADI & ACSA) can yield some rowdy and interesting stories.

What developments in the whiskey industry most excite you?

The American single malt movement. That is a big deal for the U.S.

Also, the overall innovation taking place around the industry. Barrel finishing is great to see as well.

What do you see as being the future of whiskey in the short term?

Hard to say. In one word, innovation.
The classic will always stay, but innovation is a thing!

Why do you use the Glencairn Glass in your business and what makes it so special?

Gosh & schucks! I am so glad that you asked. We used them because they are beautiful & functional. They allow you to nose a whiskey like no other glass.

It is like a work of art unto themselves. Visitors comment on them quite a bit and we talk them up. The Glencairn Glass allows our whiskeys to really shine.


To find out more about Nelson’s Green Brier visit here.

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