Distillery to be built at historic site in Shelbyville
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has announced it’s planning a distillery, tasting room and music venue for the historic Tennessee Walking Horse farm and event center, Sand Creek, in Shelbyville, Tenn.
“We look forward to continuing to work with our Tennessee distillery partners to create and bottle our award-winning premium whiskey; but as the brand continues to grow and excitement around Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey increases, we need to be prepared to keep up with the demand,” said Sherrie Moore, a 31-year veteran in the Tennessee whiskey industry and director of whiskey operations for Uncle Nearest.
As the whiskey they are currently distilling (Uncle Nearest Premium Silver) is made using a 19th century recipe, saved from a fire in Lynchburg, what will come as a surprise for many is the company’s decision to build its distillery operations outside of Lynchburg, Tenn. The famously small town is where Nearest Green lived and made whiskey in what was then known as Lincoln County. The company already owns the 313-acre farm where the original Jack Daniel Distillery was located until May 31, 1881, and where Nearest Green taught a young entrepreneur named Jack Daniel the fine art of making Tennessee Whiskey.
“We know most expected us to build at the historic Dan Call Farm. But if you’ve ever been to Lynchburg, you know it’s Jack Daniel country. They’ve spent more than a century and a lot of marketing dollars putting Lynchburg on the map,” said Kate Jerkens, vice president of sales and marketing for Uncle Nearest Whiskey. “We decided to build outside of Lynchburg for a few reasons. One was our enormous respect for Jack Daniel, making sure we always reciprocate the respect he paid to Nearest and Nearest’s children. Another was the opportunity to broaden regional economic benefits through the creation of new and exciting opportunities in the neighboring community of Shelbyville, as the Tennessee Whiskey market and tourist activity expand.”
Following a public hearing and unanimous approval of all 18 commissioners for the chief legislative body in Bedford County, as well as unanimous approval from three additional commissions, Sand Creek Farms was rezoned on Dec. 12, 2017, paving the way for the Nearest Green Distillery to be built.
The 270-acre Sand Creek Farms will be restored to its former glory days of Tennessee prestige. Over 100 acres of corn will be planted and aptly named the Field of Dreams with walking paths throughout and wells delivering natural spring water. The Uncle Nearest recipe includes corn malt, so there is also consideration of building a malt house. With an expressed intent to hire local contractors and vendors, the community has outwardly expressed its excitement about the revitalization efforts. Several of the current buildings on the property will be converted for distillery operations. A large hay barn is being reworked into a 3,500-barrel rickhouse, and the largest building on the property will be expanded to include a gift shop and tasting room. A 300-foot former horse barn is being converted into the Nearest Green History Walk. Guests leaving the visitor center will be guided to walk through the interactive gallery that will tell the history of African-American contributions to the whiskey industry, as well as the history of Nearest Green. The current 600-seat sales arena is being reimagined to double as a private concert venue for country music artists.
“There’s no better combination than Tennessee Whiskey and great country music,” said Keith Miles, spokesperson for the brand. “Nearest Green Distillery at Sand Creek Farms will be a unique addition to the Tennessee Whiskey Trail. Every major country artist would love to have a place where they can share new or stripped-down music in an intimate setting. At ‘The Arena at Nearest Green Distillery,’ no cellphones or recording devices will be allowed inside, ensuring every artist can be their truest self and share intimate moments with their biggest fans.”
The Uncle Nearest team is already in talks to bring one of Tennessee’s most popular barbecue restaurants to Sand Creek, as well as building a new fire station on the property to serve the area. “Nearly every Tennessee distillery during the time Nearest was alive was built on a farm,” Miles said. “In keeping with that spirit, Sand Creek will continue to be a premier home to hundreds of horses and head of cattle.”
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is currently being made in concert with a whiskey-maker in Nashville and will continue as such until the Nearest Green Distillery is complete. Their inventory of barrels previously sourced from two Tennessee distilleries will continue to serve as the base for their award- winning whiskey. The final filtration step, which gives Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey its ultra- smooth taste that has been winning rave reviews across the country, will be brought in-house following the build-out of its own processing plant.
“When a writer for Whisky Magazine does a blind taste test of a slew of 100-proof whiskeys with a group of whiskey connoisseurs and your whiskey ‘wins hands down,’ you know it’s time to start planning for the brand to grow and put quality assurances in place to ensure that, as we get bigger, our product just gets better,” Jerkens said. “Not to mention, two of our vendors have already told us that, at our current pace, we’re going to outgrow their capacity much sooner than forecast.”
The sale of Sand Creek Farms was represented by well-known Shelbyville attorney John T. Bobo, who grew up in Lynchburg and has a distinguished family heritage there that remains. Famed Tennessee Walking Horse grand champion owner and architect Thom Meek is serving as lead architect.