First Black Woman Master Blender, Victoria Eady Butler, Talks Whiskey and Family Legacy
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Uncle Nearest’s Victoria Eady Butler, the first known black woman to become a Master Blender, all thanks to her great-great-grandfather, Nathan Green.
Founded by Fawn Weaver, Uncle Nearest is a highly regarded new whiskey, and for a good reason. It was the most awarded American whiskey or bourbon of 2019 and 2020 and landed a spot on Oprah’s coveted Favorite Things List in 2020.
.@UncleNearest Whiskey is Now the Top Selling African American Owned and Founded Spirit Brand of All Time.
— Distillery Daily (@DistilleryDaily) March 11, 2021
The credit for the successful, or as some would say, legendary flavor, all goes to the master blender, Butler. Butler did not enter the whiskey scene until 2018, when she retired from her job as an analytical manager and the next week went to work for Uncle Nearest. Weaver’s initial plan was to have each batch of 1884 Uncle Nearest whiskey be blended by one of Nearest’s descendants, and Butler was the first to step up to the plate.
Jokingly referring to herself as an “Uncle Nearest Purest,” her blending and tasting style stem from her signature rule of not drinking any other kind of alcohol or spirit (accept the occasional cold beer). She also avoids eating anything before sampling the Nearest spirits to maintain her palate for the whiskey. Part of her reasoning, however, is simply that Uncle Nearest is a great whiskey; why drink anything else?
Butler’s role with the distillery doesn’t end with blending. She is also the director of the nonprofit Nearest Green Foundation. The Nearest Green Foundation maintains the legacy that Nathan Green left and offers the Nearest Green Legacy Scholarship. The scholarship provides Green’s descendants with the means to go to college without worrying about how they will pay for it.
Butler’s Family Legacy
Nathan “Nearest” Green was the man who mentored a young Jack Daniel on making great whiskey. Green was enslaved until he was emancipated in 1865. Later, when Jack Daniel went on to begin his own whiskey business, he employed Green as his first master distiller and the first known African American master distiller in American history.
Green was also responsible for teaching Daniel the “Lincoln County Process,” which is a step in the process of making Tennessee whiskey where the whiskey is filtered through charcoal before going into casks for aging.