This whiskey CEO’s mission in Hampton Roads? Personally thank military members.
Fawn Weaver, who runs what became one of the fastest-growing whiskey brands in the United States, is on a nationwide tour to personally thank some of her best customers for their support and service — military members.
Weaver, chief executive officer of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey in Tennessee, was in Hampton Roads Tuesday through Thursday. She held a happy hour at a Newport News restaurant, signed bottles at a Coast Guard Exchange, and met Capt. Janet Days, commanding officer at Naval Station Norfolk and the first Black woman to hold the position.
“I want America to see all of the amazing things the military has to offer and why we are the No. 1 military in the world,” Weaver said, “the strongest military in the world.”
Weaver founded Uncle Nearest almost six years ago to honor Nathan “Nearest” Green, the first known African American master distiller. He was born enslaved in Maryland and was moved to Lynchburg, Tennessee. Green was hired out to Dan Call, a distiller and preacher in Lincoln County, to work on his farm making whiskey.
Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel, who in 1866 established Jack Daniel’s Distillery, first started working at the farm as a young boy. Green taught him the technique of making the spirit. Daniel started his own company after the abolition of slavery and hired Green, who was known as Uncle Nearest, as the first master distiller for his company.
Weaver had never heard the story about Uncle Nearest until she read a New York Times article. She wanted to keep his legacy alive.
“If someone doesn’t firmly prove it and make sure it’s in the history books, then it just continues to be sort of whispers,” she said.
She read “Jack Daniel’s Legacy,” a biography that quotes Daniel as saying Uncle Nearest was the best whiskey maker he knew. Weaver researched and interviewed Green’s descendants. She purchased 313 acres in the hills of Lynchburg where Daniel grew up and where Green operated the original Distillery No. 7.
The company has won several industry awards since its 2017 launch and in 2018-19 was one of the country’s top five fastest growing whiskeys, by volume growth, according to IWSR, an international drinks-market analysis firm.
The CEO Thank You Tour began April 11 at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. The 2021 and 2022 tours focused on restaurants, bars and liquor stores; in her 16-week tour this year, Weaver will visit more than 35 military installations.
She has dined with service members in Tampa, sat in a helicopter used during Hurricane Katrina rescues in Clearwater, Florida, and lifted weights like a strong woman with soldiers at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Weaver hosts 18:56 Happy Hours — a tribute to Uncle Nearest’s 1856 — at 1856 hours, 6:56 p.m., with a toast to the armed forces. She had one Tuesday at Steak and Tonic in Newport News.
She showcases the behind-the-scenes look of her tour on social media. Details, unclenearest.com
Rekaya Gibson, email@example.com , 757-295-8809, on Twitter, @gibsonrekaya