That new bourbon rapidly earning a spot on the shelf at your favorite Nashville bars and restaurants doesn’t just have a colorful, local name. Belle Meade Bourbon also has a rich heritage and an exquisite taste.
Brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson have resurrected their great-great-great-grandfather’s Middle Tennessee business, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, which in the 1800s spread the term “Tennessee Whiskey” throughout the United States and Europe long before Jack Daniel’s was a household name. In 1885, Charles Nelson sold 380,000 gallons of whiskey at a time when Jack Daniel’s production capacity was limited to 23,000 gallons.
According to the brothers, who have amassed a treasure trove of Charles Nelson’s business documents, correspondence, original bottles and labels, and other memorabilia, their great-great-great-grandfather believed a man should select his calling and stick to it. (“Success must be achieved by concentration and close application,” he is quoted as saying.) And in the discovery and resurrection of their family’s whiskey-producing heritage, Andy says he’s never loved work more in his life.
“The history of the company and our family is the cornerstone and foundation of what we’re doing, and it’s why we’re doing it. If it didn’t exist before, we wouldn’t be doing it now,” Andy says. “We’re trying to make something as authentic and close to the original as possible. I’m so much more passionate about this than I have been about anything.”
If you’ve ever found yourself standing in the liquor store unable to decide between a bottle of bourbon or rye, Belle Meade Bourbon is a must-try. One of Charles Nelson’s original brands, the bourbon, aged six to eight years, has a high-rye mash bill that sets it apart from other bourbons.
“It’s 30 percent rye. Most bourbons are 10-12 percent rye,” Andy says. “I think balance is one of its greatest assets. It’s got that rye spiciness to it, but it also has sweetness and is very smooth.”
Take a sip, and the first thing you’ll notice is the rye spice on the tip of your tongue that transitions mid-palette to a long, smooth finish. At 90.4 proof, Belle Meade Bourbon pleasantly lacks the alcohol burn going down the throat that even some weaker whiskies have.
While their first offering, Belle Meade Bourbon will not be Andy and Charlie’s flagship brand. That will be a 100-percent authentic recreation of Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey, but the brothers want to wait until their Marathon Village distillery is fully operational so they won’t have to rely on contract distillers.
“We have the full recipe for that, and we want to make it grain to glass,” Andy says.
Belle Meade Bourbon is currently available at bars, restaurants and liquor stores in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Illinois, Maryland and Washington, D.C.