BY BEN BEDDOW
In 1850, Charles Nelson’s family left Germany in search of a better life in America. But during their journey across the Atlantic, Charles’ father was swept overboard, along with the family fortune he had sewn into his clothes. Charles had become the breadwinner of his family. He was fifteen years old.
Upon landing in America, Charles found work in his late father’s trade—making candles and soap— before moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, and becoming a butcher. It was there that his fellow craftsmen began to educate him in a new trade: how to produce and sell whiskey.
Seeking a fresh start, Charles moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he opened a grocery store that flourished in large part due to sales of his whiskey. Soon, Charles decided to buy the Greenbrier, Tennessee, a distillery that had been making his whiskey so he could greatly expand production.
By 1885, Charles’ distillery was producing around two million bottles a year, and his whiskey was sold as far afield as Paris, France, and Moscow, Russia. Charles passed away in 1891, and his wife, Louisa, assumed control of the business, becoming one of the only women of her time to run a distillery. However, the arrival of statewide prohibition in 1909 forced Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery to close its doors.
Nearly a hundred years later, on a hot summer day in 2006, Bill Nelson invited his two sons, Andy and Charlie, to go see a butcher in Greenbrier, Tennessee. As the three men drove to Greenbrier, they recalled the stories that had been passed down to them about the family whiskey business that had been located in the small town.
When the trio arrived and started asking questions about the old Nelson Distillery, the butcher confirmed that a warehouse across the street had been built by their ancestor, and a nearby spring— still pure—was the same that had supplied the distillery. The butcher pointed them in the direction of the Greenbrier Historical Society, where the curator revealed her most prized possessions: two original bottles of Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey.
Surrounded by their family’s legacy, Andy and Charlie—24 and 22, respectively— realized they’d found their calling.
The new Nelson family distilling business was founded in 2009, one century after it originally shuttered. In 2019, the first bottles of Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey were sold, and produced using their great-great-great grandfather’s original recipe and processes from 1860. This whiskey is their flagship product and the winner of numerous top awards. Then in 2022, the Nelson brothers added their own page to the family legacy, with the launch of the Nelson Brothers brand.
The brothers were determined to make their inaugural offering a bourbon for all occasions. They chose an expert blend of exceptional high-rye straight bourbon whiskeys, well-aged in new, charred American oak barrels. Nelson Bros. Classic Bourbon is a vigorous, versatile pour, equally pleasing when served neat, on the rocks, or enlivening a favorite cocktail.
Next, Nelson Bros. Reserve Bourbon is crafted from the choicest lots of well-aged bourbon barrels in the Nelsons’ Green Brier Distillery inventory. The exceptional sources are expertly batched into a superior, high-proof blend, rich with rye and redolent of dark cherry, caramel, and spice. The result is a bourbon certain to startle and delight.
Both Nelson Brothers bourbons have already won multiple awards, including a Sip Awards Double Gold Medal, ASCOT Awards Platinum Winner, and San Francisco World Spirits Competition Silver Medal for Classic Bourbon, TAG Global Spirits Awards Gold Medal, Denver International Spirits Competition Gold Medal, and The American Distilling Institute Gold Medal for Reserve Bourbon.
“The Nelson Brothers brand is for connoisseurs and people that have a true love for whiskey,” says Charlie. “Andy and I wanted to put our own touch on things and use some of the inspiration that we’ve felt throughout this process. We’re trying to put out high-quality products at a good price.”