"Jack Daniels" whiskey has a secret ingredient. It is one that the world at large is not aware of. A former slave named Nathan Nearest Green actually trained the name sake of this popular hard liquor. With the whiskey industry recently experiencing a boom in Tennessee, Mr. Green's name has been at the forefront, and it's a name that is gaining recognition.

Nearest Green and Jack Daniels

Nathan Nearest Green was born into slavery in Lynchburg TN. He is the man who trained Jack Daniels in the craft of distilling whiskey. Last year a "New York Times" article on the former slave went viral.

New York author Fawn Weaver was intrigued by the story and began to research the matter, Weaver put thousands of hours into this issue, and last week announced the opening of the "Nearest Green Foundation." This organization will honor Green's contributions to the Tennessee whiskey industry.

Weaver took a special interest, in stories of blacks and whites who worked side by side during the Civil war and beyond. She was especially impressed with the bond between Green and Daniels. Weaver and her husband purchased a 313-acre farm which had been owned by Dan Call. Nearest Green was a slave on the Call plantation. And Jack Daniels was a neighbor. Weaver also said the two room cabin that was Green's home, while a slave, is being rebuilt.

Slavery and hard liquor

Slaves could not purchase whiskey or other hard liquor so they improvised. This is outlined in the Margaret Walker novel "Jubilee," which is about Walker's grandmother Vyry who had been a slave in Dawson, GA. Vyry told how the slave masters celebrated Christmas in the big house by drinking hard liquor including whiskey.

The slaves were given tobacco, fruit, and hard candy as holiday gifts.

If Slaves desired strong drink, that had to make their own, intoxicating brew. This was done by utilizing potatoes, damsons, persimmons, corn and other ingredients they had on hand. The name of their finished products "sour mash." In "Jubilee" the slaves drank in secret but Nathan Green obviously worked in plain sight.

Weaver states that a young Jack Daniels became one of the world's most famous pupils of "Uncle Nearest" who was the greatest teacher of whiskey distillery in Tenessee.

It's not unreasonable to believe that during a visit to the Call plantation Jack Daniels happened upon Nearest Green drinking or concocting a slave brewed hard liquor. Daniels most likely asked if he could have a taste. He more than likely enjoyed what he was drinking and then sought details on how the drink was formulated. And then, as they say, a great partnership, as well as history, was born.