S.W.A.G.: Uncle Nearest

I arrive at the tail-end of this S.W.A.G. tasting, due to an unfortunate clash with the Good Spirits Company-hosted NNS & Ralfy event [WLP], that started earlier on the same evening. I grab a few tidbits from the host, Matt Neal [Uncle Nearest’s UK brand ambassador], followed up by some light web surfing.

Uncle Nearest comes [of course] with a story which you can pick up on the official unclenearest.com website, or alternatively, here at breakingbourbon.com. However, unlike many brands who’s stories are often built around the whisk[e]y, breakingbourbon.com states ‘history came first, and the whiskey is being built around it‘. Apparently, it was Nearest Green (legal name of black slave, Nathan Green], who taught Jack Daniel how to distill. Our host tells us that Uncle Nearest whiskey was just as influential as JD, at the time. Further reading: bourbonbanter.com/

CEO of Uncle Nearest, Fawn Weaver, was so inspired by the story, that she wrote a book about it – excerpts of which you can read on the official website.

Whilst a distillery was being built, the company/brand initially bottled whiskey through sourced juice and contract-distilling, finding descendants of Green to help with the recreation of their Uncle Nearest ‘1856’ whiskey. ‘Her [Weaver’s] discoveries ultimately inspired the whiskey brand – Uncle Nearest 1856‘, [breakingbourbon.com again].

The new [Nearest Green] distillery is now up & running, producing around 100000 cases a year. It is claimed they are the first distillery to make juice from malted corn. For their single barrel program, they are encouraging a loss/evaporation of alcohol over water. This involves – amongst other tactics – some basic science like opening the windows and then closing the windows, for example.

With this tasting quickly coming to a close, I crack on with the four samples in front of me, revisiting them later for a more in-depth appraisal. Here are my thoughts.

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Uncle Nearest 1856 [2020] Ob. Premium Whiskey 100 proof WB84.50[2] BBS

  • N: Fungal corn. 
  • T: More fungal~Elijah Craig [12yo WLP] vibes.
  • F: Coming back to this after all four samples, there’s a surprisingly gentile sugar barley finish.
  • C: Very tasty, dry and oily corn-led whiskey.

Scores 83 points

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Nathan Green 1870 11yo [2018] Ob. for The British Bourbon Society Inaugural Single Barrel #1 [118 bts] 58.35% [750ml] WB0

  • N: From a whisky loving pianist’s perspective – one less familiar with bourbon than Scotch – this appears very similar to the ‘1856’ with further abv-rich cereal fungal leanings. Rather pleasing overall. Particulars included custard, yoghurt frost, gravy/jus and cranberry sauce, all mixed together.
  • T: Darker/slightly richer than the 1856, the porridge/mash and corn-wax-fats driving things,… slightly salty tapioca,….
  • F: ,… before the oak becomes drying/narrowing,… After a prickly break, there’s a short clean conclusion.
  • C: Not dissimilar to the ‘1856’ overall. Very forward/full-on, yet it’s richer, fatter and oak-tannic though with less detail. Another tasty one, but also wearing.

Scores 82 points

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Nathan Green 1870 15yo [2020] Ob. for British Bourbon Society Single Barrel #BBS-002 59.3% [750ml] WB86[1]

Though the pictures don’t reflect it, compared to the previous two, the colour difference is like night and day. This is dark juice.

  • N: Similar to the 11yo but smelling ‘darker’? more robust perhaps?, certainly more consolidated yet clean and complex with more chocolate, vanilla, more gravy granules [starchy roast dinners besides mint sauce and custard poured over rhubarb crumble], over-baked biscuits, [repeating notes] rhubarb < berry vanilla custard – ginger strawberry, raspberries, berry pollen into dry oak. The most distinct note however was that dubious yellow ‘mint’ sauce you get with takeaway onion bhaji’s. Where 15-20 years for refill scotch can often highlight the subtleties, here, time has drawn out the more up-front complexities.
  • T: A more direct/clear arrival than the previous two, with more underlying cask interest on development that heads towards a rather rye-like tannic spiciness, yet with more complex berry > fungal < varnish. Water brings out more of a waxy >vanilla < chew, though the spiciness, even with time, is never tamed. Right up my street, either way.
  • F: There’s a sweet-spot at the tail, once everything settles. Darker berry fruit wood-tannic varnish lingers, reminding me somewhat, of a 2005 Thomas H Handy I sent at auction some months ago [report to follow].
  • C: Lovely. Lots of berry complexity. I shall have to try my 2019-release George T Stagg sample later for comparisons.

Scores 85 points

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Elijah Craig 12yo [2014] Ob. Batch C914 70.1%/140.2 proof [750ml] WB85.69[37]

This unmarked sample was a bonus dram, which I believe to be a 12yo Elijah Craig, batch C914. Please correct me if this is not the case.

  • N: With a slight cocktail-in-a-glass vibe, this reminds me of a few super-charged rums [particularly an A D Rattray Caroni WLP]. The abv and wood influence is insane, like someone poured some fine-grain sawdust into a bottle of Wray & Nephew. I soon add loads of water [50/50].
  • T: Initially, I find more similarities to [bourbon-aged] rum. This almost impenetrable spirit hints at some complexities behind the formidable frontline, and there’s even a gathering effort towards a squidgy oily mouthfeel, but the abv and wood attack is way too much for me. With loads of water, it’s easily manageable overall, but there’s little here but slightly fruity wood types and forms – from sawdust to planks and barks. Then it relaxes, and the whole thing becoming rather moreish as the ethanol works it’s magic on the mind body & soul.
  • F: Sustaining [easily-so with water] berry action and vanillin glimpses with a sour, almost milky<dry creamy/pill-chalkiness at the death.
  • C: Very straight-ahead juice with a dry sense of humour, but coax it out of it’s hollow for a little more than might at first meet the eye. KO-juice, for sure.

Scores 82 points

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With thanks to Will, Matt Neal, and the Sussex Whisky Appreciation Group

Further reading:

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END

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