Success Story

Black-owned whiskey brand created to honor former slave on its way to unicorn status after latest raise

Since its launch in 2017, the Black woman-owned whisky brand, Uncle Nearest, has achieved unrivaled success in the spirits industry. Not only is it the bestselling brand among black-owned wines, but it is also competing favorably with established brands.

It, therefore, came as no surprise when, in 2022, it was announced that its sales had exceeded $100 million, cementing its position as one of the most successful black-owned distilleries in the world. The U.S. distillery also became the seventh-most visited in the world, with well over 200,000 visitors in 2023.

In 2021, the brand became the best-selling African-American-owned and founded spirit brand in the U.S. after selling nearly 1.5 million bottles of its sought-after super-premium whiskey. The company’s whisky portfolio of seven offerings is available at its distillery in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and in all 50 states, territories, and districts nationwide, it said in a statement released at the time.

Today, Uncle Nearest is approaching unicorn status, a feat few black businesses have been able to achieve. This follows the brand’s recent capital raise for its forthcoming French subsidiary, which was oversubscribed, according to Fortune.

CEO Fawn Weaver has raised a total of $220 million since Uncle Nearest was founded, which values the company at $900 million, Fortune added. The latest capital round is crucial to scaling the first women- and minority-owned spirits conglomerate, according to Weaver. 

Uncle Nearest Premium Whisky was founded by Weaver to honor the memory of Nearest Green, an enslaved African American who helped Jack Daniel start his distillery.

The distillery became the first in U.S. history to honor an African-American whisky maker and one of the few distilleries in the country owned and operated by a black, female lead. The whisky brand debuted in 2017.

“Built on its knack for sourcing the best of Tennessee whiskies and bourbons, the whisky is made using a non-temperature-controlled ageing process and a unique post-ageing double filtration method, which is then blended to perfection by fifth-generation Nearest Green descendant and Uncle Nearest’s master blender, Victoria Eady Butle,” the company wrote in a statement.

Despite the effect of COVID-19 on many businesses, particularly black businesses, Weaver weathered the storm to top the chart of bestselling African-American-owned whisky brands.

“Our bottling and distilling partner did an incredible job of ensuring every area of the distillery was socially distanced and followed the strictest COVID-19 guidelines, which meant we could only move so quickly and had to cap our third full year at 120,000 cases sold,” said Weaver.

Abu Mubarik

Abu Mubarik is a journalist with years of experience in digital media. He loves football and tennis.

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