Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery; Nashville’s Once and Future Whiskey

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It’s safe to say that Tennessee has made a name for itself in whiskey production.  After all, Jack Daniels is perhaps the most well known brand of whiskey world wide.  Believe it or not, one of Nashville’s newest distilleries once gave ol’ Jack a run for his money.

The history of Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery is a fascinating one.  Charles Nelson started the Greenbrier Distillery that quickly become one of the most notable producers of whiskey in the state of Tennessee.  In fact, in 1885 Greenbrier Distillery sold around 380,000 gallons of whiskey to as far away as Paris, France, while Jack Daniels sold a measly 23,000 gallons.  The distillery continued to thrive even after the death of Charles Nelson, at which point his wife, Louisa, took over the family business.

Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville,TN

Unfortunately while the business was able to survive the death of it’s founder, it was not able to survive prohibition, which was enacted in Tennessee a full 10 years before it was national law… but that’s Tennessee for you.  Of course it’s not all bad, without prohibition there would be no speakeasies.  But sadly, the Greenbrier Distillery was forced to close it’s doors in 1909 at which point the distillery took a 100 year hiatus and was nearly forgotten.  That’s where the story gets interesting.

Charles Nelson’s great-great-great grandsons Charlie and Andy knew that their family used to make whiskey, but had no idea of the scale.  To be fair, if you’re from Tennessee, you have a family history of making whiskey.  It’s just easy to ignore it because most of the time it was in a toothless man’s bathtub. (I can say it, I’m from there.)

Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville,TN

The current Nelson brothers learned more about their family’s rich distilling history by chance on a visit to a butcher in Greenbrier, TN.  The butcher just so happened to be across the street from the former site of the Greenbrier Distillery, and the brothers ended up exploring the warehouse and natural spring where the distillery once stood.  Having piqued their interest, they also made a trip to the Greenbrier Historical Society, where they discovered a couple of century old glass Greenbrier Distillery Whiskey bottles and met their fate.

As they say, the rest is history.  The brothers decided to resurrect the family business and opened Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery in 2009, a full hundred years after the original closed it’s doors.

Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville, TN

Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery is now located in Downtown Nashville and offers tours and tastings to guests for $10 several times throughout the day.  Unfortunately, the distillery is so new (this time around) that the only whiskey they have produced in this facility is an unaged white whiskey… or as it’s more commonly known, moonshine.  They do however offer other aged whiskeys that the Nelson brothers had a hand in making, just not on property.

Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville,TN

Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville,TN

The tour is quite interesting and gives guests a behind the scenes look at the ins and outs of whiskey production.  The facility is rather small, but that only adds to the quality of the liquor.  No mass produced nonsense here!  Every batch goes through an old fashioned copper still affectionately known as “Miss Louisa”, in honor of the brothers great-great-great grandmother, who took over the company after Charles Nelson’s death, becoming one of the only women to run a distillery.

Miss Louisa, the old fashioned copper still used to make all of the whiskey at Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville, TN

The tour takes you through the whiskey making, aging, and bottling process, and of course ends in everyone’s favorite part; the tasting!  Samples are poured of Greenbrier’s White Whiskey as well as Belle Meade’s aged whiskeys.

Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville,TN

Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville,TN

  Remember, they haven’t aged their own whiskey yet, but you do get a backstage look at the aging process in the barrel room.  It’s enough to get you excited about the years to come.

Future aged whiskey at Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville, TN

Future aged whiskey at Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville, TN

Nashville’s come a long way in the past few years, of course occasionally you’re still reminded of who actually runs this town.  I like my whiskey with a side of guilt.

Things that don't belong in a distillery - Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville, TN

Chalk it up to youthful rebellion, but growing up here I thought Nashville was a proverbial “one horse town” and it seems they are working hard to kick that image to the curb.  Who knows, in another 100 years perhaps Nelson’s Greenbrier Tennessee Whiskey may once again be putting Jack Daniels in his place!

Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville,TN

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#weekendwanderlust

This post is part of the weekly blog link up, #weekendwanderlust hosted by A Brit and A Southerner, A Southern Gypsy, Carmen’s Luxury Travel, Justin Plus Lauren, and Outbound Adventurer.

23 thoughts on “Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery; Nashville’s Once and Future Whiskey

  1. That is so cool they did that! The next time in I’m Tenneessee I’ll have to drop by to sample a little.
    Leslie recently posted…The Reading ListMy Profile

  2. Since we do enjoy a good whiskey (we’ve got all that great Canadian whiskey back home after all!) this looks like a place we’d love to visit and try out – such great history too!!
    Carolann & Macrae – One Modern Couple recently posted…Sushi and Samurais: A Journey Through JapanMy Profile

  3. The last time I went to Nashville I was underage so wasn’t able to try any Whisky. But next time! This place looks great!
    Sophie recently posted…Things to do in Beijing during the ‘heatwave’My Profile

  4. I love visiting distilleries! Always so interesting to learn about the history. This sounds like a great time–I’ll have to make a note of this for our next visit to Nashville!
    Jenna recently posted…Fushimi Irari Shrine in Kyoto, JapanMy Profile

  5. Thanks for such an interesting and informative post! I like both American and Scottish whiskies x
    Sandra recently posted…The Holiday EditMy Profile

  6. Carol Colborn

    Thought all bourbon was produced in Kentucky!

  7. I love learning how things are made. I’ll have to check out Nelson’s Distillery next time I’m in Tennessee.
    Amanda Zeisset recently posted…8 Legendary Adventures in North Dakota You Can’t MissMy Profile

  8. What a fun and informative post! I’m not a whiskey fan, but the history of Greenbrier was enjoyable to read! I hope the young namesakes have success with the company!

  9. This place looks amazing and the story behind it is so cool! I have been wanting to visit Nashville for the longest time. This is definitely a stop I’ll have to make. Thanks for sharing!

  10. $10 isn’t bad for a tour and tasting. I really hope the company does well. I’m sure their family is proud that they’ve brought it back to life.
    Vicky and Buddy recently posted…The Sisterhood Of The World Bloggers AwardMy Profile

  11. I had no idea that Tennessee was such a big state for whiskey production with such a long history. I would love to travel to take a tour. $10 is a bargain for a tasting and tour, and as much as I am genuinely fascinated by the processes, the tasting is my favorite part of these kind of tours as well 😀

    Thanks for the inspiration to add a whiskey tour to our interary for Tennessee~
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…A Fan’s Guide to Watching Live Sport in New York CityMy Profile

  12. When we went to Chattanooga I wanted to tour this distillery but we couldn’t get a time that worked with our schedule – such an awesome place!
    Shannon Peterson recently posted…What I Wore // Mama StyleMy Profile

  13. Quite an interesting history. Who would have thought a whiskey in Tennessee would have sold so much more than JD. I’d definitely check this out for only 10 dollars. Cheers!
    Elliott recently posted…Everyone Thinks I’m Throwing My Life AwayMy Profile

  14. Very cool. I’ve been really into visiting craft distilleries lately, particularly in Texas and Pennsylvania, so I will keep this one in mind when I get to Nashville.
    Laura recently posted…What to Pack for Ecuador and the GalapagosMy Profile

  15. Ahhh, I don’t know how to reply – I am SCOTTISH! Just joking, you guys can have whisky (the correct spelling!) too. I don’t actually like it (I’d be better of Russian, mmmm vodka!) if you do then get yourself over to Islay in Scotland, there are lots of distilleries and it the island has such a dreamy backdrop (if you get the weather). We have a post on Laphroaig if you fancy wetting the palate! Great post.
    Gemma Two Scots Abroad recently posted…Photo of the Fortnight #8My Profile

  16. That’s a great story. I love it that they decided to reopen the distillery. Soon enough they’ll have their own aged whiskeys and can continue the family tradition for many more hundreds of years.
    Laura Lynch recently posted…6 Must-See Viral Travel VideosMy Profile

  17. It’s embarrassing to admit how little of the US I’ve explored despite growing up there (California). I really got into food and drink travel after moving to Asia so at some point I need to get back and explore more of the US. I keep hearing awesome things about Nashville’s culinary scene lately….this distillery definitely sounds interesting to visit!
    Erin recently posted…Exploring Reggio Emilia’s GastronomyMy Profile

  18. I love whiskey and going on distillery tours! he price of the tour is a great steal as well. Surprisingly enough, the Japanese whiskeys are making a name for themselves here in Asia.
    anna recently posted…Things I learned from being a Solo Woman TravelerMy Profile

  19. I guess next time I am in Nashville, I will have to stop in and try some Greenbrier Whiskey. Looks like TN, will have some more great Whiskey producers
    Jennifer @ Made all the Difference Travel Blog recently posted…Mutually Assured Destruction ~ Minuteman National Historic SiteMy Profile

  20. I visited an whiskey distillery before, but I have to admit I don’t have much interest in whiskey. Interesting history. It good that they decided to reopen the distillery.
    Anda recently posted…The Weekly Postcard: Jacksonville, the Gold Rush Town of OregonMy Profile

  21. Amazing how the brothers stumbled upon the family history by chance and then started the business again exactly 100 years after it was first closed. I wonder if they use the same sort of a “family recipe”, if any, for their new business…
    RaW | Ramble and Wander recently posted…Malaysia: Lake Kenyir, TerengganuMy Profile

  22. While I am not a whiskey drinker, I love this history behind this distillery! (Plus, I always find I respect and enjoy something more when I have a great story to go along with it!)
    Elena recently posted…My Turkish Love AffairMy Profile

  23. We’d love to visit Tennessee and your post encouraged us to make sure we visit a distillery when we do go!

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