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In the Spirit: Nelson Brothers

In the Spirit: Nelson Brothers
Written by Erin Byers Murray | Photography courtesy of Nelson's Green Brier Distillery

Since they started down the path of making whiskey ten years ago, Charles and Andy Nelson have captivated their fanbase with their very unique, very American whiskey story. It goes back to the discovery that their great-great-great grandfather, also Charles Nelson, was himself a distiller, and came up with a recipe for Tennessee whiskey that ended up helping him build the state’s largest pre-prohibition distillery. The Nashville-based Nelson brothers launched their first product, Belle Meade Bourbon, in 2013 but quickly set their sights on recreating Charles Nelson’s original recipe. After opening their own distillery near downtown Nashville, the brothers launched Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey in 2019, bringing the story full circle.

But the two haven’t stopped coming up with fresh ideas. The latest? A new label called Nelson Brothers. Following up on their original product, bourbon, they’ve launched two bourbons under the label—a Classic and a Reserve—which closely resemble the original spirt in the Belle Meade bottles. With Nelson Brothers, the two hope to unify the brand while also showing off the spirit both brothers love. 

We caught up with Andy and Charles shortly after the announcement (and a few sips from each of the new bottles) to learn more about what they’re now pouring. 

Diving into the Nelson Brothers’ Latest Label

As the world of craft spirits, and especially Tennessee whiskeys, opens up, what would you say sets Nelson Brothers apart?

Photo of the Nelson Brothers, seated and standing, of Nelson's Green Brier Distillery

We want to make sure people know that the Nelson Brothers products are bourbons, not Tennessee whiskeys. They do contain some Tennessee-made bourbon, but they also have Kentucky and Indiana bourbons in them, too. It’s our Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey that will be our shining light in the world of Tennessee Whiskey specifically.

But having these multiple products in our portfolio is part of what makes us special and sets us apart from other Tennessee Whiskey producers. Not everyone in Tennessee has both a bourbon and a Tennessee whiskey on the market.

Ultimately, though, it’s our brand and family history that sets us apart. We are constantly trying to honor our family’s legacy as the finest Tennessee Whiskey producers in the world before Prohibition, while balancing it with the fact that we, Charlie and Andy Nelson, want to put our own personal fingerprints on the future of the brand.

We aren’t just putting our name on the bottle, our family’s name on the bottle, we are creating the recipe, we are choosing the barrels, we are watching this bourbon be made, and couldn’t be prouder to see our name represented.

You got off the ground with Belle Meade Bourbon, and then put so much of your family’s history and historical recipes into the making of Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey. Why the decision to start a new label?

It’s as simple as this: When you see a bottle of Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey next to a bottle of Belle Meade Bourbon, there’s no clear connection or visual cue that the brands come from the same portfolio or company. We started having to explain our connection to every single person, and there was still inevitably some confusion. It just didn’t make sense.

When you look at Green Brier next to Nelson Brothers, it’s immediately clear that they are from the same producer and are in the same portfolio. Even though the spirit in the Nelson Brothers bottles is very similar (but not the same) to what was in Belle Meade, it’s a matter of having a clear, cohesive brand portfolio that fits together much more naturally in the minds of anyone that’s introduced to our brands.

With Nelson Brothers, you’re going after your own personal styles of whiskey—what would you say are each of your preferred qualities in a good whiskey and how are those being showcased under Nelson Brothers?

Bottle of the Nelson Brothers Classic Nelson Bros Whiskey Bottle of the Nelson Brothers Classic Nelson Bros Reserve Bourbon

With the Nelson Brothers Classic, we’ve taken our high rye blend of bourbons and made it as approachable as possible, something that will work wonderfully neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, and at a reasonable (but still elevated) 93.3 proof.

With Nelson Brothers Reserve, we’ve kicked the proof up to 107.8 and gone with a similarly balanced profile, but with bigger bolder elements and flavors. The idea is for more of a high-end experience, perhaps a “Captain’s List” cocktail or a special night cap drink.

Of the two new bottlings, which are each of you reaching for on a weeknight? And which are you reaching for during a more celebratory toast?

For the everyday drinker, we’re going with Nelson Brothers Classic. It’s specifically tailored to be as versatile as you want it to be, whether you like it neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, that’s exactly the idea. We recommend Nelson Brothers Classic Bourbon in a classic whiskey cocktail like a Boulevardier or Old Fashioned.

For a celebratory toast, that’s the Nelson Brothers Reserve for sure. It’s got that higher proof and packs a bit more of a punch with bigger, bolder flavors. It’s been a big time favorite of most everyone who’s tried it and it’s meant to be enjoyed neat. With all that said whether during an evening with friends or celebrating an exciting life event – it all really depends on how you want to drink it.

What do you see in the future for Nelson Brothers? And for Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery overall?
Even though we sold our first bottle of Belle Meade ten years ago, we feel that this is just the beginning for Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery.

We have learned so much since we started this business and we have taken these lessons and leaned into them while developing Nelson Brothers. We have big aspirations for this company, and we believe Nelson Brothers will be a household name in short order. We also believe that our flagship brand Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey can become the premier Tennessee whiskey in the world, and we absolutely plan on making that a reality.

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