The Original Tennessee Whiskey! It’s Not What You’d Think

Tennessee whiskey is one of the most popular types of whiskey in the world. While many come to Tennessee to tour the famous “Lynchburg” brand, many will be surprised to know that the original Tennessee whiskey is a revived secret that will surprise you! Enter Greenbrier Distillery! The Greenbrier Distillery has a rich history of producing some of the finest Tennessee whiskey, and the Greenbrier brand is highly regarded by whiskey connoisseurs around the world.

Distillery in Nashville

History of Greenbrier Distillery

Nelson’s Green Brier Heritage is a story of a family’s determination to succeed despite the odds. It is the story of Charles Nelson, a young German immigrant who arrived in America with his family in 1850, seeking a better life. Despite losing his father during the journey, Charles managed to establish a thriving business empire in Nashville, Tennessee, which became the envy of his peers. This article will explore the story of Nelson’s Green Brier Whiskey, which played a significant role in shaping the American whiskey industry.

Charles Nelson’s journey from Germany to Tennessee was fraught with challenges. When he arrived in New York, he was just 15 years old, and he found himself the man of the house after his father’s untimely death. Despite these challenges, he persevered and became successful in the soap and candle-making business. However, it was his move to Nashville and his entry into the grocery business that paved the way for his success in the whiskey industry.

Charles’s grocery store was a hit in Nashville, thanks to his three best-selling products: coffee, meat, and whiskey. His reputation for honesty and fair dealings soon earned him a prominent place in Nashville’s merchant circles. However, the demand for his whiskey soon outstripped his supply, and Charles realized the opportunity to focus solely on whiskey production.

Charles Nelson, Founder

The Greenbrier brand quickly became popular, and the distillery expanded rapidly in the late 19th century. By 1900, the Greenbrier Distillery was producing over 2,000 barrels of whiskey per year, making it one of the largest distilleries in Tennessee. Charles bought the distillery that was making his whiskey in Greenbrier, TN, and a patent for improved distillation. He expanded the production capacity in order to keep up with demand. With this expansion, Nelson was not only creating more jobs, he was making a name for Tennessee Whiskey. By 1885, there were hundreds of whiskey distilleries in Tennessee, but only a handful were producing significant volume. That year, Charles Nelson sold nearly 380,000 gallons, that’s around 2 million bottles, of Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey.

Whiskey Trademark
Distillery Employees during the beginning days

During Prohibition, the Greenbrier Distillery was forced to shut down, and the company’s assets were sold off. However, the Greenbrier brand was revived in the 2000s, when Andy and Charlie Nelson, the great-great-grandsons of Charles Nelson, decided to revive the family business.

The Nelson brothers restored the Greenbrier Distillery to its former glory, using the same traditional methods and recipes that their ancestors used over a century ago. Today, the Greenbrier Distillery is one of the most respected and successful distilleries in Tennessee, and the Greenbrier brand is known around the world for its quality and craftsmanship.

Andy and Charles Nelson…Revived the Brand

In the scorching summer of 2006, a remarkable event took place in Greenbrier, Tennessee. Bill Nelson, a man with deep family roots in the whiskey business, took his two sons, Andy and Charlie, on a visit to a local butcher. As they drove through the town, the three men reminisced about the stories they had heard of their family’s whiskey business, which had once flourished in the area.

Upon reaching their destination, the butcher, Chuck, was thrilled to learn about their family heritage and could not wait to show them around. He pointed out the warehouse that their grandfather had built and the street that was named after their family’s distillery. Chuck also mentioned a natural spring, which had never stopped flowing and offered the purest water for the whiskey-making process.

The three men eagerly explored the area and quenched their thirst with the fresh spring water. Chuck then suggested that they visit the Greenbrier Historical Society, where the Nelsons met with the curator. Here, the curator showed them two original bottles of Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey, which were perfectly preserved and highly valuable.

For Charlie and Andy, seeing those bottles was a life-changing moment. They knew that resurrecting their family’s whiskey business was their destiny. With sincere conviction, they made a pact to bring the business back to life.

From Past to Present

For the next three years, the Nelsons worked tirelessly to re-form the whiskey business that had shut down exactly 100 years earlier during the Prohibition era. Despite the challenges, they were driven by their passion for the craft and a deep desire to uphold their family legacy. They researched extensively, planned strategically, and worked hard to create top-quality products that were appreciated by aficionados everywhere.

Today, Nelson’s Green Brier Whiskey is a thriving business that has won numerous awards and accolades for its quality and craftsmanship. Charlie and Andy have successfully brought their family’s legacy back to life, and their story serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving family heritage and following one’s passions.

For more information on Nelson’s Greenbrier Whiskey, visit their website at