Back in the Day

 

Belle Meade Bourbon was one of about 30 different labels that Charles Nelson produced in the late 1800’s. It differed from most of his other products in that it was produced in conjunction with a third party, Sperry Wade & Company of Nashville, TN. Sperry Wade & Company was formed by the Sperry and Wade families who were instrumental in making the Belle Meade Plantation a world famous horse farm. Sperry Wade & Company contracted Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery to create bourbon, rye, corn, & Tennessee whiskies bearing the Belle Meade name and soon Belle Meade Bourbon was the toast of the town.

Belle Meade Bourbon became known as a great value and top quality product and was sold from 1878 until 1909 when Tennessee adopted state-wide Prohibition and production came to an end. 

 
 
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What Were the Chances?

 
 

Fast foward to 2006. Andy and Charlie Nelson, two young men just graduating from college, were running an errand with their father, Bill. They were headed to a butcher shop in Greenbrier, Tennessee, just north of their home town of Nashville to pick up their share of a butchered cow. Running low on fuel, they pulled over for a fill-up and noticed a historical marker detailing the once-influential Nelson's Green Brier Distillery run by Charles Nelson. 

Charlie and Andy had heard stories about a distiller in the family's past but they were never sure it was more than a glorified moonshine operation. When they reached the butcher, just up the road from the historical marker, they asked if he knew anything about the old distillery. He pointed to some old buildings across the road that were once part of the workings of Nelson's Green Brier Distillery. 

These buildings included an old barrel warehouse, a building that housed fermentation vats and the old spring house with the spring still running after all those years. 

After sipping from the spring they headed back to the butcher who referred them to the nearby Greenbrier Historical Society. You might say that old butcher had some idea of what the boys were in for.

It was there that the brothers first set eyes upon original whiskey bottles bearing the family name. Charlie says to this day that it was a moment of clarity unlike any he has ever known. 

The decision to bring back the family business, once an industry giant, was made then and there in the hearts of the two young men.  If not for this chance encounter with a historical marker, who knows when or if the distillery would ever have been reborn?

 
 
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Dedication

 

The Nelson family's goal was to rebuild the once great distillery but they knew it wouldn't be easy. It took years of research and planning, not to mention putting up everything they had just to get their first product to market. As it turned out, not many investors were ready to jump into a long term investment on a distillery run by two young men fresh from college.  In a day when the economy was in dire straits and the idea of a craft distillery was unknown to most, Charlie spent years being told "no" by potential investors on a daily basis, but that didn't stop the Nelsons.

They knew that they needed a whiskey to provide a revenue stream and to act as proof that their ideas, know-how, and passion were worthy of investment. They decided to produce a bourbon, well-aged and with unique character, by sourcing whiskey from another distiller, just the way Belle Meade Bourbon was originally produced. 

After a hand full of false starts the Nelsons decided to make Belle Meade Bourbon from a proprietary blend.  They tasted and tasted, until they found the perfect combination - an outstanding, well-aged bourbon that tasted unlike any other in the world. For the label, Andy and Charlie reached out to the descendants of the Sperry and Wade families. Sure enough, they had what the brothers were looking for and supplied them with the original artwork. To this day, the SW&Co markers still adorn the front label in their honor. In fact, little was changed from the original label.

 
 
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A Horse of a Different Color

 
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The Belle Meade Bourbon label was designed to pay respect to two of the most admired studs from the Belle Meade Plantation. It is almost exactly the same as it was more than 100 years ago.

The horse depicted on the right is Bonnie Scotland, one of the founders of the Northern Dancer bloodline. Some of the descendants of this bloodline include Seabiscuit, War Admiral, Man O’ War, Secretariat, California Chrome, American Pharaoh, and Nyquist to name just a few. 

The name of the stud on the left side of the label? Brown Dick. He never won a race but was famous in his own right and studded out numerous times. Brown Dick’s provocative name was also the reason why the Nelson brothers decided to make a slight alteration to the original label by removing the names of the horses.

 
 
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Today

 

The plan paid off. Today, Belle Meade Bourbon is once again proudly and painstakingly aged, blended, and bottled to perfection at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee. 

Since its launch, Belle Meade Bourbon has received rave reviews, numerous awards, and is sold in many markets across the United States.

We welcome you to stop by for a tour and tasting as we are always happy to have friends, family, and fans of Belle Meade Bourbon visit and to hear their stories and how they like to enjoy Belle Meade Bourbon.

Cheers!

 
 
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