Andy and Charlie Nelson talk about their generations-old family business, and how they decided to start it up again.
“There’s something sort of magical about the spirit that you put into the bottle.” — Andy Nelson
Andy and Charlie Nelson were headed to a Robertson County butcher in 2006 when their lives changed forever.
At a gas station in Greenbrier, they saw a historical marker with their great-great-great-grandfather’s name on it. He had operated a distillery there before Prohibition.
It was a revelation.
Their family had told stories about Charles Nelson’s whiskey-making prowess for years, but the brothers never realized the scale of their family’s operation. In the 1800s, it was the biggest whiskey distillery in Tennessee.
Instantly intrigued, the 20-something brothers became amateur sleuths. As they learned more about their family history — through trips to the Greenbrier Historical Society and the Tennessee State Archives — they began to formulate a plan.
They would reboot the family distillery.
“Everything seemed to make sense all of the sudden,” Charlie said.
“Then we had to start raising money,” Andy answered.
Eleven years later, the brothers are running Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery out of an old packaging building in Nashville’s Marathon Village where workers used to make burlap sand bags.
For the Nelsons, the business is clearly about more than booze. The building is crammed full of artifacts from their ancestor’s distillery, and everything from the horses on their Belle Meade Bourbon bottles to the proof of their “white whiskey” ties back to family history.
“We knew that we had alcohol running in our veins,” Charlie said.
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