Food & Drink

Jack Daniel’s and Slavery: Now it Can Be Told

To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Jack Daniel’s isn’t coming out with a crazy-expensive bottle or partnering up with a fast food company to make whiskey-blasted taco shells. Instead, the company is finally embracing its complicated history and dropping the whitewashed version from its repertoire.

For more than a century, the brand had been leaving out a crucial player in the founding of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey: Nearis Green. A slave owned by preacher, grocer and distiller Dan Call—who was previously credited with instructing founder Jasper “Jack” Daniel on the art of whiskey making—Green was the one who actually taught Daniel everything he knew about distilling.

Though this history wasn’t exactly secret—it was published in the 1967 biography, Jack Daniel’s Legacy by Ben A. Green—it’s one that the brand has only recently acknowledged and decided to share with its fans and close to 275,000 yearly visitors. The brand plans to eventually share Green’s story on social media, as well as in its summer marketing campaign and during its distillery tours.

Some say Jack Daniel’s efforts to correct the flawed history are an effort to target millennial drinkers.
“When you look at the history of Jack Daniel’s, it’s gotten glossier over the years,” Peter Krass, author of Blood and Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel told The New York Times. “In the 1980s, they aimed at yuppies. I could see them taking it to the next level, to millennials, who dig social justice issues.”

A spokesman for Jack Daniel’s, however, told the Times that it was never a “conscious decision” to leave Green out of its story and that the brand decided it was time to set the record straight for good after it “realized it was something that we could be proud of.”