Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery
Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery
Open land where distillery buildings once sat
|Location||Main St. W of Greenbrier Cemetery Rd., Greenbrier, Tennessee|
|NRHP Reference #||08000703|
|Added to NRHP||July 24, 2008|
Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery, in Greenbrier, Robertson County, Tennessee, was an historic whiskey distillery, the site of which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Descendants of the founder have undertaken an initiative to revive the brand.
The distillery was established on Rocky Fork Creek in 1867 and was acquired in 1870 by Charles Nelson of Nashville, who greatly expanded the establishment in the ensuing years. The whiskey it produced was sold in other parts of the United States under the label "Nelson's Best". The Greenbrier distillery operated until 1909, when Tennessee enacted prohibition of alcoholic beverages.
In 1885 the distillery produced 380,000 US gallons (1,400,000 L) of whiskey, making it the largest producer of sour mash whiskey in Robertson County in a period when whiskey production was a major industry in Tennessee and Robertson County was one of the state's largest producers of whiskey. At that time, the annual production capacity of Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg was only 23,000 US gallons (87,000 L).
Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery was a major contributor to the economy and growth of the town of Greenbrier during the late 19th century. It employed about 25 people directly and provided a market for farmers' corn, locally made barrels, and other products. Its presence resulted in the construction of a railroad line and station in Greenbrier.
Whiskey production at the Greenbrier distillery ended after Tennessee enacted prohibition on July 1, 1909, but whiskey that had been produced before that time continued to be sold in other states until 1915. Although Robertson County whiskey had enjoyed a reputation for superior quality, the county's whiskey industry was not revived after prohibition ended.
The property's listing on the National Register reflects its importance in industry and commerce, as well as its association with proprietor Charles Nelson, who was prominent in areas including banking, farming, and barrel-making. The listed property is a 5-acre (2.0 ha) area, although the distillery occupied a much larger area. Most of the distillery buildings are no longer present. The only historic buildings that remain are an early 20th-century warehouse, a spring house that supplied fresh water to the distillery, and a barrel house. The site includes a dam across Rocky Fork Creek. One old mash tub and remnants of building foundations are found on the grounds.
Revival of the brand
In 2011, two of the great-great-great-grandsons of Charles Nelson announced an initiative to revive the Nelson's brand and produce whiskey using Charles Nelson's recipes. As of March 2012, they had obtained initial investor funding and were bottling whiskey produced in another state for sale under the label Belle Meade Bourbon (a brand name used historically by Nelson's), while obtaining the permits and equipment necessary to open their own distillery.
On November 23, 2014, their new Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery opened in Nashville. It offers tours that feature the Nelson's Greenbrier brand and its history. The tours include tastings and a visit to the production floor.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery, 2008, archived from the original on February 10, 2009
- Tennessee Historical Commission, Nine Tennessee Sites Added to the National Register of Historic Places, press release, September 14, 2008
- Milt Capps, NewsBits, Oct. 26, 2011, Venture Nashville Connections. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
- Walker Duncan (March 11, 2012), "Local distillers carry on Tennessee's whiskey history", The City Paper (Nashville, Tennessee)