View Full Version : Greenbrier

01-13-2007, 12:02
Hey guys, Im new to this site, but i have been reading posts for the past year or so. Only now have I decided to register. Anyhow, I love history, especially history pertaining to whiskey. Now, i know that this is a bourbon site, but i wanted to try and find out some information about Tennessee whiskey. Well, to be honest Im not sure the whiskey i am interested in would have even been considered Tennessee whiskey because it did not go through the Lincoln County process. I know that you guys have some info about Greenbrier in KY, does anyone have much knowledge about Greenbrier, TN and the whiskey that was produced there? I have a bit of info/history about it, but my thirst for knowledge has yet to be quenched. Any bit of info would be very much appreciated.

01-13-2007, 23:51
"Tennessee Whiskey" is like "small batch." It's a term coined and then defined by a producer. Neither term has any legal meaning, except that "Tennessee Whiskey" has been recognized as a "distinctive product" of the USA by treaty with the EU, Canada and Mexico, and the regs require any statement of geographical origin to be true. Therefore, as far as the law is concerned, if you want to call a product "Tennessee Whiskey" it has to be (1) made in Tennessee and, (2) whiskey. That's it.

That said, I can't help you with Greenbrier, TN. I know there were once many more distilleries in Tennessee than the two that remain, but I don't know much more than that.

01-14-2007, 06:27
That said, I can't help you with Greenbrier, TN. I know there were once many more distilleries in Tennessee than the two that remain, but I don't know much more than that.

The distilleries of Kentucky have been documented and we all know some or a lot of their history. This quote about distilleries in Tennessee has got my interest up.
Is there any place on the 'net to look up TN distilleries?
Were they all wiped out when prohibition came in. I do know TN became "dry" before national prohibition.
Were TN distilleries very small and more local back then? Similar to beer breweries, when every small town had at least one.

01-14-2007, 06:44
To answer my own question, I just did a Google search and came up with this article, a good historical read. TN distilleries contributed a lot (via taxes) in the development of TN, and when proabition came most people in that business went into banking.

Here's the link.


Greenbrier was mentioned as having the largest distillery in that county.

01-15-2007, 09:46
I appreciate the help, unfortunately, i did already know about that article, and it is quite good. To be honest, it was my great great grandfather who started the distillery in Greenbrier, and the history is quite fascinating, but like I said, I am trying to get as much info as possible. One aspect of the product that i do not quite understand is the "No."s on whiskey bottles. For example, Chas. Nelson's Greenbrier Whiskey was old No. 5, Jack is old No. 7, but what does that mean? I have heard that it is the sequence of registration with the federal government, but Mr. Lunn, the master distiller of Dickel, told me it was almost meaningless. Also, i thought it was pretty cool to see my cousin's bottle of Chas. Nelson Rye from 1899.

01-15-2007, 10:04
If you go to the state archive in Nashville, you will find a little information on Charles Nelson "Greenbeir" whiskey. The have a Sanbourb Insurance map of the distillery showing its charcoal mellowing vats, so yes, it did use the Lincoln County process. There are also a few articles on the distillery as well. I spent several days in the archive there and failed to find a lot on Tennessee distilling.

The United Distillers Archive also has a trademark file on the brand, but that archive is closed to the public.

Mike Veach

01-15-2007, 10:43
Mike, your information is great, thank you. Do you know how i could access the state archive to find these articles? Is it possible to do online, or do i need to go to the actual office? Also, do you know of any way i could access the United Distillers Archives pertaining to my ancestor?
Thanks again,
Charlie Nelson

01-18-2007, 10:05
I don't think that you will find this information on line. I had to spend a couple of days there to find the information. The archive is downtown near the capital building. I stayed in the Motel 6 downtown and walked the 2 blocks or so to the archive everyday. If you go ask for Darla or Tom. They are the ones who helped me and both are vaery knowledgable and eager to help. You should be able to find the Sanbourn maps fairly easy - within an hour's time to find, study and copy.

The United Distillers Archive is closed to the public. I can usually get in and even take someone with me, but the problem is getting to the files. When I worked there, I had a fork lift and a cage to access the 30 foot tall shelving. Now they have to arrange for someone to come in and use a lift if I want something on shelves above 8' in height (about 60% of the collection).

Mike Veach

01-19-2007, 14:16
Mike, you are a good man. I truly appreciate every bit of help offered in my quest to learn more about the man after whom I am named. I will definitely be going downtown to do some research.:bowdown:

11-20-2007, 11:29
After doing some research and discovering old documents from within the family, I have found a few things that are interesting to note.

- Charles Nelson owned a warehouse on Main Street in Louisville until at least 1910--- I have a receipt for a case of Greenbrier Whiskey bought from Charles, by a man from North Carolina....the case cost $12.75

- Letters between Charles Nelson and his son William speak about travels from Nashville to Louisville, and just south of the city, then on to Cincinnati...a pretty regular trip

Now, Charles Nelson was a millionaire by 1885, he owned a distillery in Greenbrier, TN and a warehouse in Louisville, KY, he travelled from Nashville to Cincinnati fairly often (Greenbrier, KY and Bardstown being between the two cities). AND the two bottles, Greenbrier, TN and Greenbrier, KY, have some very similar attributes. This being said, I can't help but think that Charles Nelson had at least a small role in the happenings at the Greenbrier, KY distillery.


11-20-2007, 15:57
Greenbrier, Kentucky, is about five miles south of Bardstown on route 527. Mapquest shows three Greenbriers in Tennessee near Nashville, one each in Robertson, Cheatham and Williamson County. Do you know which one had the distillery?

It would be valuable to know if in either case the town was named after the distillery or vice versa. If the distilleries were named after the towns, it could be pure coincidence that there have been two distilleries called Greenbrier.

As for Sanborn Maps, they are available on-line theoretically. They have a website, but one has to have an account with them. I've never spent enough time on it to figure it out.

By the way, I went back and scanned this thread. If you are being parsimonious about sharing the information you already have, please don't be. There are many people here who would enjoy knowing everything you know about Charles Nelson's whiskey-making business.

11-21-2007, 07:37
I saw the Sanborn map for Greenbriar distillery in the Tennessee Historical Society. The distillery was near Nashville in Robinson County. It would not suprise me if Nelson had a hand in the Kentucky distillery because I never saw a trademark dispute between the two companies. It does make sense that Nelson had a Louisville Warehouse in 1910 because that was the year peohibition closed the Tennessee distilleries and forced their storage out of the state. Dickel signed their production agreement with Stitzel the same year and built a charcoal column at the Stitzel distillery. Jack Daniels moved storage to St. Louis and put their offices in Mundfordsville, Ky.

Mike Veach

11-21-2007, 10:38
Yes, the distillery was in Robertson County, about 30 min north of Nashville. The barrel house is still standing today. Charles Nelson died in 1891 of congestion of the lungs. Greenbrier, i do not think was not named after the distillery, BUT, the economic prosperity brought about by the distillery helped Greenbrier flourish. The people of Greenbrier are very kind, and there is a small historical society with a couple bottles of the old whiskey, some newspaper articles, and a nice lady named Miss Sheila Watts, who would love to help anyone looking for information on the subject. After Charles died, his wife Louisa assumed operations with Charles Nelson Jr., but when prohibition hit, she made the decision not to move operations underground. The family was not all behind her, but she was not a lady to be second guessed. Charles, the father, was President of Nashville Bank and Trust until he died, so Louisa and the Nelsons put all their money into banking, the majority of the distillery and equipment was shut down and sold for scrap. The barrel house was used as a tobacco smoke house until not too long ago. Nashville Bank and Trust is still around today... also, a couple cool facts from Charles Nelson and his friends

At his grocery store on 2nd avenue in Nashville (unfortunately now is McFaddens) a man named Joel Cheek used to deliver coffee to the back door, on 1st avenue. The coffee and whiskey were the best selling products at the grocery store. Charles took Joel aside one day and said, "Hey Joel, take this coffee, take this blend, and maybe you can start a business with this"...Joel then went a few blocks up to the Maxwell House Hotel and introduced this coffee to the people there. You might recognize the names Maxwell House and Coffee, seems as though they go together well...
Also, a man named H.G. Hill was the butcher at the grocery on 2nd avenue. I don't know if H.G. Hills grocery is anywhere outside of Nashville, but if you know Nashville, you know where I'm going with this. When Charles put his focus on the whiskey, he helped his friend Mr. Hill with his butcher shop, which evolved into a grocery store, still in existence in Nashville.

I apologize if it seemed as though I was withholding knowledge about Charles Nelson and his whiskey making business. Its just that I prefer to talk in person. I'm very willing to talk about it anytime, and enjoy every second of it. Listening to and telling stories is one of my favorite things to do.

-Charlie Nelson

11-22-2007, 10:12
Charles, thanks for the fascinating historical info (and the trivia tidbits regarding Maxwell House, etc.)

I just picked up an interesting bottle with a Greenbrier connection. I won't rehash the whole thing here, but it appears the whiskey in question was distilled at Greenbrier and bottled at Commonwealth. It's in the "Collectibles" forum under "Some dusty bottles..." I have only recently begun to explore the historical info on this site and as accumulated by Chuck, Mike and others, and I find it intriguing. Now that I have begun to accumulate a few bottles with more than a few years of history behind them, I am eager to taste that history.

12-08-2007, 12:27
Hi Chuck,

Greenbrier, Kentucky, is about five miles south of Bardstown on route 527

Actually, the little community of Greenbrier is about 5 miles south on Hwy 49, Loretto Road. You don't pick up 527 until you leave Holy Cross (home to Kentucky's First Catholic Church (http://www.sf-hc.org/history.html)). Truth be known, Greenbrier proper is better known for its moonshine than a distillery. I've heard some pretty crazy stories over the years...:lol:

The Greenbrier Distillery was actually east of Bardstown off the Woodlawn Rd. There's an Amercian Greetings plant and subdivisions there now. I gotta chance to walk thru the old bottling house before they tore it down.

12-10-2007, 14:27
well, you learn something new everyday. I appreciate the clarification.