Victoria Eady Butler had no idea that she would be leaving her cozy career in criminal justice to make history in the whiskey business. In case you didn’t know, Eady Butler is the first African American female Master Blender in the U.S spirits industry. Even though she didn’t plan to take this path, it’s deeply embedded in her background.
Eady Butler is the great-great granddaughter of Nathan “Nearest” Green, who is credited for mentoring Jack Daniel, famous for Jack Daniel’s Whiskey brand. Green was born into slavery in 1820 in Maryland. His owners, Landis and Green, would allow for him to be rented to a neighborhood preacher named Dan Call. Green and Daniel met through Call. According to Food & Wine, historians believe that Green taught Daniel whiskey distilling and served as his mentor. Green taught Daniel the “Lincoln County method” a West-African alcohol producing method where whiskey is filtered through charcoal. Green secured a position as the first master distiller when Jack Daniel opened his whiskey distillery.
This history was forgotten over time, but re-emerged in 2017 when entrepreneur and author Fawn Weaver founded Uncle Nearest, an independent whiskey brand, in Green’s honor. Weaver was determined to hire one of his descendants and summoned Eady Butler.
Eady Butler, who was an Analytical Manager in the Department of Justice at the time, had no interest in being in the spirits industry even though it is a part of her roots.
“I’ve always known about Nearest,” Butler told her alma mater Middle Tennessee State University. “My grandmother shared his story with me when I was a young girl growing up in Lynchburg. I always knew what his contribution was and who he was, but I never considered working in the spirits industry.”
Even though it wasn’t her original trade, Eady Butler said she’s “damn good at blending whiskey, which was inherited from a man I never met.” Since she stepped in to her role as master blender, Uncle Nearest has won 125 awards.
“We started winning awards right out of the gate with the 1884 expression,” she said. “After the second batch I curated, I was elevated to be the master blender. I am honored for the privilege of doing it. I’ve always enjoyed making cocktails.”
Eady Butler gives all the praises to Weaver who helped her find “a passion I didn’t realize was there.”