Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery of Nashville, TN, has been in business since 2014, and although many whiskey geeks have likely tasted their wares, many still aren’t familiar with the name. This is because the most well-known product rolling out of Nelson’s Green Brier has long been one of the better-regarded (and high value) sourced bourbons in the U.S., Belle Meade. Using the Belle Meade brand, the Tennessee distillery has brought whiskey from MGP of Indiana to the masses over the years, and often at a better price point than some of their competitors charging an arm and a leg for well-aged or cask-strength MGP bourbon. In fact, we included the Belle Meade Reserve on our recent list of the best bourbons under $60. But all the while, Nelson’s Green Brier has also been working on a true flagship product that they can call their own, and now that whiskey has finally rolled out around the U.S. Take note, folks—there’s a new Tennessee whiskey in town.
As with many other Tennessee whiskeys, this new flagship product from Nelson’s Green Brier could legally be labeled as “bourbon,” given that it meets all the requirements—it’s made from a corn-based mash bill, aged in newly charred oak, etc. Like most other whiskeys that choose to differentiate themselves as Tennessee whiskey, however, their product undergoes charcoal filtration/”mellowing” before bottling. It’s a small detail, but one important to the history of whiskey in Tennessee.
Let’s run through the other specs here: This is a non-age stated whiskey, with a label that says it’s “at least 2 years old,” although information online seems to suggest this is a blend of 2- to 5-year-old whiskeys, which makes sense for the distillery’s age. It’s bottled at 45.5% ABV (91 proof), at an MSRP of $30, which puts it on the low end of the whiskey mid-shelf—it’s going to be a bit pricier than the likes of Jack Daniels or Dickel, and instead falls into an area where you’ll likely be seeing small batch brands such as Knob Creek or Elijah Craig Small Batch. To us, that means any new whiskey in this sort of price point needs to prove it can hang with competition of roughly similar MSRPs.
So with that said, let’s get to tasting and see how Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey measures up to others in its relatively approachable price bracket.
On the nose, my initial reaction here was that this seemed quite malty or doughy, like a younger wheated bourbon, malt whiskey or perhaps a “four grain” bourbon—it has a grain forward, almost yeasty note that hints at its younger age. Behind that grain-forward note, however, there’s some interesting fruitiness, which reads as crisp apple and perhaps pear. As this whiskey sits in the glass, richer notes also started to emerge—I’m getting clove and significant maple, which works well with the graininess to evoke maple syrup-laced oatmeal.
On the palate, this drinks very light—the 91 proof isn’t particularly high, but this drinks extremely easily all the same. Ethanol is very mild and nicely integrated, and the whiskey has a slick texture without having a very full one. “Apple pie” springs to mind as one of the first flavor notes, with some lovely baked apple fruitiness meeting cinnamon and brown sugar, along with more of that maple oatmeal. Caramel candies assert themselves on subsequent sips, with a touch of Werther’s Original. I find myself returning again to just how easy this is to drink—not lacking in character, but also not bombastic. It’s the kind of whiskey where you could easily make a glass disappear very quickly.
All in all, I find Nelson’s Green Brier to be the sort of flagship that grew on me throughout the tasting. The initial dominance of grainy flavors and younger-seeming notes isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but those notes give way nicely to sweeter, fruitier, spicier dimensions of flavor. If anything, what this bottle really does is make me look forward to older, even more composed Nelson’s Green Brier line extensions in the future. I think it’s safe to say at least that they have a good base to build on in this bottle.
Distillery: Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
City: Nashville, TN
Style: Tennessee whiskey
ABV: 45.5% (91 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $30 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.