Uncle Nearest Distillery’s First Rye Whiskey Is the Best New Rye of 2022

Bottle of Uncle Nearest Distillery Rye Whiskey on blue backdrop
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Nearest Green Distillery’s first release of rye whiskey is one of the best bottles of the year. We’re just sorry we didn’t get to tell you sooner. Uncle Nearest Rye is an uncut, unfiltered straight rye with a very limited release volume, but if it’s any indication of what’s to come, you should probably be lining up for the next batch now.

The Uncle Nearest brand honors the contributions of “Uncle” Nearest Green: the godfather of Tennessee whiskey and the master who taught a man by the name of Jack Daniel how to make whiskey.

From day one, one of the hallmarks of the Uncle Nearest brand has been a welcoming sense of transparency. The Shelbyville, TN brand has long been clear about its sourcing practices as they wait for their distillery to begin producing replacement stock for sourced whiskeys. The batches they’ve produced don’t need exaggeration anyway. This is a brand that produces great whiskey.

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With Uncle Nearest Rye, the Nearest team started with that same transparency straight out of the gate. “The funny thing about Tennessee,” the label states, “is for all our stunning farms and incredible farmers, we can’t grow rye worth a damn. A grain so easily grown in other states gets choked up in our soil. So, we went out to find the best straight rye and brought it back home to rest in used Uncle Nearest barrels. Where do we finally find it? New York, baby!”

They’re right. With few exceptions, rye grown in the south sucks, if it survives long enough to be judged in the first place. Rye is a hearty grain, and most of the rye you encounter in whiskey is either from northern states and Canada, or sourced from European providers.

The whiskey stocks that make up Uncle Nearest Rye were purchased from another producer located in New York, who had sourced this rye previously from Canada. That’s one hell of a detailed pedigree—whiskey producers the world over tend to lose track of some of these details in the marketing language, and while it’s clear that some names (the distiller and that New York partner) have been withheld for NDA reasons, one can probably cobble together a pretty good guess on this whiskey’s origins. The 100 percent rye mashbill certainly narrows down the potential suppliers.

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But truth be told, knowledge isn’t everything here. There’s an argument to be made for just letting the whiskey do the talking, and this one has quite the monologue to give. Bold, big buttery notes crescendo to a praline sweetness on the nose. On the palate, this whiskey’s intense proof point is hardly noticeable, first buzzing with a light vanilla cream before crackling with fireworks of burnt sugar, cinnamon, clove and the unmistakable minty spice of rye.

At 119.7 proof, it’s shockingly drinkable by itself. That’s a big digression for Tennessee whiskey generally, which is defined by filtration and, to a lesser extent, cutting. Victoria Eady Butler, the fifth-generation descendant of Nearest Green who is currently the brand’s master blender, said in a statement, “My great-great-grandfather was known for his whiskey filtration method, but this 100 percent rye is so spectacular, we dared not cut or filter it.”

(Uncle Nearest was also smart enough to print this on the label).

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Thankfully, Butler and her tasting panel remain undefeated in their decision-making after this bottle. And that’s no small feat. Canadian-source ryes tend to be polarizing drinking experiences, with intense flavors of spearmint, dill, and other herbaceous intonations crowding out subtlety. None of that is at work here. Somehow, even at nearly 120 proof, Uncle Nearest Rye is a hands-down crowd pleaser of a dram.

Unfortunately, most of those crowds will remain un-pleased for the time being. Blend No. 1 is, unfortunately for everyone outside of Tennessee, a distillery exclusive, but Founder Fawn Weaver and the Uncle Nearest team have already clarified that more straight rye and some single barrel products are on the way shortly.

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In the meantime, this is the bottle classic rye lovers should be searching for for the rest of the year. The whiskey retailed for about $150 at the distillery, but on the secondary market where you’re most likely to find it today, we’d be more than willing to pay double the suggested price. As for you, you’ll have to make your own decision. But this isn’t a bottle to miss.

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