Pouring Equality: Celebrating Female Pioneers in Tennessee’s Whiskey Industry

Tuesday, March 12, 2024 | 11:54am
TN Women in Whiskey

Alex Castle, Old Dominick Distillery, Fawn Weaver and Victoria Eady Butler, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey and Nicole Austin, Cascade Hollow Distilling Co.  Photos for media use linked here.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 12, 2024) – In the world of Tennessee whiskey, a new narrative is unfolding. From the hallowed grounds of storied distilleries to the forefront of innovation, a number of remarkable Tennessee women not only shaped the landscape of one of America's most iconic industries but also shattered glass ceilings and defied convention. For Women’s History Month this March, we’re celebrating the indomitable spirit and groundbreaking contributions of women in the Tennessee whiskey industry.

Fawn Weaver + Victoria Eady Butler, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey (Shelbyville)
A woman of many talents, Fawn Weaver is an entrepreneur, a New York Times-bestselling author, a TED speaker and CEO/founder of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, the fastest-growing American whiskey brand in the U.S. — and the best-selling African American founded spirit brand of all time. Equally talented is Victoria Eady Butler, who fills the role of Master Distiller at Uncle Nearest. It’s a family affair: Butler’s great-great-grandfather was Nathan “Nearest” Green, the enslaved (and later emancipated) Tennessean who taught Jack Daniel the craft of distilling.

  • Visit: During a guided tour, go behind the scenes at Nearest Green Distillery, and taste the Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey flight, which includes the Master Blend Edition, sold exclusively on-site. And don’t miss the craft cocktails at the distillery’s Humble Baron Bar, where you’ll enjoy 518-foot-long showpiece bar (the world’s longest!), live music and a gospel brunch celebration every Sunday.

Nicole Austin, Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. (Tullahoma)
Fun fact: George Dickel is the only American whiskey distillery owned by a woman in the 1800s that’s still in production. Now renamed Cascade Hollow Distilling Co., the Tullahoma distillery — and its women-powered energy — live on in the 21st century. Master Distiller since 2018, Nicole Austin is the whiskey genius behind some of Cascade Hollow’s most beloved releases, including such legacy items as George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond and Dickel Bourbon.

Louisa Nelson, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery (Nashville)
Another woman who looms large in the history of Tennessee whiskey is Louisa Nelson, who emerged as a pioneering force in the industry during the late 19th century. In 1863, she married Charles Nelson, who initiated the Nelson Distillery in Greenbrier, Tennessee in the early 1870s. Following Charles’s passing in 1891, Louisa assumed leadership, transforming the distillery's footprint from 50 acres to a staggering 980 acres, propelling Nelson's Green Brier Distillery to international acclaim until prohibition forced them to close. Louisa’s descendants revived the family business and pay homage to their matriarch with her own line of liqueur. Visitors interested in learning more about this “great woman behind a great whiskey” can explore the Nelson's Green Brier Distillery exhibits at the Greenbrier Historical Society Museum and Library (Wed.-Fri., 10am-4pm or Sat., 10am-1pm).

  • Visit: Take a guided tour of Green Brier Distillery’s Marathon Village location in Nashville and learn more about how brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson revived the family business.

Devin Walden, Big Machine Distillery (Lynnville & Nashville)
Initially a tattoo artist and part-time bartender, Devin Walden stumbled into the craft beverage industry as a temporary employee on the bottling line at Woodford Reserve. She immersed herself in the craft, eventually becoming the famed brand’s first female distillery operator. Now at Big Machine Distillery in Tennessee, she tackles diverse challenges daily, from cooking mash to refining production schedules.

  • Visit: At its downtown Nashville location, Big Machine Distillery offers an entertaining/educational tour with a tasting of a wide array of its craft spirits. As an add-on, guests can bottle their own Double Gold Award-Winning Platinum-Filtered Big Machine Vodka, or Single Barrel Clayton James Tennessee Whiskey straight from the barrel.

Kendra Anderson, Leiper's Fork Distillery (Franklin)
From grain selection, mashing, fermentation, distillation, barrel aging and bottling — Leiper’s Fork controls every step of its intricate whiskey-making process. Leading this fiercely independent charge is Head Distiller Kendra Anderson, whose dedication to using pre-prohibition technique and a small-batch approach (the distillery only makes 25,000 gallons of whiskey annually) has resulted in some of the finest spirits to ever come out of Tennessee.

  • Visit: On a guided tour of Leiper’s Fork, you’ll visit the distillery’s stillhouse, learn how they make this traditional small-batch whiskey and get a taste of their spirits in a 200-year-old tasting room.

Tiana Saul, Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery (Chattanooga)
Tiana Saul, Head Distiller at Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery, left an indelible mark on Tennessee’s spirits world with innovations like barrel-aged gins and infused liqueurs. Her adept blending skills also played a crucial role in shaping the acclaimed Chattanooga Whiskey Finishing Series and Bottled in Bond Vintage Series. At the helm of Chattanooga Whiskey, Saul leads a team of 15 full-time employees, overseeing all aspects of production from grain to glass.

  • Visit: With over 100 different barrels maturing in the aging cellar, every visit to the experimental distillery is an exploration of the past, present and future of hand-crafted bourbon. Reserve a tour and tasting to check out the latest and greatest.

Lexie Phillips, Jack Daniel Distillery (Lynchburg)
Lexie's journey at the legendary Jack Daniel Distillery began in quality control and distillery operations, where she steadily rose to the position of Assistant Distiller. Today, she works closely with Master Distiller Chris Fletcher to drive whiskey innovation. As one of the few women to serve in this role, Lexie is keen on inspiring the next generation of female distillers and passionately shares her knowledge as a brand ambassador through tasting events, brand education, and insightful distillery tours for Lynchburg visitors.

  • Visit: On the immersive Jack n’ Back tour, spend a day in historic Lynchburg, with plenty of tastings and the full story of how the highest selling American whiskey in the world grew from the smallest county in Tennessee.

Alex Castle, Old Dominick Distillery (Memphis)
Whiskey isn’t just a job for Alex Castle, Old Dominick Distillery’s Master Distiller and Vice President. It’s a lifelong passion. “I love that I get to be creative,” she says. “I really enjoy product development and getting to play with different flavors and ingredients.” With early experience in the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon belt, Alex brings a spirit of experimentation to her work at Old Dominick — you must try their oatmeal raisin cookie bourbon.

  • Visit: From an in-depth discussion into the history of whiskey in Memphis to an exclusive look into Old Dominick’s aging loft, the Beyond the Barrel experience is a whiskey lover’s dream come true.

Jessica Callahan, Tennessee Hills (Jonesborough)
Born and raised in Washington County, Jessica Callahan’s roots run deep in the community that Tennessee Hills Distillery calls home. Alongside her husband and co-owner Stephen, she left behind a comfortable 9-to-5 job, immersing herself in every aspect of the whiskey business, from the hands-on labor to the intricate art of constructing stills. That relentless dedication culminated in the opening of Tennessee Hills Distillery in 2016, housed in the historic Salt House of Jonesborough.

  • Visit: Do yoga and whiskey go well together? At Tennessee Hills they do! Every Wednesday from 4:30-5:30pm, join a yoga session — and then enjoy a sampling of the distillery’s best offerings.

A Sip of History
Saturday, April 6
This spring, Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage and the Tennessee Whiskey Trail will host the ninth annual Sip of History event, an afternoon of whiskey sampling, live music and dog-friendly fun at Nashville’s presidential homesite. Taking place in one of Tennessee’s most beautiful and historic settings, Sip of History offers visitors the chance to learn about and support several of Tennessee’s woman-led distilleries, including Old Dominick, Uncle Nearest, Cascade Hollow, Jack Daniel and more.

For more Tennessee whiskey experiences, discover the Tennessee Whiskey Trail.


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Media Contacts:
Amanda Murphy

Jill Kilgore

Alli Lapps