Back in the Day

Belle Meade Bourbon was one of about 30 different labels that Charles Nelson produced in the late 1800’s. It differed from most of his other products in that it was produced in conjunction with a third party, Sperry Wade & Company of Nashville, TN. Sperry Wade & Company contracted Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery to sell bourbon, rye, corn, & Tennessee whiskies bearing the Belle Meade brand. Belle Meade Bourbon was the toast of the town when it hit the market in 1878 and became known as a great value and top quality product. However, everything whiskey related in Tennessee would come to a screeching halt when the state became an early adopter of Prohibition in 1909. As a result the Belle Meade brand, like so many others, was lost and forgotten.


What Were the Chances?

Fast foward to 2006. Andy and Charlie Nelson, two young men just graduating from college, were running an errand with their father, Bill. They were headed to a butcher shop in Greenbrier, Tennessee, just north of their home town of Nashville to pick up their share of a butchered cow. Running low on fuel, they pulled over for a fill-up and noticed a historical marker detailing the once-influential Nelson's Green Brier Distillery run by Charles Nelson. 

Charlie and Andy had heard stories about a distiller in the family's past but they were never sure it was more than a glorified moonshine operation. When they reached the butcher, just up the road from the historical marker, they asked if he knew anything about the old distillery. He pointed to some old buildings across the road that were once part of the workings of Nelson's Green Brier Distillery.   These buildings included an old barrel warehouse, a building that housed fermentation vats and the old spring house with the spring still running after all those years.   After sipping from the spring they headed back to the butcher who referred them to the nearby Greenbrier Historical Society. You might say that old butcher had some idea of what the boys were in for.  It was there that the brothers first set eyes upon original whiskey bottles bearing the family name. Charlie says to this day that it was a moment of clarity unlike any he has ever known.   The decision to bring back the family business, once an industry giant, was made then and there in the hearts of the two young men. If not for this chance encounter with a historical marker, who knows when or if the distillery would ever have been reborn?



The Nelson family's goal was to rebuild the once great distillery but they knew it wouldn't be easy. It took years of research and planning, not to mention putting up everything they had just to get their first product to market. As it turned out, not many investors were ready to jump into a long term investment on a distillery run by two young men fresh from college. In a day when the economy was in dire straits and the idea of a craft distillery was unknown to most, Charlie spent years being told "no" by potential investors on a daily basis, but that didn't stop the Nelsons.  They decided that they needed a product to provide a revenue stream and to act as proof that their ideas, know-how, and passion were worthy of investment. They decided to produce a bourbon, well-aged and with unique character, by sourcing whiskey from another distiller. Their research had shown that their plan mimicked the way Belle Meade Bourbon had been sent to market by their ancestor 100 years earlier. Thus they decided the first brand they would resurrect would be Belle Meade Bourbon.  After a hand full of false starts the Nelsons decided to make Belle Meade Bourbon from a proprietary blend. They tasted and tasted, until they found the perfect combination - an outstanding, well-aged bourbon that tasted unlike any other in the world. For the label, Andy and Charlie reached out to the descendants of the Sperry and Wade families. Sure enough, they had what the brothers were looking for and supplied them with the original artwork. To this day, the SW&Co markers still adorn the front label in their honor. In fact, little was changed from the original label.


A Horse of a Different Color

The Belle Meade Bourbon label is almost exactly the same as it was more than 100 years ago.  The horse depicted on the right is Bonnie Scotland, one of the founders of the Northern Dancer bloodline. Some of the descendants of this bloodline include Seabiscuit, War Admiral, Man O’ War, Secretariat, California Chrome, American Pharaoh, and Nyquist to name just a few.



The plan paid off. Today, Belle Meade Bourbon is once again proudly and painstakingly aged, blended, and bottled to perfection at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee.   Since its launch, Belle Meade Bourbon has received rave reviews, numerous awards, and is sold in many markets across the United States.  We welcome you to stop by for a tour and tasting as we are always happy to have friends, family, and fans of Belle Meade Bourbon visit and to hear their stories and how they like to enjoy Belle Meade Bourbon.