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Nelson’s Green Brier adds rye amidst company change

The new rye whiskey from Nelson’s Green Brier comes a few months after Charlie Nelson departed the brand he co-founded with his brother Andy.

Bottle of rye whiskey and glass
Nelson Brothers Rye was distilled at Bardstown Bourbon Company from a mash of 64% rye, 30% corn, and 6% malted barley

Change is in the air for Nashville-based Nelson’s Green Brier. In July, the distillery unveiled a new hospitality-focused renovation that added a restaurant, bar, and updated auxiliary production equipment.

The following month, co-founder Charlie Nelson announced he would be leaving the brand, which he and his brother Andy launched in 2009, reviving their great-great-great grandfather’s pre-Prohibition business.

Now, the brand is launching its first rye expression in an effort to recreate the portfolio of whiskeys offered more than a century ago. Andy Nelson said consumers have been asking for a rye whiskey since the company’s inception, but that the initial focus was on launching a line of Bourbons, which they did first with their Belle Meade line, and later with Nelson Brothers Classic and Reserve, launched in mid-2022. 

“Our goal has always been to gradually recreate that portfolio or at least reintroduce all the various types of spirits that they made back in the day,” he said. “So it’s kind of always been coming but the time’s finally here.”

Nelson Brothers Rye comes with a mash bill of 64% rye, 30% corn and 6% malted barley. It was distilled at Kentucky’s Bardstown Bourbon Company in 2016. Andy said he wanted to create a whiskey that was different in profile from the popular 95% rye made at Indiana’s MGP and elsewhere in the country.

He wound up inverting the rye and corn percentages in the company’s Bourbon mash bill to create a whiskey that balances fruit and spice with a hint of spearmint.

“I love the idea of rye whiskies that are lower rye percentages. And, my hope is that those will become a little bit more popular,” he said. “It’s a really interesting, cool mix of flavours in there. I’m very proud of it.”

The new whiskey is bottled at 46.25% ABV and priced at RRP US$37. Nelson’s Green Brier is also distilling rye at its Nashville distillery but at a very small scale.

Flying Solo

Andy said he was 100% supportive of Charlie’s decision to leave the business, confident that the entrepreneurial spirit they both share will bring him success in his next endeavour. Since the beginning, the company’s branding has centred the brothers as a single unit, right down to the Nelson Brothers line of whiskeys.

“Things are still flowing status quo around here,” Andy said. “It’s a big change, but it hasn’t rocked our world or anything.”

Andy will retain his roles as co-founder and head distiller, but will now take over the more public-facing duties that Charlie had previously handled. 

“He’s been very good at it. But I’m excited to kind of be that guy now, too,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve grown a lot more comfortable in that role.” 

Charlie announced his departure on Instagram, writing: “Many, many factors, both personal and professional have contributed to my decision to step away from the company…I realised I have lost touch with the excitement that fuelled my efforts over the past 17 years, and this company both deserves and demands a leader who is at least as excited as I was to oversee its continued growth.”

Constellation Brands bought a minority stake in Nelson’s Green Brier in 2016, and a majority stake in 2019.

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