As It Happens

Whiskey company reveals that slave, not preacher, gave Jack Daniel his recipe

As Jack Daniel turns 150 this year, the company is revealing a new origin story: that Daniel learned how to distill whiskey not from preacher Dan Call, but from ​his slave, Nearis Green.
Bottles of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey line the shelves of a liquor outlet in Montpelier, Vt. (Toby Talbot/The Associated Press)

For years, the Jack Daniel distillery in Tennessee has been telling its customers a story about its origins: that Daniel learned the craft of whiskey-making from a preacher named Dan Call.

I'm elated about it. It's long overdue.- Juanita Dunlap, a relative of Nearis Green

Now, as Jack Daniel turns 150 this year, the company is telling a new story: that Daniel learned how to distil whiskey from ​Nearis Green, a slave belonging to Call.

"I'm elated about it. It's long overdue," says Juanita Dunlap, a relative of Nearis Green. "I've heard [this story] all my life growing up . . . But, of course, no one talked about it except for family members."

When The New York Times broke the story, it published a photograph of a group of men at Daniel's distillery in the late 1800s. Next to Daniel sits a black man who's believed to be Green's son. 

Dunlap has been told that Green had multiple children, but she doesn't know who's in this picture. Recently, Dunlap has been speaking with archivists and historians to find out more about Green.


Dunlap tells As it Happens that she has an 105-year-old aunt in Nashville who is Green's only surviving grandchild. Dunlap hasn't told her aunt yet about Jack Daniel's new origin story.

Juanita Dunlap's aunt, pictured above, is the granddaughter of Nearis Green. (Juanita Dunlap )


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