Victoria Eady Butler, an award-winning whiskey master blender and the great-great-granddaughter of Nearest Green, is an instrumental figure behind Uncle Nearest, Inc., the fastest-growing whiskey brand in U.S. history.
Initially joining the team as the VP of Administration in March 2019, she was later appointed as the distillery’s Master Blender, combining her family legacy with her passion for blending.
In this interview, she shares her career experiences and insights into the whiskey industry, including the success and growth of Uncle Nearest. She also touches on the industry’s evolving trends and challenges and gives a sneak peek into exciting new initiatives and products in the pipeline for the brand.
What is it like to be a direct descendant of Nathan “Nearest” Green, and how has his legacy influenced your work with Uncle Nearest Whiskey?
It is the most rewarding experience imaginable. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and still in awe of the rich legacy that my great-great grandfather carved out; especially given that when he started distilling, he was not a free man. In spite of the challenges that surely came with being enslaved, Nearest Green was a creative man who crafted some of the best whiskey around.
I am extremely proud of my heritage and grateful to continue what he started. My work wouldn’t even be possible had it not been for my great-great-grandfather who laid the cornerstone for everything I do regarding blending. The whiskey is a byproduct of who we are. Nearest Green not only made whiskey, but made history.
Can you share any insights or lessons you’ve learned from your work as a master blender, and how this has influenced your perspective on the whiskey industry?
Coming into spirits, I knew very little about the industry, so I started reading and learning all I could from my team members, my whiskey family, and others in the industry. If the spirits industry is something you really have an interest in and a passion for, I think you just have to go for it.
Fawn Weaver didn’t know a thing about making whiskey. She was not in the industry prior to Uncle Nearest. She enjoyed a glass of whiskey, but she didn’t know anything about distilling, and look at where our brand is today. You have to be committed, dedicated, eager to learn, and put everything you hold dear into it. You’ve got to surround yourself with people who are knowledgeable, patient, and in my case, those who are very kind.
My team members embraced me knowing that I didn’t come from the spirits industry. They’ve shown me so much grace and patience. I have learned so much from them. The biggest thing is setting aside your fear of failure and going for it.
In 2022, Uncle Nearest achieved sales exceeding $100 million, and the company is projected to double its revenue by the end of 2023. What do you think has been the key factor in Uncle Nearest’s success and rapid growth over the past year?
Everything we do starts at the top with our CEO, Fawn Weaver. She is the most creative, strategic and innovative person I’ve ever worked alongside. Even with an accelerated pace, everything we have done has been well-planned. When it’s executed, it’s done with excellence or not at all.
What are some of your favorite whiskey cocktails or pairings, and why?
How I drink Uncle Nearest depends on the atmosphere. I love a neat pour while enjoying a good cigar. I also enjoy drinking a well-balanced Uncle Nearest cocktail with the company of family and friends. My favorite cocktail of late is a Classic Daiquiri made with Uncle Nearest 1884.
Can you share with us a memorable experience or achievement from your career in the whiskey industry that you are particularly proud of?
It was very exciting to go into the lab for the very first time and face 31 or 36 samples of whiskey for me to decide which ones would go into the blending process. It was very exciting then –– and it still is! The nerves are gone, but the excitement is there every time I blend.
Being named Master Blender of the Year four times over was also a tremendous honor. Every award, accolade, and honor we receive furthers Nearest Green’s legacy. We are grateful for each one.
How do you see the whiskey industry evolving in the coming years, and what do you think will be the biggest trends or challenges?
I think everyone in the industry should take note that more females are now drinking whiskey and bourbon. Our team has never targeted a particular demographic, but we have taken note of the upward tick in female consumers. I also hope to see more people of color in positions that are visible like master distiller, master blender- people in decision-making roles. I’d like to see more women in those positions as well. We’re already seeing a shift and it’s beautiful!
Can you tell us about any new products or initiatives that Uncle Nearest has in the works, and how you plan to build on your recent success?
There are several exciting things happening with the brand right now, including our CEO Fawn’s Thank You Tour. This year she is spending 4 months visiting our military bases thanking our troops for both their service and their unwavering support of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey.
We also just hosted the first Spirits on the Rise Summit, an event presented by the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative. It was a day and a half of emerging brands networking, learning, and presenting to top investors, bankers, distributors, and more. This is the first event of its kind, and we are really proud of the work our initiative continues to do.
Lastly, our Straight Rye is continuing to roll out throughout the United States, and I have really enjoyed adding that to my tastings when I go from city to city. The excitement around the rye is palpable, and we know it will help us continue to add to our long list of top awards.