The youngest of four brothers—“the one who got beat up the most”—Charlie Nelson is also the more gregarious and outgoing brother of the sibling duo behind Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee. So while brother Andy runs operations and production, Charlie uses his resilient, convivial personality to share and sell the story of his family’s whiskey legacy.
Not that Charlie was always in tune with his spirit heritage. Charlie was more interested in basketball, dreaming of one day playing for UCLA and, if all went well, The Lakers. Derailed by an injury that debilitated the fingers of his dominant left hand, Charlie found himself a year behind brother Andy at Loyola Marymount, pursuing the same course of studies—the humanities with an emphasis in philosophy, plus a minor in French.
Charlie discovered a gift for languages and came down with a serious case of wanderlust. He traveled through Paris, tending bar to earn enough money to continue his adventures in Southeast Asia. During a respite at his Nashville home one summer, Charlie, together with Andy, began to become curious about family’s whiskey legacy. And while Charlie continued to study abroad (a grant to study Paleolithic rock took him back to France, as well as Spain and Italy), a thirst to delve deeper into his Tennessee whiskey heritage would call him home.
Back in Nashville, Charlie tended bar again to make ends meet, this time much more conscious of the supply-side. Like Andy, he also picked up work at his father’s education company, casually picking up a working knowledge of Arabic along the way, as well as the nuts-and-bolts of running a business. Enhancing his hard-earned savings by moving back in with his parents, Charlie set out looking for investors, eventually securing the loan they needed from a small local bank, with the backing of the family. The brothers dove head first in to whiskey. They found a contract distillery, tasted constantly, experimented with blends, and learning from the established good ole boys of Tennessee whiskey. Charlie and Andy’s first blend, Belle Meade Bourbon, revives the legacy of their great-great-great-grandfather for the next generation. With the opening of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in spring 2014, the brothers will restore distilling independence for the storied Nelson family of Tennessee whiskey.