Chicago Tribune: Like Grandfather, Like Grandson

Chicago Tribune: Like Grandfather, Like Grandson
Chicago Tribune: Like Grandfather, Like Grandson

The family business is usually handed off from parents to children.

With a new generation of spirits-makers, however, it’s sometimes grandparents (or even great-great-great-grandparents) who start a business that grandchildren pick up as their own, sometimes a century later. Chicago’s nearly 10-year-old Koval, whose founders, Sonat and Robert Biernecker were inspired by his grandfather, is an example. Here are three other modern distilleries taking up where grandparents left off.

Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery

About a decade ago, Bill Nelson and sons Andy and Charlie drove from Nashville to Greenbrier, Tenn., to visit a favorite butcher shop. While there, the butcher pointed out that the abandoned building across the street was, in the 1800s, one of the country’s largest distilleries. Turns out that the old place was once owned by Charles Nelson, the boys’ great-great-great-grandfather; it fell into decline during Prohibition.

At a local museum, Andy and Charlie were shown two original bottles from that abandoned family distillery; at that moment, they both realized, “This is our destiny.” According to Andy, “The amazing story of our Nelson’s family distilling business is the source of our passion.”

Today, Greenbrier Distillery produces several expressions. The flagship, Belle Meade Bourbon, has a high rye content and is cask-aged for up to 8 years. The rye gives the bourbon slight spice and the aging some caramel and vanilla notes; it’s a very mellow sip.

Belle Meade Bourbon is available across the country at places like Binny’s, and it’s being poured for cocktails at Chicago spots, including The Violet Hour, Longman & Eagle and Au Cheval.