February is Black History month so it’s a good time to remind whiskey lovers of the truths about whiskey making in the early United States.
Many if not most distilleries from George Washington’s right up to Emancipation relied on slaves to perform the distilling work. Many distillery owners in those days took credit for recipes developed and produced by slave labor. Take the famous case of Nearis Green the slave of a Lutheran Minister, Dan Call. For roughly 150 years Dan Call was credited for teaching Jack Daniel everything he knew about distilling whiskey but the truth was that Jack was taught everything by the slave, Nearis Green who operated Dan Call’s distillery on his farm. Distilling was not a safe endeavor in those days and much of the dangerous work was given to slaves who sometimes perished in fires, explosions or scalding. Distillery owners often had life insurance policies on slaves who performed dangerous industrial work and often put them in harms way. We owe a debt of remembrance to those freedomless men who made American whiskey thrive and developed many of the methods we rely on today.