The Jack Daniel Distillery and the Nearest Green Distillery announced today the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative to further diversity within the American whiskey industry.

The two companies are starting their partnership with a pledge of $5 million to start the Nearest Green School of Distilling, develop the Leadership Acceleration Program (LAP) for apprenticeships and establish the Business Incubation Program (BIP), focused on providing expertise and resources to African Americans entering the spirits industry as entrepreneurs.

The curriculum was developed by Motlow State College in Tenessee. Motlow has a relationship with both companies over the past year. The STEM-based and employable skills focused program has passed Motlow State requirements and is now awaiting approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents to begin moving toward accreditation by the institution’s accrediting body SACSCOC. That certificate can be as available as early as Fall 2021.

The LAP will provide apprenticeships for African Americans currently in the whiskey industry who have the ambition of head distiller, head of maturation, or production manager. BIP will also offer African American entrepreneurs mentorship in all areas of distilling business with access ranging from marketing firms to expanded distribution networks.

“Generally, when companies talk about the need to improve diversity, few immediate action steps follow,” said Fawn Weaver, CEO, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. “Our group is different. We are doers, and we all agreed to work together to improve diversity in our industry, and specifically, a way to get African Americans into top positions within our industry. Nearest Green taught Jack Daniel how to make Tennessee whiskey and we’re incredibly proud our companies are joining forces to further their legacies of excellence, and to make distilling and the whiskey industry we love more diverse.”

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“Given our deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, I am thrilled we are coming together in this way today,” said Lawson Whiting, President and Chief Executive Officer, Brown-Forman Corporation, the parent company of Jack Daniel’s. “This collaboration allows the extraordinary friendship of Nearest and Jack, and the hope they embodied during racially divided times in our country’s history, to help us advance the next generation of African American leaders in our industry.”