In a groundbreaking move set to make waves in the world of spirits, Tennessee whiskey producer Uncle Nearest is gearing up to introduce its very own Cognac brand next year. This bold expansion follows Uncle Nearest’s recent acquisition of the historic Domaine Saint Martin vineyard, situated in the renowned Cognac region of France.
Domaine Saint Martin, with its illustrious heritage dating all the way back to 1669, has been passed down through the hands of several esteemed Cognac makers, including the revered Martell family. This picturesque vineyard spans over 100 acres, complete with lush vineyards and essential facilities like a cooperage, cellars, and a distillery. Of particular note is the fact that 50 acres of this exceptional property lie within the prestigious Grande Champagne terroir, constituting a remarkable 40% of this esteemed cru.
Fawn Weaver, co-founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest, emphasized the alignment of this new venture with the brand’s core values, stating, “The Uncle Nearest brand thrives on its profound story of love, honor, respect, and heritage. Our mission in Cognac echoes this essence.” This venture into Cognac production is seen as a natural extension of Uncle Nearest’s commitment to quality and tradition, perfectly complementing the values that have made their Tennessee whiskey a beloved favorite.
Leading the charge for Uncle Nearest’s Cognac endeavor is Adrian Parker, a seasoned marketing executive with an impressive track record. Parker, formerly the vice president of global marketing for Patrón Tequila, will take on the role of president for the Cognac brand. His appointment brings a wealth of experience and industry knowledge to the project, ensuring a solid foundation for success.
The Cognac venture will also see Brielle Caruso stepping into the role of chief marketing officer, leveraging her expertise in branding and marketing to establish the Cognac brand’s unique identity and market presence. Additionally, Chauncey Hamlett, a seasoned professional from The Formulation Group, will lead the charge in innovation, promising exciting developments in Cognac production and offerings.
In an exclusive interview with The Spirits Business, Fawn Weaver highlighted the broader significance of this move, saying, “For as long as America has been in the spirits industry, it has predominantly been controlled by a single race and gender.” Weaver continued, “Uncle Nearest has always served as the solid foundation, and premium whiskey was our initial stepping stone. We will persist in crafting Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey with the same unwavering passion and sense of purpose as we always have. But our ultimate destiny was always centered around expanding upon this very foundation.”
Weaver also drew attention to the global appeal of Cognac, noting that 97% of Cognac is sold outside of France. “Out of this, over 52% makes its way to America, and approximately 20% to China,” she continued. In the United States, she pointed out that more than 80% of Cognac consumption is attributed to three groups: Black Americans (54%), Hispanics (19%), and Asians (10%). Weaver expressed her commitment to uncovering the untold narrative behind Cognac’s popularity among these groups, akin to her earlier efforts in uncovering the history of Nearest Green and Jack Daniel.
In the lead-up to the official launch of the brand, Weaver and her team will unveil a short film at various film festivals. This film will trace the journey of Cognac’s rise across America, Europe, and Asia and will feature narration by actor Jeffrey Wright.
Adrian Parker commented on the remarkable journey of Uncle Nearest, saying, “Under Fawn’s guidance and innovative approach, the Uncle Nearest team has created a playbook for independent spirits that has never before been seen.” He also highlighted the brand’s impressive achievements, such as becoming the seventh-most-visited distillery globally and achieving top-10 sales among ultra-premium American whiskey companies.
Uncle Nearest’s commitment to excellence has been underscored by its recent accolades, including a Master award for its Single Barrel Black Label whiskey at the DB & SB Autumn Blind Tasting, as well as Master medals in three categories at the Luxury Masters 2023.
As the anticipation builds for Uncle Nearest’s Cognac debut, the spirits world eagerly awaits the arrival of a fresh and exciting addition to the Cognac market—one that promises to embody the same dedication to quality and heritage that has made Uncle Nearest a standout name in the world of whiskey. With the stage set at Domaine Saint Martin, this new chapter in the spirits industry is poised to be nothing short of extraordinary. Stay tuned for the unveiling of this remarkable journey into the heart of Cognac craftsmanship.