Belle Meade, a brand once revived by Charles Nelson after a fire destroyed the original producers and lost to the start of Prohibition until Charlie and Andy Nelson revived the brand in 2012, is soon to be discontinued being distributed nationally. National distribution is soon to end and the product will only be available in Tennessee. Using an almost mirror image of the original Belle Meade logo found in an old newspaper advertisement from May 1, 1885, the brand was brought back to life while the Nelson brothers began to build their brand to revive their great-great grandfather’s wheated Tennessee whiskey. The brand featured distillate sourced from Midwest Grain Products (MGP) and at times included additional finishes in barrels such as Cognac, sherry and honey. The Belle Meade brand had a direct tie to Nelson family history. Belle Meade was a brand of bourbon produced by the Belle Meade Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee and owned by Sperry Wade and Company. Despite Belle Meade not being produced by Charles Nelson’s Green Brier distillery, he was contracted to sell the product on behalf of Sperry Wade. However, all that changed in 1880 when the Belle Meade Distillery burned down and production moved to Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. The label depicted two horses, one being Bonnie Scotland, a thoroughbred of the Northern Dancer bloodline.
The Nelson brothers put it all on the line to raise enough capital to purchase the initial Belle Meade lots of bourbon barrels. They eventually were able to get enough capital to start up their Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery located in Nashville, Tennessee and start their own distillation. This distillation became their flagship brand Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey featuring wheat in the mash bill and charcoal filtered. This is the brand that the brothers are wanting to focus on and be the face of their company. The Belle Meade bourbon itself isn’t going away for good, but things will start to look a little different as the remaining stocks of Belle Meade begin to dwindle and supply on the shelves disappear.
The Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery will replace Belle Meade in the national market with Nelson Brothers Whiskey featuring a “Classic” line and a “Reserve” line. The classic line will be at 93.3 proof (46.65% alcohol by volume), made with a high rye bourbon mash bill and aged in new charred oak barrels. The distillery states that on the nose you will get cherry, milk chocolate, banked apples, spice cake and vanilla. Some of the nose will carry over with cocoa, cherry with the addition of banana bread and dried pineapple. It is stated to finish with lemon peel, tobacco, black peppercorn and the high rye giving way to spearmint. The “Reserve” will feature a higher proof offering coming in at 107.8 proof (53.9% alcohol by volume). The distillery states the nose will boast of maple syrup, cinnamon, cherry and mint. The cherry will continue on the palate along with caramel, hazelnut and allspice. The finish is earthy, cherry, cocoa and more allspice.
The new packaging will feature the Nelson brothers’ names giving more focus on the Nelson name and the story behind it. The product inside has been reported to still continue to be the same sourced bourbon that was once in Belle Meade just under the new brand. It is not known yet if the brand will continue to offer finished products or single barrels of their Belle Meade replacement in this new line. This change will allow the focus to be brought to the Green Brier name rather than a separate brand and name of Belle Meade. Currently the Belle Meade brand is on a different website than the rest of the distillery’s offerings. This will allow for consolidation for the comapny. The new Nelson Brothers Whiskey is already featured on the Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery website. Belle Meade carries a very strong fan base and we expect to see remaining stock of Belle Meade on the shelves begin to dwindle over the next few weeks to months as the brand begins to release their new line. Belle Meade will continue to be available, just in a much smaller market. Instead of being available nationally, it will only be available in the Tennessee market, making it harder for those who love the brand to get a hold of. To read more about the entire history of the Nelson family and the original and newly built Green Brier distillery click here. Belle Meade will continue to live on through history and to all those that it touched.