George Jones “White Lightning” moonshine and vodka is looking to come to a liquor store near you. Currently sold exclusively through the George Jones Museum in Nashville, and manufactured by the Silver Trail Distillery in Hardin, KY, the brand is now looking to expand to national and international markets. The term “White Lightning” is trademarked by the George Jones estate, and is named after George’s first #1 hit in 1959 written by The Big Bopper.
Investment Bank, R.L. Hulett & Co. has been brought on board by the George Jones estate to represent them in searching for a strategic partner to help set up scaling and distribution of the liquor brand. The estate says demand for George Jones spirits has swelled after the White Lightning Apple Pie flavor took home a platinum medal for ‘Unaged Flavor Infused Whiskey/Moonshine’ at the 2015 SIP Awards held annually to gauge consumer satisfaction. Estate managers are also anticipating increased demand after the release of a George Jones biopic scheduled for 2016.
The liquor line was first announced in January of 2015 at the press conference unveiling the plans for the George Jones Museum. At the time, some took exception with the use of George’s name and likeness on a liquor bottle because of the public battles the country music legend went through with alcohol throughout his career and life. The emblem on the White Lightning bottles is George’s “Badass picture” as characterized by his widow Nancy.
“George always wanted to own his own brand of whiskey,” says Nancy Jones. “This was one of the promises I made to him before he died, that I’d make that dream come true.”
On April 24th—the same day the George Jones Museum opened its doors in Nashville—the distillery manufacturing the George Jones moonshine exploded just before 11:00 a.m. Two workers were injured in the explosion after being flung an estimated 25 to 35 feet, and were airlifted to a local hospital with major burns. One of the workers, 27-year-old Kyle Rogers, eventually died of his wounds on May 12th. The distillery was working on a large order for the museum at the time of the explosion.
George’s battles with alcohol are well-documented. In 1967, George ended up in a neurological hospital after binge drinking and amphetamine use almost killed him. In 1979, despite being one of the best-selling artists in the history of country music, George Jones was bankrupt and destitute because of his drinking. He was living in his car and weighed around 105 pounds. George spent time in mental institutions tied to his drinking multiple times and became known as “No Show Jones” because he missed so many engagements over his career.
But George’s widow Nancy says putting his name and likeness on a liquor bottle is a way for George to get back at the sauce that seriously wrecked his life in numerous instances.