The NASCAR legend is building a moonshine empire – because you’ve got to spend your eighties doing something.
Photo: Robert Alexander / Archive Photos/ Getty Images
Junior Johnson is a chill guy as long as he’s winning, which means he’s a chill guy the vast majority of the time. The North Carolina-born farm boy turned moonshiner turned convict turned NASCAR legend turned moonshiner again (legally) is cavalier about his achievements in the way that only a guy with a Southern drawl can be, but he’s also laser focused on accomplishing everything he can. That’s why, at 83 years old, he’s suddenly selling Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon nationwide – and making good money doing it.
We asked the liquor-loving raconteur, who has more than a few stories about out-driving police officers on country roads, to explain how Midnight Moon came to be and how it came to be everywhere. It’s a bit of a long story, but it is clearly simple from Johnson’s perspective. He saw an opportunity and accelerated toward it.
My father was in the Moonshine business. He was a moonshiner and he made his living and took care of his family by making moonshine and selling it when there was law against it…. He would give anything left over to his church or whoever needed it. He was a great man and I never doubted his quality of life. I tried to copy the things he did so I could be the same as he was.
A Rough Start
I was racing and I had come out from up in New York. I had just won a race and I was on my way home at night. I got in at about 4 o’clock. My dad had a distillery and he wanted me to go there. He left a little too late to fire up the smoke and stuff, so he wanted me to go there and fire it up so the smoke would be gone and no one could locate where the distillery was, since it was a secret. I had gone to do it, and the revenuers had it staked out and they caught me, and I went to Chillicothe, Ohio. They gave me two years for it, and I spent 11 months and three days in prison.
I had all my dad’s recipes and stuff, so I gathered with some people and put the idea to them to see if they’d be interested in doing something great. We did a long study on it and did a lot of research and especially since I had the recipes, we came out with a really good product.
[My father] made the apple pie and cherry flavors that he would use from the leftovers in the winter time. I knew if they liked it back then, we could really sell it now. That’s how I got together and worked it out in the business plan.
Nobody so far has come close to what we’ve got. You know, the name that I’ve put down in NASCAR has helped signify that I don’t do anything second place. Whatever I mess with, it’ll be a first class product or I wouldn’t be fooling with it…. I enjoy the competition against the other moonshine people in the business. I don’t think they’ll be able to reach ours. If they do, it’ll be a damn accident.
Right now, we’re selling about twice as much as our competitors are…. It’s something people just don’t know about and have never had. They can’t believe how good it is.
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