BY BEN BEDDOW
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has been competing all his life. Like other members of his family, Dale, Jr. started in stock car racing before climbing the ranks to race at the highest level of NASCAR®. He hails from North Carolina, often
considered the heart of motor-racing. Back in the mid-2000s, he met his wife-to-be, Amy. She was from Texas
and had no knowledge of the world of motor-racing.
Amy put a lot of things in her life on hold so that Dale, Jr. could race and chase his dreams, and once he had retired from racing, their discussions turned to finding a project they could work on together. They knew they wanted to own a business and have something they could truly take pride in together.
While he was still racing on the NASCAR® circuit, Dale, Jr. and Amy met Ned, the owner of Sugarlands Distillery. They quickly became admirers of Ned’s matter-of-fact way of doing business, and his ability to put together a winning program. This struck a chord with Dale, Jr. who finds “enjoyment in competition.” A partnership was born.
High Rock vodka is made at Sugarlands Distillery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Dale, Jr. and Amy have spent a lot of time atop the nearby Smoky Mountains, admiring the majestic horizons and mountaintops, and they knew they wanted to incorporate these into the design of their bottle label. The name, High Rock Vodka, is also a nod to their drive for success and the celebration of that success. “When we think of high points in our life, when we celebrate a high moment in our lives, —a victory, a birthday, a milestone—, we want people to associate High Rock with these high moments.”
Dale, Jr. and Amy were involved with the vodka from the very beginning, helping to select and refine the product, design the label, and even choose the shape of the bottle.
High Rock vodka is unique in the fact that it is one of very few vodkas produced using the Lincoln County process, a requirement in the production of Tennessee whiskey.
The process involves filtering a spirit through a vat of sugar maple charcoal chips, helping to strip it of impurities and impart smoothness.
Dale, Jr. insists that, while he is behind the vodka, he doesn’t want to be the face of it. The name High Rock was chosen because it is not related to racing and is a “confident name with strength to stand alone by itself and
that doesn’t need to be propped up by a celebrity.” The only connection to racing that you will find on the bottle is the fact that it is 88 proof. Dale, Jr. raced car number 88.
Recently, Dale, Jr. and Amy have been able to put High Rock in the hands of friends and family and have been
absolutely thrilled with the response. “In a blind test,” says Dale, Jr. “I would put it up against anything.” He confirms that they’re going to be entering High Rock into multiple spirits competitions: “It’s fun trying to win – in any kind of sense – whether you’re on the racetrack or in the spirits business”.
“The competitive drive in the market motivates us.”