2020 marks the 15th anniversary of operation for Piedmont Distillers in Madison. This small distillery, which was the first legal distillery in the state, has come a long way since 2005 when Joe Michalek founded the company in the old train depot in downtown Madison.
Piedmont’s first product was Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine, which harkens back to the moonshining days-of-old with its corn recipe, secret flavors, copper still and small batch process. It took a few years for the product to catch on but soon it did.
Michalek’s marketing background allowed him to connect with NASCAR and moonshine legend, Junior Johnson. The two partnered in 2007 in creating a new brand of products, Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon, based on Johnson’s family’s moonshine recipe.
With two products and the Junior Johnson name, Piedmont Distillers gained momentum. In just six years, demand for the company’s products was such that Piedmont Distillers was forced to relocate from the old train depot building into a larger space. The company expanded and relocated to its current location on US Highway 220 in Madison in early 2012 with 18 employees and two bottling lines.
The partnership with Junior Johnson was genius. Not only does he bring his racing fame to the company, Johnson also brings a family moonshine legacy. And that helped the company’s business skyrocket and lead to another expansion within a year’s time that included doubling the staff and adding more lines.
The Junior Johnson Midnight Moon family of spirits now includes the original recipe and 100 Proof plus seven, handcrafted, real fruit inclusions: Apple Pie, Blackberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Cranberry, Strawberry, and the newly introduced, Raspberry. The company now operates eight bottling lines, has about 100 employees, is sold in all 50 states and is looking for room to grow again.
Michalek attributes much of the company’s success to the authenticity of the product: handcrafted in small batches, made from corn and triple-distilled. “It really is handmade with real fruit and our team even hand applies every batch label, lid and closure seal– just like Junior used to do it in the North Carolina Mountains all those years ago.”