All September on VinePair, we’re turning our focus to America’s spirit: bourbon. For our third annual Bourbon Month, we’re exploring the industry legends and innovators, our favorite craft distilleries, new bottles we love, and more.
After three decades in music, Jason Aldean is no stranger to collaborations, photo shoots, and backstage shenanigans. But it’s partnering with country duo Florida Georgia Line for Wolf Moon Bourbon that Aldean says has fuelled a whole other level of joy around such times. Having previously toured, written, and performed together, the two acts joined forces to create the straight bourbon whiskey last year. Aldean says the fun they had along the way is a perfect reflection of what the brand represents.
“During the photo shoots, we were sitting there pretending we’re drinking it, then we actually were drinking it, so by the end, it’s like, ‘Man, this is the most fun I’ve ever had in a photo shoot!’” says Aldean, 44. “We were all laughing and having a good time.”
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“And, backstage at awards shows we’ll bring some bottles and if our buddies are back there, we let them try it and have fun,” continues the father of four. “To us, that’s what it’s all about — hanging out with friends and enjoying it. That’s why I got involved.”
Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley already had their peach pecan Old Camp Whiskey, but having made great memories over whiskey with Aldean over the years, the trio set out to create a special drink they could enjoy with their “pack” of pals (a wolf pack of sorts, which gets a nod in the brand’s name).
Distilled from Midwestern corn, rye, and barley, the 80-proof spirit gives off vanilla aromas and a fruity, caramel taste with a hint of American oak barrels the liquid aged in for four years. Launched in February 2020, it’s available nationwide, online at ReserveBar and at Aldean’s “Wolf Lodge” VIP Experience on tour.
Aldean took time away from the Alabama stop of his “Back in the Saddle Tour 2021” to talk to VinePair about collaborating with Florida Georgia Line, why whiskey is so tied into country music, and whether his drinking habits changed during the pandemic.
1. Do you remember your first time trying whiskey?
When I was younger, my dad probably had some and I probably tried to sneak a little bit while he wasn’t looking! I grew up in a family where on the weekends my dad always had people over and they would cook out, enjoy some drinks, have fun, and laugh. So, I always associated [whiskey] with people hanging out, having a good time, and laughing.
Then as I got older, I was able to share some of that with my dad. It was like father-son bonding. And, I started playing in bars when I was 14 years old, so by the time I was 21, I’d been around it a lot.
2. I imagine you were further exposed through being in the country music world. Why do you think whiskey is so tied into the country genre?
A lot of whiskey and bourbon is centralized here in Tennessee and Kentucky, not far from Nashville, the heart of the country music industry. I think country people work hard during the week, then cut loose on the weekends. When the whistle blows at 5 on Friday, they’re looking for a drink to start the weekend! It goes hand in hand with country music and the people that support us.
3. What were the challenges of turning something you love into a business?
I’ve never wanted to be involved in things I didn’t feel were a good representation of me and my brand, so when something like this comes along — when it’s something I feel passionate about — it’s an easy thing for me to work on and get excited about. The struggle is that there’s so many whiskeys and bourbons out there, and a lot of them have been around forever, so starting from the ground up with a new product is a process. You have to let people know it’s out there and that it’s good. Just getting them to try it for the first time has been the biggest hurdle.
We were supposed to [promote the brand] last year during my tour; then that got cancelled because of Covid, which threw a wrinkle into our plans. But we’re back up and running on the road now, picking up where we left off, so it’s been good.
4. There are so many celebrities putting out alcohol brands these days. Did you feel extra pressure to prove yourself in the whiskey industry, given your background in music?
Celebrities are always going to be out endorsing things, but for me, I wanted to make sure the product was good. I want to feel good knowing that if I send somebody to go buy it or send it to someone as a gift, that they’ll like it and I’m proud to have my name on it. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what I do musically — it’s a side project that goes hand in hand with the music.
There’s a lot of acts who put their name on things because they get paid a lot of money, but sometimes the product’s not that great. So, I was in on the ground floor making sure we had the right mixture and that it was something I was really proud to put my name on. If I’m going to be involved, I want to be involved all the way, and the end result is a great product that people like.
5. How did the idea of collaborating with Florida Georgia Line on it come about?
FGL and I have been friends for a long time. We’ve toured together and they’ve written songs for me. They had their peach pecan whiskey and I was looking to do something more my style — more of a straight bourbon whiskey. So, it was easy to partner with them and have Wolf Moon become my staple, while the peach pecan is theirs.
We’ve been friends who sit around having a drink after the show’s done, but to have your own brand [to drink] is just cool. It’s not something a lot of people get to do and we want to grow it and see where it goes.
6. We’ve seen you collaborate musically many times, including with Florida Georgia Line, but what does a booze collaboration entail and how much input did you have?
There was already a batch [of whiskey that the Old Camp team] brought to the table, saying, “This is what we’ve been aging. How can we make it better?” That’s where we came in and started picking it apart to make the best version. It was already really good, but we wanted to put our stamp on it.
I’m a guy that likes to drink it on the rocks, so I wanted it to be smooth, and not be making faces as it goes down. So, it was really fine-tuning what was already there.
7. You launched as the pandemic hit, which wasn’t ideal, but on the plus side, a lot of people were drinking more while stuck at home. Did you and your wife, Brittany, experience that and was it cool to have your own brand to enjoy during those times?
Absolutely! We lived in Florida for about four months while that was going on and everything was closed. We would put the kids to bed, start binge-watching a show, and my wife and I would kick back and have a couple of drinks. It was great.
There was a liquor store close to my house and I kept asking if they carried [Wolf Moon] yet, so after a couple of weeks they had it fully stocked, which was cool. I could go in there and get it when I needed to.
8. You’re returning to Las Vegas for your “Jason Aldean: Back in the Saddle” shows at Park MGM’s Park Theater in December. What’s the most fun you’ve had in Las Vegas with whiskey?
Pretty much every time I go out there and gamble! Some of my artist friends are gamblers — Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker — and we like to all sit around after the show and gamble, have some drinks, laugh, and just enjoy it.
When you go out there for an awards show, there’s this buildup to this big show and everybody has to be spot on, but as soon as the show’s over, everybody gets to let their hair down, which is what we do. It’s a lot of fun!