When it came time to launch his new Redneck Riviera Whiskey, there was one person in particular that John Rich of Big & Rich was hoping would give their approval when they downed a shot. “I had to run this by the greatest whiskey drinker that I personally know,” Rich says. “Somebody who has drank whiskey decades longer than I have and somebody who I trust explicitly. I trust her taste and her opinion more than probably any human being on the face of the earth and that is my Granny Rich!”
He is happy to report that his 85-year-old grandmother is a fan of his new venture. “She still works 40 hours a week at Rich Alterations and has no assistant,” he says proudly of his energetic granny. “She lives by herself and says she’s been a whiskey sipper since 14-years old and it’s probably true. So I went down to her shop the other day and I had a bottle of Redneck Rivera whiskey and a couple little shot glasses. And she goes, ‘What is that?’ I said, ‘That’s Redneck Rivera American blended whiskey!’”
Though he was a little hesitant to pour a shot because it was so early in the day, Granny Rich was ready and willing to test the new product. “I said, ‘I know it’s only 10:30 in the morning,’ and she said, ‘Well, that’s never stopped me before!’ That’s my girl right there! That’s my girl,” Rich says with a big grin. “So we turn her sewing machine into a bar and she sat down and I poured two shots of it. She leaned back with those blue eyes and she went, ‘What is this?’ I said, ‘It’s Redneck Rivera, an American blend whiskey. Why?’ And she goes, ‘Because it’s a lot smoother than any other whiskey I’ve ever drank.’ I said, ‘Well, have another sip!’ She slammed the whole thing back and said, ‘Well John Daniel, I think you’ve rung the bell with this!’ So it’s Granny Rich-approved.”
Rich gave other family, friends and industry folks a chance to sample Redneck Riviera Whiskey when he threw a launch party for the new spirit at his Nashville home, known as Mount Richmore. Rich had a lot to celebrate as his birthday was the next day and he quipped that combining the two celebrations might get him extra gifts. His Big & Rich partner, Big Kenny and his lovely wife, Christie, were on hand to help Rich celebrate along with Gretchen Wilson and other pals.
To create Redneck Riviera Whiskey, Rich partnered with Eastside Distilling, Inc. and worked with award-winning distillers Travis Schoney and Mel Heim to craft the new drink. “When I started talking to them, they said, ‘What is it that you are trying to accomplish with this Redneck Rivera Whiskey?’ And I told them, ‘I want an American blended whiskey,’ and they go, ‘That does not exist,’ and I said, ‘That’s why I want it,’” Rich recalls. “They said, ‘OK, what does it taste like?’ I explained to them in my mind what it should taste like and they said, ‘OK, that’s a big homework assignment. It’s not something we just yank off the shelf and put two things together and voila! It’s there. This is going to take some time.’”
Rich says it did take time to make his dream a reality, but it was worth the wait. “They had patience with me to go through that process. It was literally seven months plus before we got down to that final one,” he says. “When I had that, I went, ‘Bingo! That’s it!’ I knew it right off the bat. It’s like writing a hit song. When it’s the right one, you go, ‘Bingo! That’s it!’ You just know it. Any artist will tell you that. Every now and then you just get it and that’s what this was.”
The new whiskey is just one facet of Rich’s growing Redneck Riviera brand which also includes apparel, footwear and the honky-tonk bar Redneck Riviera Las Vegas and a Nashville location opening later this year. There is also a charitable component to Redneck Riviera Whiskey. A portion of proceeds from each bottle sold will got to Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that provides educational scholarships to children and spouses of fallen or disabled members of the military.
In addition to supporting veterans, Rich is excited about giving his fans a product he thinks they will like. “This is not like some royalty deal for me. I own it. My name is on this bottle. I’m proud of it,” he says. “I get to give them something great because they’ve given me so many great things over my music career. You are standing in a house that was built by those fans and we call this house Mount Richmore as kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing. I call it the house that music built, so be able to give products back to those fans that will have quality and be moderately priced, it’s a big feat and something I’m excited to be a part of.”