COLBERT Co., Ala. (WBRC) - At various times in the past, Billy Ray Dawson and other members of his family have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
After serving time in prison Billy Ray was released and now, he and his wife Joanna are drawing on some of that family history. But this time it’s a legal distilling operation in Colbert County. From bootlegging to bank robbery, the story of the Dawson Family is the stuff of legends.
Billy Ray remembers, “We lived in an old house back here at the end of Iron Ore Road when I was born, and I started out making moonshine whiskey in these hills and hollows back here when I was about ten years old with one of my uncles on my mother’s side. From the early 1800′s all the way through till now that we have used this product right here to get by and make a little money and hopefully make everybody happy.”
It could be said Billy Ray Dawson came into his life’s work, both the legal and illegal, honestly. It was part of his wife Joanna’s family tradition, as well.
“My grandfather and his uncles used to bootleg together back in the 50′s and 60′s,” she explains. “I wasn’t even born during that time. We got to know each other and then we married later and here we are, opening a distillery.”
“It’s Alabama Moonshine conditioned in a White Oak Number Four Barrel and aged,” explains Billy Ray.
“It looks just like Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey but it’s Bama Moon Char. Making good moonshine is an art. We call it LaGrange Mountain Spirits because it’s made from LaGrange Mountain Water and on the back, you’re going to read a little story about me, and it’s still brewed with Love, Grace, and Pride. I couldn’t do this product without putting my Mom and Dad on there. My mom’s name was Grace, and my Dad was Pride. Both went to jail for it and now I’m doing it legal. Technology changed it to where it’s not only a cleaner product but a safer product.”
Joanna’s specialty is adding flavors to the LaGrange line, “What I do is I use the corn liquor, corn moonshine to make. We’ve got a Strawberry-Lemon, a Mango-Peach. The list goes on.”
Billy Ray fully acknowledges his family history and thinks about it sometimes, “My Dad would have told me when I come up with the idea, my wife comes up with idea on doing legal, that you’ve lost your mind. They don’t do that here.”
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