The problem with Kendall Jenner's 818 and celebs launching tequila brands...
Everybody in the Kardashian-Jenner clan knows how to make a quick buck. So when news broke on Tuesday that Kendall was launching her own tequila brand, 818 (named after the area code of her hometown Calabasas in California), we were hardly surprised.
Taking to Instagram to share her excitement about her new business venture the 25-year-old model said: "For almost 4 years I've been on a journey to create the best tasting tequila. After dozens of blind taste tests, trips to our distillery, entering into world tasting competitions anonymously and winning. 3.5 years later I think we've done it!"
Jenner is launching three types of tequila: reposado tequila, blanco tequila and añejo tequila, all hand-crafted in Jalisco, Mexico, the country's main production area. And though vital information such as when it launches and how much it costs are unknown, the brand has managed, bizarrely, to bag significant industry awards, from Best Reposado Tequila at the World Tequila Awards, to the Chairman's Trophy at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge.
It wasn't long before the backlash erupted, namely from Jenner's Latino-American fans, though naturally, fashion watchdog Diet Prada added fuel to the fire, labelling the venture 'cultural appropriation'. The criticism levelled is that she's not best, or even at all placed, to create a version of the country's national spirit, and that as a result of 818, centuries-old family brands will suffer. One Twitter user commented: "Kendall Jenner starting a tequila brand, with zero knowledge on Mexican culture and calling it "818 tequila" is gentrification. What about those smaller, family owned Mexican tequila/mezcal brands? They deserve the hype & support". Another said: "I'm from Jalisco, and I like Kendall Jenner but this does not sit right with me, I ain't drinking her Tequila. Stop exploiting Mexican culture for profit. Support the smaller tequila brands, they are way better."
Indeed, celeb-owned tequila companies are plenty - and also lucrative. In 2013 when George Clooney launched Casamigos with businessman Rande Gerber (Cindy Crawford's husband) and real estate tycoon Mike Meldman, they sold it four years later to the world's largest spirits company, Diageo, for a staggering $1 billion. Other celebrities have followed in their footsteps: actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson owns Teremana Tequila, while NBA all-star Michael Jordan has Cincoro. Rita Ora's brand is called Próspero Tequila and Elon Musk's, Tesla Tequila.
They may be well meaning, but as LA-based bartender and craft cocktail expert, Lucas Assis explains, "these tequilas are killing the industry. Celebrities just reach out to a factory, the factory sends out samples they have, they put their name brand on the bottles and market it at whatever price they think will sell".
He also points out that the larger the production, the bigger is the demand for blue agave plants (tequila's base ingredient). And as the price of agave increases, only the big companies can afford it, making it impossible for family-owned brands to survive. Something to bear in mind next time you order yours on the rocks.