“In the future,” Andy Warhol once famously proclaimed, “everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”.
Fast-forward half a century, and it seems celebrities are measuring their success not in minutes, but in actual measures. Behind any chosen bar, you’ll find bottles bearing the names of actors, musicians, sportsmen and superstars — the inexplicable and intoxicating pursuits of personalities with more money and influence that they know what to responsibly do with.
There are vodkas, cognacs, whiskeys and tequilas, all leading the liquor industry into a brave new world of celebrity-sponsored bottles. Robert De Niro launched a vodka. Danny DeVito created a limoncello. Marilyn Manson even subjected his own absinthe on the world. It’s called ‘Mansinthe’ — and we’re not even joking.
But, among the shameless money-grabs and cash-ins, we identified eight bottles for which we had high hopes. Backed by big names celebrities, and with the firm hands of genuine distilleries and drinks brands on their tillers, surely these spirits would be the top shelf offerings of this new tipsy trend?
Not so much. While some of the brands hit the spot, others left us with a sour, bitter or even oddly spicy taste in our mouths. So, before you buy a bottle based on the celebrity endorsing it, give this a read: and decide for yourself who deserves their 15 millilitres of fame.
Aviation American Gin, from Ryan Reynolds
We may be a little biased towards the Gentleman’s Journal cover star, but this is a winner in our books. The bottle is pure Gatsby Goes to Flight School (good title for a spin off book, actually), and the liquid inside is pretty super, too. It’s light on juniper notes, so it swerves the usual botanical-laden Christmassy spirit trappings that turn so many people off gin. Instead, it’s florid and slightly savoury — with lingering notes of citrus and a subtle aftertaste that doesn’t overpower. An excellent cocktail gin.
What’s more, drinks behemoth Diageo seem to agree with us: they just bought the company for $610 million, netting Reynolds personally $335m (with the potential to grab up to $275m more based on its sales.) Next round’s on you, Ryan.
Longbranch Bourbon, from Matthew McConaughey
Alright, alright, alright. This could be the least celebrity-looking spirit on our list. It’s got a quality feel, with a wooden stopper and the Oscar-winner’s signature on the front of the bottle. It smells like a real cowboy-style, rootin’ tootin’ bourbon — but unfortunately doesn’t have the taste to back it up. Once you’ve swilled back this woody, warming spirit, it’ll kick you with its spurs in the back of your throat. The caramel mouth-feel is there, but with a big ol’ bite.
Virginia Black Whiskey, from Drake
Despite looking like the kind of aftershave your father would have worn in the mid-eighties (and quite right too), we thought we’d give Drake’s gaudy golden bourbon a shot. Unfortunately, a shot was all it took to realise that this whiskey really can’t back up that brown sugar and pancakes smell on the nose. As synthetic tasting as the plastic-y packaging, Drake’s spirit is oddly sweet, has an incredibly cloying aftertaste and is inexplicably dark in colour. Probably all those additives.
Haig Club Scotch Whisky, from David Beckham
It’s not your usual bottle — and this isn’t your usual whisky. Unfortunately, neither of those things is a good thing. That bold blue and square shape is clearly a marketing ploy, but Becks would have been better off blending this blend into the crowd. A listless liquid, it tastes a little like they’ve scraped the stills and bottled it. There’s too much malt, and the aftertaste is very smoky. But not the type of smoky you want with whisky — more the type if you burn plastic or accidentally set fire to your hair.
Casamigos Anejo Tequila, from George Clooney
Big George may have now sold his spirit brand — for $1 billion, no less — but it’s the best on this list. The bottle is simple and understated, and the tequila itself smells legitimate; with a tempting foisty, vegetative smell to it. It tastes spicy enough, and balances roasted coffee notes with a few shavings of dark chocolate. It’s not got the oily touch of cheaper tequilas — or the abrasive mouth feel. One to sip on a porch during a tropical rainstorm.
Crystal Head Vodka, from Dan Aykroyd
A suitably supernatural entry from the Ghostbusters actor, Crystal Head Vodka, has long been a runaway commercial success. The bottle really does what it says on the skull, and we suspect many just buy it to use as Damien Hirst-lite ornament or a prop during a spot of spirited improv theatre. (“Alas, poor tastebuds — I knew them, Horatio.”) Smells rather surgical on the nose — a little off-putting given the anatomical bottle shape. The palette has a distant sweetness, with a peppery spice. Certainly a step up from standard fresher’s fare.
D’USSE Cognac, from Jay-Z
Compared to his fellow rapper Drake’s bottle, Jay-Z’s is oddly restrained — it’d be the kind of thing Friar Tuck would pour out at the Grammies. And this from a man whose champagne bottles are polished gold! D’USSE is no Armand de Brignac, however. It smells like those Christmas days you spent on your uncle’s chaise longue during his divorce, and strips the hairs from your nostrils. The taste’s not much better. There might be toffee notes in there? Or is that the distant memory of grapes? All we know is that, after you’ve got rid of it, you’re just left with a vague waft of pencil sharpenings as an aftertaste.
Born and Bred Vodka, from Channing Tatum
Another rather charming bottle, Channing Tatum’s branding is stripped-back on a Magic Mike level. And this basic aesthetic extends to the spirit. Charcoal filtered and distilled using Idaho potatoes and glacier water from the Teton mountains, this is a salt-of-the-earth vodka that doesn’t taste of much at all. It’s not good, it’s not bad — but is acceptably crisp and clean for the All-American Channing Tatum-type who refuses to drink Russian. It is post-Trump vodka, but a lot more palatable than that sounds.
He may not have a spirit, but he’s got plenty of stories: read our latest cover interview with Willem Dafoe here…