Why Are So Many Celebrities Making Their Own Tequilas?
Money, yes. But Nick Jonas and John Varvatos also have their own reasons.
“To me, tequila is like Champagne,” says Nick Jonas. “It’s something you share with friends, you celebrate with it and you have a good memory attached to it.”
It’s admittedly weird talking with a member of the Jonas Brothers about the finer points of agave spirits. But Jonas is now 27 (which apparently surprises some fans), he’s been making music well over a decade and he’s now starring in films with Dwayne Johnson and Tom Holland.
In other words, he’s an adult. And after developing a surprising friendship with fashion designer John Varvatos, the two have launched a new tequila called Villa One. It’s yet another celebrity tequila, joining the likes of George Clooney, Jonas’s pal Dwayne Johnson and nearly a dozen other well-known names.
Which begs some questions: Do we really need another celebrity tequila? And why is everyone cashing in on agave? To answer that, we went to a tasting and launch party for Villa One last month in New York, where we talked (and drank) with Jonas, Varvatos, Master Distiller Arturo Fuentes and Rudy Costello, the acting global President & CEO of Stoli Group.
First, a primer: Made in conjunction with the spirits brand Stoli Group (Stoli, Elit, Kentucky Owl), Villa One was crafted in Stoli’s Fabrica de Tequilas Finos distillery, located at the foot of Tequila Hill in Jalisco, Mexico.
The juice is 100% blue weber agave that’s matured 5-7 years and, uniquely, sourced from both the Highland and Lowland regions, a rarity in the tequila world that likes to highlight one or the other (one’s sweeter, one’s earthier). The blanco, reposado and añejos are all 80-proof (40% ABV) and retail for $45-$60, placing them in the ultra-premium category.
The tagline for Villa One is “life as it should be,” a phrase Jonas came up with during some late-night revelry with Varvatos and some of the Stoli team down in Cabo (they were staying at a resort in, appropriately, villa one).
Which is all nice, but again, why tequila?
Simply put, tequila is hot
“The super-premium and ultra-premium tequila sector is projected to grow by 8% this year,” notes Stoli CEO Rudy Costello. And brands like Clooney’s Casamigos sold for a billion dollars just two years ago.
The timeline for getting a tequila to market is short
Varvatos and Jonas became friends a little less than three years ago, and met up with the Stoli Group just 18 months ago. “At the time we had no liquid, no packaging, no brand,” Costello says, who admits the timeline to create Villa One was “aggressive.” As well, there are plenty of contract distilleries in Mexico, and given the short timeline for producing the spirit — even an añejo only needs a minimum of a year of aging — getting something on the shelves in a short amount of time isn’t unrealistic.
Tequila can reach otherwise non-drinking markets
Slainte means “health” in Irish and it’s often used as a toast when drinking whiskey … but tequila is the spirit that offers up some (admittedly unproven) wellness benefits. At the very least, it’s easier on the body, particularly for people with strict diets. “I’m Type 1 diabetic, so health, wellness and fitness are important to me,” says Jonas. “My doctor says if I’m going to drink, drink tequila. And I don’t mix it in margaritas. I have it straight, or maybe I’ll have the reposado on the rocks with an orange wedge and a bit of club soda, or the anejo on the rocks with chocolate bitters and orange peel.”
The “only spirit I can drink” line echoes a sentiment Third Eye Blind singer Stephan Jenkins told us earlier this year about his tequila brand, SUMMERGODS: since adopting a keto diet, tequila had become his tipple of choice.
Working with celebrities makes it easier to market and distribute
The Jonas Brothers are taking the tequila on the road and launching it in different markets as they tour, even setting up a VIP bar near the stage for tastings and cocktails. Varvatos, meanwhile, will be hosting tastings in this various stores around the country.
And having a designer on board helps in other ways. The bottle design was done by Varvatos and Jonas and features jewelry-inspired metalwork around the neck — it’s certainly noticeable, and would look good in any home or back bar.
The tequila has merit
“What differentiates us from Casamigos?” says Costello. “This gentleman right here.” He points to Master Distiller Arturo Fuentes. “I don’t know where their tequila comes from, who their master distiller is, but we do.” To his credit, Fuentes has been distilling tequila for three decades and working in spirits for four. Stoli Group also bought the distillery Villa One is made in back in 2017, so they can oversee production directly.
And, after a tasting, it’s certainly an upper-tier spirit. “I’d put our reposado up against anyone,” says Varvatos. “It’s the star.” He’s correct — aged six months in American oak barrels, you’ll pick up notes of vanilla, butterscotch and cinnamon alongside the agave, with some caramel and oak on the finish.
All three expressions are incredibly smooth — by choice — which means they’re not necessarily going to appeal to the spirits nerds of the world, but they’re pleasant, versatile and could convert a few wary drinkers who haven’t overcome their early fear of tequila. “[With tequila] You drink one day, and the next day you are sick,” says Fuentes, the master distiller, adding, “it’s not bad to drink, it’s bad to drink bad tequila.”