George Clooney’s Casamigos wasn’t the first celebrity tequila brand, but when he and his partners sold it to Diageo for nearly a billion dollars in 2017, it was obvious that others would follow suit.
Tequila brands are like Teslas or Ozempic prescriptions now — every celebrity seems to want one. The rich and famous realized they could get even richer and more famous if they could hit it big, and they wouldn’t actually even have to know that much about the spirit or bother with the details of making it; there are more than 100 distilleries throughout Mexico that can handle all that boring stuff.
Tequila is big business now. The category is predicted to outsell American whiskey and even vodka here in the U.S. in the coming years. But is it possible that we are reaching peak celeb tequila, with so many new brands affiliated with actors, musicians and athletes? Not likely, because it seems that too much tequila is not nearly enough.
“In the last three to four years, there has been a flood of new brands launched or endorsed by very powerful celebrities,” said (non-celebrity brand) Hiatus Tequila founder and CEO Kristopher DeSoto. “These brands tend to have immediate success in part because today’s celebrities have such a huge, instant reach by using social media platforms to help them get immediate consumer awareness, distribution and pull through.”
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DeSoto admits there are some positives to this trend. For example, consumer awareness of tequila has never been higher, growing demand means more jobs both here and in Mexico, and hopefully that will mean people are willing to try smaller brands that aren’t Casamigos or Teremana.
Of course, there are downsides. “Some of the largest brands today that have celebrity involvement are not necessarily the best examples of what tequila is about, neither from the quality of the spirit or the cultural perspective,” said DeSoto. “Bottom line is that many are considered not to be the best examples of this complex spirit, and it’s widely assumed that many are using artificial sweeteners and other additives and nontraditional production processes (industrialized methods that are more about quantity than quality).”
The additives he’s talking about are entirely legal, and per CRT regulations if the amount is under one percent brands are not required to disclose their usage. The industrialized method DeSoto is referring to is the diffuser, a machine that uses high-pressure water, and sometimes chemicals, to extract sugar from the agave instead of cooking it. While it’s touted as being more efficient and even environmentally sustainable by some brands, it often results in what tequila aficionados call “aga-vodka,” a flavorless subpar tequila that is usually enhanced with additives. Not all celebrity brands are made this way, of course, and the ones that don’t make this very clear (assuming they are telling the truth). But many do, and it’s not just celebrity brands.
Another non-celebrity-affiliated tequila, and one that eschews the use of additives and diffusers, is Tears of Llorona. This high-end extra-anejo tequila is matured in Scotch, sherry and brandy barrels to soak up flavor, a process overseen by master distiller Germán González Gorrochotegui, who makes it clear that he is not a fan of some modern production steps. “This new production process does not necessarily use mature agaves, and often the product obtained is a fairly neutral product that requires additives to be injected to give it the desired notes,” he said. “The use of additives masks certain profiles of the agave, and the essence of the tequila is lost. Cristalino tequilas are aged products that go through a strong filtration process, in which they lose not only their amber color but also their characteristic flavors, achieving a very neutral product where it is then necessary to add additives. In my opinion, large tequila producers rely on additives to… correct their flavors to deliver a uniform product to the consumer.”
According to DeSoto, another issue that comes with the celebrity tequila boom is the potential of an agave glut, as opposed to the shortage that others have been worried about. As more fields are planted, eventually there could be an oversupply of agave which will drive prices down, harming farmers’ bottom line and leading to immature harvesting (and likely more use of additives and diffusers).
And yet, he still remains optimistic. “My hope is that future celebrity endorsements or brand ownership will understand and embrace these very important topics,” he said. “Which will ideally translate into consumers demanding better products made with more transparency, sustainability and ultimately a better understanding and respect of the tequila culture.”
We’ve put together a list of the most notable celebrity tequila brands you can find, from those that have been around for years to new entries on the scene, and ranked them from best to worst. Give them all a try for yourself and see if you agree.
1. Codigo 1530
Country music superstar George Strait was one of the founding members of Codigo 1530, along with the CEO of Crocs (“celebrity” is a stretch in his case, no offense; as well, the founder of the brand is Federico Vaughn). The brand, which was purchased by Pernod Ricard last year, ranks among the best celeb-backed tequilas. All of the aged expressions are matured in French oak red wine barrels from the Napa Valley, which becomes immediately evident when looking at the light pink Rosa Blanco expression. There are also a couple of mezcals and a slew of expensive high-end releases to consider, including two entries into Playboy Spirits’ Rare Hare lineup.
Sammy Hagar is well known as being one of the first celeb tequila mavens (even before Clooney) with his Cabo Wabo brand, of which he sold 80 percent to Campari in 2007 (the sale was ultimately completed a few years later). He teamed up with celeb chef Guy Fieri on Santo, which Hagar actually started with Adam Levine from Maroon 5 (more on his brand later). An excellent anejo was just released, and this additive-free brand is a cut above the rest.
Two sports world figures are involved with this brand — former NFL player Jim Bob Morris and former NHL player Chris Chelios. The distillery behind the brand is El Viejito, the same place where the next celeb brand on our list is produced. It’s been certified as additive-free by Tequila Matchmaker, which is another appealing detail about the brand. So far, there are blanco and reposado expressions available, but don’t be surprised if an anejo joins the lineup at some point.
Dwayne Johnson’s tequila has been one of the biggest recent success stories in the celeb category, and the modern tequila world overall. Teremana was founded in March 2020, right around the time the world was being introduced to the novel coronavirus. Spirits maven Ken Austin and some other big industry players are partners, along with the Lopez family which has a long history in tequila. Teremana is produced at its own NOM Destilería Teremana de Agave, and a second distillery is opening next door to meet skyrocketing demand — this spring the brand announced it had sold one million cases, a pretty impressive feat in this crowded field.
5. Flecha Azul
Mark Wahlberg is the most famous name behind this brand, but he only invested in it about a year ago. Aron Marquez and pro-golfer Abraham Ancer founded Flecha Azul in 2020, and there are currently five expressions, including a cristalino and extra anejo, produced at the Orendain Distillery in Jalisco where other brands like Cutwater are made. Flecha Azul is pricier than other brands, but touts itself as being additive-free, something that’s increasingly important to consumers.
6. Lobos 1707
Diego Osorio and Dia Simms launched Lobos 1707 in 2020, but the celeb backers that have since joined up is kind of an astounding list — LeBron James got in early, and now he’s joined by Drake, Lindsay Vonn, Issa Rae, Draymond Green and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The tequila is actually quite good, with no additives used (according to the brand) and all of the expressions are finished in PX sherry butts after initial maturation for an extra burst of flavor and color.
This is a pricey tequila brand founded, in part, by Michael Jordan, with the second most notable being Lakers owner Jeanie Buss. These tall and slightly unwieldy bottles are meant to give your back bar that baller look, and the tequila in them is fine.
8. Villa One
Music and fashion collided (and not for the first time) to form this tequila brand from Nick Jonas (the cute one?) and menswear designer John Varvatos. They worked with master distiller Arturo Fuentes (the man behind Cenote) on this tequila, coming up with three expressions: silver, reposado and anejo.
This celeb tequila is produced at Casa Cuervo, the home of a little tequila brand you might have heard of called Jose Cuervo. Electronic music duo The Chainsmokers are the star power behind JAJA, and the brand’s motto is “smooth and easy,” so it seems like it’s kind of catering to people who aren’t really looking for authentic tequila. That being said, JAJA is a success story and one you’ll likely find at bars and clubs all around the country.
10. Gran Coramino
Kevin Hart entered the tequila world with this brand last year in partnership with billionaire CEO of Jose Cuervo, Juan Domingo Beckmann. It initially launched with a cristalino, an aged tequila filtered to remove color. A superior añejo expression was released last year as well, matured in American and French oak and blended with cognac cask-matured tequila.
Here it is, way down on this list–the most famous (and most successful) celeb tequila brand in the world, George Clooney’s Casamigos. As mentioned before, he and his partners sold it to Diageo for nearly a billion dollars, so you can’t really argue with the concept. But the reason it’s near the end of this list is that it’s just okay tequila. Whatever the case, the people have spoken and they seem to love it.
Calirosa is Adam Levine’s baby, and like Codigo the tequila is aged in wine barrels to give it flavor and color. That means everything from the Rosa Blanco to the Extra Anejo spends time in California red wine barrels, but the flavor and texture point toward additives. Stick with Codigo if you really want to taste what wine cask maturation does to an agave spirit.
Diddy’s long-standing tequila brand has been in the news a lot recently, as the hip-hop entrepreneur accused parent company Diageo of racism and ignoring the brand, ties were subsequently severed, and lawsuits have geared up. This is an easy-drinking tequila, but it’s also kind of forgettable, with any earthy agave character tamped down and subdued.
Próspero, led by pop singer Rita Ora, is marketed as a woman-produced and -owned brand, which is great. The problem is that a diffuser is used to make the tequila (to its credit, this is not something the brand tries to hide). The resulting spirit is a thin and unremarkable blanco that has an alcohol burn; this one is probably a bottle you should leave on the shelf.
15. Casa Del Sol
Eva Longoria’s tequila brand tastes kind of like licking candy corn. You’d be hard-pressed to identify any real agave notes here. Pass.
The funny thing about Kendall Jenner’s tequila (which, to its credit, achieved B Corp Certification this year) is that when it first launched it was actually decent, mostly because it was produced at the same distillery where Casa Noble is made. Now it’s made at a different distillery, and the liquid definitely tastes like candy.
Elon Musk tequila. Everything about this brand is just annoying, from the “celeb” behind it to the lightning bolt shape of the bottle. There is just one expression, an añejo that is currently sold out and costs more than 400 bucks. I haven’t actually tried this so I can’t say whether it’s good or not, but again…Elon Musk.
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