In the enormous solar system of booze — far closer to the sun (customers with money to spend) than the Pluto-sized independent distilleries planet — you’ll find the hulking “Celebrity-Brand Collaboration” planet. This diverse ecosystem features all manner of famous people connected to alcohol brands to varying degrees. The soil is crisscrossed with “dirt roads” that these famous folks wandered down, only to find some centuries-old distillery which they felt they just had to share with the world.
It’s a commonly told tale on this increasingly-crowded planet. A fun story, to be sure. But it’s almost always just a story.
In truth, celebrities endorse or even create spirits, beer, or wine labels as a revenue source. A way to capitalize on their fame for increased income. That’s not to say we’re against it — especially if the star in question truly believes in the brand and supports the local economies where that booze is made. There are some legitimately delicious bottles widely available right now thanks to the spotlight big-name stars have shined on these spirits. That’s a win. Let’s just be honest about how these collaborations come about (it’s $$$).
With more and more famous folks getting in the spirits game — and many taking a passionate, hands-on approach — we thought we’d round up 12 bottles of celebrity booze we actually like sipping. Check our tasting notes below.
Walton Goggins — Mulholland Gin
Distillery: Sourced from Missouri, Blended and Bottled in Los Angeles, CA
Average Price: $28
You might have heard of Walton Goggin’s whiskey, Mulholland Whiskey, given the Justified star’s very southern demeanor. That bottle is solid. But it’s really Mulholland Gin that shines brightest. The Double Gold winning gin is distilled six times from non-GMO corn. The spirit is then imbued with juniper, coriander, angelica, French lavender, Japanese cucumber, and Persian lime.
The juniper and cucumber shine brightly upfront. The sip edges towards the bright summer lavender florals before the cut of the lime arrives. Finally, a sense of vanilla counterpoints the citrus with a lingering sense of flowers and cucumber next to that juniper.
Jay-Z — D’USSE VSOP Cognac
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Distillery: Château de Cognac, France
Average Price: $55
Jay-Z’s signature Cognac is a damn fine bottle of booze. The juice is distilled by Baron Otard in Cognac, France, giving the bottle serious authority in the U.S. marketplace. The brandy is then aged for four to eight years before being masterfully blended into this easy-sipper.
If you’re into rye whiskey, this is a great crossover bottle to try. There’s a real sense of oak and spice on the opening. Ripe red fruit, fresh honey, and spring flowers accent that sharp spice throughout. Hints of roasted nuts arrive late as the wood, spice, and fruit carry the sip to a long and satisfying end.
Matthew McConaughey — Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Wild Turkey Distilling, Lawrenceburg, KY
Average Price: $40
When Matthew McConaughey became the “Creative Director” for Wild Turkey, few of us knew what to expect besides something inherently chill. McConaughey and Wild Turkey delivered just that with Longbranch. This expression is a direct collab between the Texan star and master distiller Eddie Russell to bring a little bit of Texas into the Kentucky bourbon. They accomplish this by aging a classic Wild Turkey bourbon for eight years and then filtering the juice through Texas Mesquite charcoal.
Texas pecans, saddle leather, vanilla, kettle corn, pipe tobacco, and clear bourbon vanilla lead the way. The vanilla and corn mingle with tart red berry, Christmas spice, buttery toffee, and a hint of an apple orchard. The sip lingers nicely as the spices, fruit, and sweet toffee fade with a final wisp of smoke at the very end.
George Clooney — Casamigos Tequila Añejo
Distillery: Productos Finos de Agave, Jesus Maria, Mexico
Average Price: $60
It’s hard to argue with George Clooney’s signature billion-dollar tequila brand. Their añejo is a very sippable tequila at a fairly accessible price. That’s especially true given this is an old-school tequila made with hand-harvested blue agave which is slow-roasted in brick ovens. Plus, this particular expression spends 14 months mellowing in American oak, giving the tequila a nice depth.
Bourbon-like caramel and vanilla dance with a hint of spice and oak at first. The sip allows the roasted agave to shine with dark spices and toasted oakiness creating a velvet texture. The agave and spice carry through with a hint of barrel char bitterness coming in at the last moment.
Kate Hudson — King St. Vodka
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Distillery: Santa Barbara, CA
Average Price: $25
One of Kate Hudson’s stated goals when starting a vodka brand was to bring more women into the world of vodka distilling and ownership. The expression is made with 100 percent non-GMO corn and mineral-rich alkaline water in California. The vodka then goes through seven distillations. The end result is an ultra-refined and very drinkable vodka at a very reasonable price point.
We don’t like to throw this word around too often but, damn, this is a smooth vodka. It might feel fussy given the “artisanal” style of distilling but that fussiness leads to a clean sip that supports notes of pepper, citrus, and vanilla in balance with each other. There’s very little “alcohol” taste at play here and, by the end, the vanilla notes become the real star of the sip.
Ryan Reynolds — Aviation American Gin
Distillery: House Spirits Distillery, Portland, OR
Average Price: $30
Ryan Reynolds’ gin started out as the shared brainchild of a Seattle beer brewer and Portland distiller at a party. The gin they were making was so good that Deadpool decided he needed to be part of it and bought the distillery. The actual product is expertly made with a botanical matrix of juniper, Elettaria, cardamom, lavender, sarsaparilla, coriander, anise seed, and dried orange peel.
Juniper and real root beer mix with orange peel on the opening. The sip then ebbs and flows between sharp spices and fresh herbs with a mild sense of a juniper underbelly. The sip lingers with fresh fruit and florals peaking late in the game to mellow the juniper even more.
Bob Dylan — Heaven’s Door Tennessee Bourbon
Distillery: Heaven’s Door Distillery, Nashville, TN
Average Price: $50
With Bob Dylan dropping a new album, this might be the time to give his whiskey a try. The award-winning whiskey is a bourbon made in Tennessee, not a Tennessee whiskey. The mash bill is corn-focused and the juice is aged for at least eight years in new American oak.
There are classic notes of vanilla and oak up front. A sense of baked bread with cinnamon and butter counterpoint a slight note of vinous grapes and cedar bark. The sip leans into the spice, vanilla, and oak with a caramel flourish on the long and bold finish.
Drake — Virginia Black American Whiskey
Distillery: Sourced from MGP Indiana
Average Price: $35
Drake’s blend takes some good whiskeys and puts them together to make a very sippable dram. The expression is a blend of two, three, and four-year-old bourbons, each with a high-rye mash bill. The final product is then siphoned into a dope art-deco bottle (really, there should be more cool-looking bottles for these special expressions).
Vanilla and caramel support a clear bourbon presence on this one. There’s a mild billow of smoke that leads towards hints of oak, spice, and fruit — it’s all very balanced and mild. There’s a touch of sweet kettle corn and a touch more of spice as the bourbon oak and vanilla slowly fade out.
Dan Aykrod — Crystal Head Vodka
Distillery: Crystal Head, Newfoundland, Canada
Average Price: $50
Speaking of bottles, this one may have gone too far. Crystal skull aside, the vodka in this bottle is solid. The expression is born from four-times distilled “peaches and cream” corn mash, and Newfoundland mineral water. The hot juice is then filtered seven times through quartz crystals from Herkimer County, New York — otherwise known as Herkimer diamonds. The final product is a masterfully refined vodka.
The corn comes through boldly at first. The sip edges towards a bit of alcohol as citrus balances the corn. A sweet edge comes into play and carries the sip towards a crisp, short, and very clean end with a rush of alcohol.
Marilyn Manson — Mansinthe
Distillery: Matter Distillery, Bern, Switzerland
Average Price: $70
This bottle certainly wins for the best name. The Swiss distillate is a great introduction to the “Green Fairy” for the uninitiated. The spirit is distilled without any artificial flavors or coloring. There’s a botanical mix of wormwood, fennel, and green anise that pulls back on the anise, helping make this expression a little more accessible.
Botanical bark with wormwood and anise start the sip off. There’s a real sense of dried medicinal herbs and fresh herbs kind of like gin meeting Jagermeister but dimmed down a bit. There’s a bitterness that’s balanced by sweetness and a fair amount of alcohol burn that lasts well beyond the last drop of your sip.
Dwayne Johnson — Teremana Reposado Tequila
Distillery: Teremana Distillery, Productos Finos de Agave, Jesus Maria, Mexico
Average Price: $35
This is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s signature tequila and it lives up to the hype. The tequila is made the classic way with slow-grown highland blue agave. After harvesting, the agave pinas are slow-roasted in brick ovens before fermentation and copper pot distilling. Finally, the juice is rested in ex-bourbon barrels.
That bourbon vanilla shines through on the nose. The oak kicks in with a slight spiciness that’s underpinned by a clear roasted agave presence. Light florals, a hint of fresh citrus, a thought of nuttiness, and a touch more oak bring about a mild-yet-warming end.