It’s been a little over a year since Kendall Jenner’s 818 hit the tequila scene, and in that short time, the brand has scooped up more than 20 tasting awards at international spirits competitions, snagged the Gold Medal and Best Reposado at the World Tequila awards, and has crushed our own blind taste tests, beating out all the other celebrity brands we’ve tried, and even holding its own against respected brands like El Tesoro and Fortaleza.
Since I came of legal drinking age and in my two years of writing about tequila at Uproxx (and let’s face it, before that), I’ve drunk all sorts of different bottles of tequila, from bottom-of-the-barrel well brands to ultra premium, absurdly-priced blends. In that time I’ve amassed a collection of blancos, reposados, añejos and extra añejos that would make even the biggest tequila snobs turn green with envy. If you know me personally, I’ve probably given you a good handful of free tequila bottles because I have so many different bottles that it’s a legit space problem in my apartment.
Now just to be clear, I don’t want to provide this caveat, it’s not an attempt at a flex. But I feel like I have to say this because I’m about to talk about a tequila associated with Kendall Jenner. Specifically, Jenner’s new premium luxury tequila, Eight Reserve, and I know that by doing so, I’m about to summon the snobs and haters out of the woodwork to tell me I don’t know anything about tequila or whine about how Kendall is ruining the tequila industry (mostly without offering any justification as to how).
Kendall Jenner being a massively wealthy celebrity from an omnipresent family that has shaped culture for the last decade or so makes her an easy target. While there are legitimate conversations to be had about cultural appropriation in the tequila space, there aren’t a million think pieces about George Clooney’s Casamigos. Again, I don’t want to talk about this stuff, it’s not what this article is about, I just feel like I have to, and that’s a shame because it does sort of a disservice to the booze itself.
The new Eight Reserve, a blend of añejo and extra añejo tequila aged for eight years and produced at NOM 1607, Grupo Solave in Amatitán Jalisco (where only one other brand is produced — Astral), is the brand’s best expression yet.
Together with 818’s new director of tequila operations, David Yan González (who has logged 26 years in the spirits and tequila industry, is a master tequilero, and is recognized by both Francisco Villalobos and tequila maestro Ana Maria Romero Mena) Jenner, González and the jimadores that help make this tequila possible have created something that is in line with what we’ve come to expect from 818, yet has also elevated what the brand can offer. This is a luxury tequila in every sense of the word — expensive, flashy, and delicious. I tried the new bottle, and had some thoughts, which I can share in this review. But stick around, because we also had the chance to ask Jenner a few questions over email about Eight Reserve and 818 in general.
Part 1: Eight Reserve Review
Before we talk about what Eight Reserve tastes like, we need to talk about the bottle. While talking to 818’s director of tequila operations David Yan González, I referred to it as “this crazy bottle,” to which he said “it’s not crazy!” and proceeded to explain to me what they were going for and why. The idea, González says, was that this bottle would instantly stand out on shelves, both in bars and liquor stores, be easily identifiable, and contain a visual elegance that set it apart from the competition — while still being stylish in the way Jenner is known for. In that regard, it’s a success, and while I was initially skeptical about the design, there is a sort of elegance that comes with pouring it.
The bottle is handmade ceramic, produced by local artisans in Pachuca, Mexico and despite its slightly awkward shape, the way it requires two hands to safely anchor the bottle and ease the pour into a glass does in fact feel special. Serving it feels like you’re pouring a drink for a Goddess or some shit. I stand by my assessment that it’s crazy. If you have a bar cart or a shelf that you keep your liquor on, this is going to require a lot of real estate.
You might even need to put it in its own space. And maybe that’s by design. It’s unlike any other bottle design in tequila right now, take that however you want to take it.
I’d say 818’s strongest attribute is its ease of drinkability. All of the expressions are nearly wince-free and travel across the palate smooth as honey, and Eight Reserve is no different. On the nose it has a pleasant intensity, offering a bouquet of vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, chocolate, and almond notes with a tinge of fresh orange rind that draws you in. On the palate the flavors bloom into honeyed notes, rich vanilla, and butterscotch, with a finish that bounces between cooked agave and crushed raspberries.
This is the sort of tequila that changes with each tasting. After a second sip I started to pick up on soft floral notes, coffee, and dried apricot, with a lingering spice that lives in the nose as you breathe out. You get a sense of the barrel — French and American oak — but not in a way that muddles the more delicate and sweetened notes like some extra añejos can.
Eight Reserve is supremely smooth and mouthwateringly savory, offering something new to fall in love with on each taste.
Where To Buy:
As to be expected, Eight Reserve is going to be pretty hard to find initially. The tequila is now available online and hits store shelves in New York, California, and Florida beginning today, with a roll out to Illinois, Texas, and Nevada to soon follow.
The Bottom Line:
Eight Reserve takes what the brand already does well and elevates it with a new level of complexity and an ever-shifting flavor that makes it a true joy to drink and explore.
Part 2: The Interview
There are a lot of tequila brands, both celebrity owned and otherwise, out there. When you first brought 818 into the scene, how were you trying to differentiate the brand from what else was already out there?
818 Tequila is my brand and was my idea from the get-go, which I think immediately differentiates us from many celebrity brands because there are some that are more like celebrity endorsement deals. I always say this, but 818 Tequila really is my baby, and in my opinion the product has proved itself over the past year and a half – the liquid that we produce is delicious, we’ve won over 30 international tasting awards, and we were the number one new spirit of 2021 (not just new tequila, new spirit!).
We also make sustainability a priority in everything we do – we are members of 1% for the Planet and we do as much as we can to minimize the environmental impact of our supply chain (for example, our distillery is powered by biomass and solar, and our boxes, labels, and corks are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council for coming from sustainably managed forests).
How will Eight Reserve expand upon the brand? What sort of changes to the process/craft were implemented to develop Eight Reserve?
As we were launching 818, we realized there was also an appetite for an ultra-premium and luxury tequila to complement our existing line. We started working on Eight Reserve over a year ago, and we have since been blending and having tons of tastings with our whole leadership team to really perfect the liquid and get it to that desired depth of flavor.
Eight Reserve takes what makes 818 Blanco, Reposado and Añejo so beautiful and brings it to the next level. We sourced the very best Extra Añejo to complement our own Añejo, so that the final Eight Reserve liquid is a blend of Añejos aged from one to eight years.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy 818 in general, are you sipping over ice, mixing in a cocktail, and what is your preferred expression? I love the Reposado personally.
Thank you! I love our Reposado as well. I go through phases, I always love a delicious Reposado Margarita, but recently I’ve also been into our Añejo on the rocks. Or, of course, a simple neat and chilled pour of Eight Reserve.
What sort of initiatives/ programs have 818 implemented to help support the surrounding town and community where 818 is produced?
818’s sustainability mission is one that I’m extremely passionate about. I mentioned our work to limit the impact our supply chain has on the environment, but I am also especially proud of our 818 Bricks Program with S.A.C.R.E.D. where we use the byproducts of tequila production to create adobe bricks and donate them to community initiatives across Mexico. Right now we are working with local communities on a library in Zapotitlan de Vadillo, as well as a Community Plaza in Rio de Parras, and more.
I’ve noticed recently that the listed distillery for 818 changed from NOM 1137, La Cofradia, to NOM 1607, Grupo Solave. Why the change?
We realized early on (within a few weeks of our initial launch in May 2021) that we needed a partner that could scale with us to meet the demand we were seeing. We officially switched over to NOM 1607, Grupo Solave and the change definitely helped us scale our production without sacrificing the traditional methods we use to make our tequila. They also really shared our commitment to sustainability which was super important to us.
A few years back I think a lot of people would’ve assumed you’d launch a makeup or apparel line but you decided to do something different from your sisters and launched a tequila brand instead. What drew you to this industry, what was your relationship with tequila before starting 818?
So, though I am known for my work in fashion, I also grew up in a household that really loved tequila – my parents were always super into it. As I got older, I started to share that love and I wanted to create something that brought people together. I also wanted new drinkers in my generation to be excited about sipping and savoring tequila vs just thinking about it in a shot form.
Celebrity-owned brands face a lot of extra scrutiny as I’m sure you’re aware, some of it is fair but sometimes a lot of that criticism seems aimed at things that don’t have much to do with the tequila itself. Obviously, the brand has won a lot of awards, personally, I’m a big fan and I’ve subjected a lot of tequila snobs and friends to blind taste tests where 818 routinely blows people away once their biases are removed. To the people who are skeptical of Tequila 818 (and to the haters) what would you say to them?
First of all, I appreciate you! I agree with your approach – let the liquid speak for itself. When we have people taste it blind, we usually win. I’m just proud of what we’ve created and I can say with confidence that we have a truly delicious, award-winning liquid and a real team of great people behind it in the U.S. and in Mexico. We are also committed to supporting our sustainability and community initiatives in Mexico for the long haul.