You’ve clicked on this tequila article for one of two reasons:
- You’re genuinely curious if Kendall Jenner’s foray into the tequila world is worthy of the hype (and price tag).
- You’re a hardcore Kardashian/Jenner hater (or tequila snob) who has come to complain in the comments about how a tequila from Jenner couldn’t possibly be good because… she has money? She’s from the Valley?
Either way, welcome. But if you’re a hater who has come to hate but you haven’t actually tried 818, kindly shut the f*ck up for a few minutes. Because we’re here to talk about the quality of the product, first and foremost, and — spoiler warning — all three bottles are good-to-great. Take it from someone who rated the blanco expression blind (and would have been more than happy to hate on it).
Jenner’s recent foray into the tequila space has launched a thousand think-pieces (here’s a shorter one), and some of the conversations regarding 818 are definitely important and worth having. But many of those think-pieces were crafted solely for clicks, piggybacking on Jenner’s celebrity status to create online engagement while ignoring scores of other entries in the crowded world of famous (non-Mexican) tequila entrepreneurs. So they often read as bad-faith arguments aimed at a mega-famous young woman rather than, say, the Breaking Bad guys, who also own a celebrity white label brand.
If you’re tired of having conversations about Jenner’s tequila (I know I am!), and just want to know whether or not it’s good, please, feel free to skip ahead to the section titled “The Tequila.” But as I mentioned before, some of these conversations are vital, so let’s wade into them briefly.
Is Kendall Jenner’s Tequila Cultural Appropriation?
I said “briefly” because this is actually a pretty complicated subject and there is no easy answer. The Oxford dictionary defines cultural appropriation as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people of society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.” Keep in mind this is just one definition of cultural appropriation (see what I mean about complicated?), but already you can see that this definition doesn’t 100% apply to Jenner’s brand. I can say this with confidence because we know this is a tequila, which means it was produced in a very specific region in Mexico, so you can’t exactly say it’s not acknowledging the origin and tradition of the product in question, even despite the name, which pays reference to Jenner’s Calabasas, California area code of 818.
Then you get to that part about dominance. Jenner certainly has more notoriety than the underpaid Mexican farmers who actually work the fields and extract the agave to make Tequila 818. But so do the rich distillery owners, the boards of the publicly held mega-brands, and every celebrity that ever dabbles in the tequila game, from George Clooney to Nick Jonas to Guy Fieri to the Rock. So if you have a problem with Jenner’s tequila, which is fine, you also have a problem with every single corporate or celebrity-owned brand (or, at the very least, non-Mexican corporate or celebrity-owned brand).
That’s also fine, by the way! We’re just advocating even-handedness when approaching this issue.
At the end of the day, there is a Mexican-owned distillery and Mexican farmers making money from the existence of 818. Perhaps not as much as they should be making, but that’s more of a problem with the rampantly extractive nature of late-stage capitalism. On the flip side, 818’s very existence is making it harder for lesser-known brands to garner the same level of attention, and pulling the exhausted agave resources away from brands that can’t afford to keep up with Jenner’s massive wealth, which may cause them to fold. That would definitely put some people out of jobs — especially brands owned by local Mexican families who have a deep, historical, and personal connection to tequila that Jenner might not have. It’s not wrong to be deeply concerned by that. But remember that, when viewed through this prism, all celebrities entering the tequila space are gobbling up precious and limited agave resources and jeopardizing the fate of smaller labels. Though they’re also building a pipeline of new aficionados, so there’s room for some nuance here — do you believe in the phrase “a rising tide lifts all ships” or not?
As we said, it’s a thorny issue. Wherever you land on it, please do absolutely vote with your dollars. If you feel like Jenner’s tequila is cultural appropriation, we implore you: don’t buy it. It’s not like it’s lightyears ahead of anything on the market. In fact, I have a piece coming next week all about non-celebrity, non-corporate tequilas that will help you navigate lesser-known brands.
In the meantime…
Tequila 818 comes from the La Cofradia distillery in Jalisco. La Cofradia is a pretty divisive distillery amongst tequila snobs, as it’s a contract distillery that is currently home to over 60 brands of tequila. That doesn’t automatically make tequila from La Cofradia “bad,” as some self-described tequila aficionados will tell you. Plenty of well-respected brands that have scored highly at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition come from this distillery — including Storywood and Hiatus — so the idea that a good tequila can’t come from this distillery is a little ridiculous. Having said that, the distillery is certainly no Fortaleza or Alteña, two smaller, family-owned distilleries that live up to their well-deserved hype.
The tequila itself is produced from Blue Weber agave harvested at peak maturity (seven years) by jimadores local to the Los Valles region of Tequila. The agave is then cooked in brick ovens for 40 hours, before being subjected to the tahona extraction method, a traditional extraction process adapted from the Aztecs that relies on a large stone wheel that crushes the agave. It’s a very labor-intensive process, so Kendall’s brand certainly can’t be accused of cutting any corners.
The juice is then fermented for 70 hours and twice distilled in alembic pot stills. All in all, the process is pretty solid. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that people keep saying this stuff is actually good.
818 Tequila Blanco
Average Price: $54.99
The Blanco presents itself with a sort of shimmery silver glow that looks great in the glass. On the nose you get a bouquet of fresh lemongrass, juicy fruit and, I kid you not, spit. On the palate, this expression is highly vegetal, with notes of lemon-lime citrus, asparagus, agave, and the slightest pinch of almond. There’s a smooth finish that makes this remarkably sippable.
The Bottom Line
Incredibly smooth with lots of refreshing tropical notes, that nose is rough stuff though. For the price it’s not even close to the best blanco you can find in this range.
818 Tequila Reposado
Average Price: $60
Very subtle whiffs of honey on the nose, the 818 Reposado presents itself with a light straw color and reveals notes of vanilla, fresh asparagus, and bright citrus on the palate, with gentle echoes of floral hibiscus. The finish is supremely smooth with a baked caramel quality that settles on the tongue nicely between sips. There is a sweet dessert quality to this tequila, but it’s not overly sweet in a distracting way. Overall a great expression.
The Bottom Line
818’s tequila reposado strikes a nice balance between bright and vegetal qualities and something with a deeper complexity.
818 Tequila Añejo
Average Price: $74.99
818’s Añejo, the label’s most expensive expression, features a beautifully rich amber glow. On the nose, it presents strong notes of rich milk chocolate and toffee. The smell is so sweet that you’re going to want to sit with it for a while, just breathing it in. Go for it, everyone around you will think your nuts, but it’ll deepen your experience. Across the palate, those brown sugar dessert-like qualities intensify, revealing breakfast-like flavors of honey, maple, with a pronounced oak finish resulting in 818’s smoothest expression.
The Bottom Line
The dessert-like qualities teased in the 818 Reposado are in full force here. It’s rich and a pleasure to drink, and while I miss some of the bright vegetal qualities of the other two expressions, this is likely my favorite overall.
All three expressions of Jenner’s 818 are very solid, with the repo and añejo being full-on great, but if you’re looking for an answer on whether or not they’re worth it, that’s going to come down to just how much you want to spend. For me, given what these bottles offer, I’d say all three are priced a little higher than I’d like them to be personally, you can easily find bottles just as good if not better that are nearly $15 cheaper. El Tesoro and Herradura instantly come to mind, but the inflated price of 818 is what happens when you opt for a celebrity brand over the tequilas that don’t have a famous face or name attached to them. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that these come accompanied with a heftier price tag, but from what I’ve tasted from other celebrity tequilas like Teremana and Casamigos, this is the best I’ve had.
Of the three I have to hand it to the 818 Añejo, it has the best flavor profile overall, but at just shy of $75 per bottle (average retail) I can’t see myself reaching for this over some of my current favorite añejos. For that reason, I’m going to say if you want to pick up a bottle of 818 your best bet is the 818 Reposado for its versatility and great flavor. It has some of the delectable dessert qualities of the añejo, balanced out with the bright agave-focused notes of the blanco, providing you with a great bottle of tequila to sip, shoot, or mix in the drinks. At $60 a bottle, it hits the Goldilocks zone for me. It’ll be interesting to see how it elevates a cocktail compared to similarly priced bottles.