It’s 2021, and at this point, the whole “white people colonizing agave spirits” thing is getting old. George Clooney made a cool billion with the 2017 sale of Casamigos, which he launched in 2013 with partners and fellow white people Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman; other celebrity culture vultures who have descended upon Mexico’s agave fields include Nick Jonas (Villa One), Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul (Dos Hombres), Sammy Hagar and Adam Levine (Santo), AC/DC (Thunderstruck [lol]), and, for whatever reason, Toby Keith (Wild Shot Mezcal). The usual brand story template goes a little something like this:
“In [INSERT YEAR], [INSERT WHITE CELEB] visited the state of Jalisco in Mexico once and *~FeLL iN LoVe~* with the culture, aesthetic, and hand-crafted nature of the artisanal world of people working and minding their business in their own natural environment, which [INSERT WHITE CELEB] definitely didn’t gawk at or take a bunch of pictures of as if beholding a super-special 'exotic' exhibit at the zoo. It suddenly became [INSERT WHITE CELEB]’s lifelong dream to create THE. BEST. TEQUILA. (Not too strong! And also #clean!!) as if the communities who have been distilling it for literal generations don’t already know what’s up. But, we’ll throw them a contract and profit from their work while giving them literally no credit in our marketing materials because who the fuck cares! Drink [INSERT MEANINGFUL BRAND NAME].”
Anyway, let’s dissect the trashfire that was Kendall’s Instagram announcement:
Actually, I’m not quite sure where to begin. There’s ice in her tasting glasses, which is... just, no. After sniffing both (which could’ve easily been two pours of the same exact Tequila, tbh) and astutely describing them as “strong” and “less strong,” Señorita Jenner proceeds to proclaim her favorite, and the camera dramatically pans to the videographer, a screaming white person who could easily be a dork at the club asking if you want free shots at his friend’s table paid for by some bottomless expense account. The rest of the images and videos in the post are equally exciting and maskless; oh, and the Tequila’s name is 818, which is unimaginative at best (and erases the spirit’s Mexican origins to boot).
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Kendall (@kendalljenner)
We also need to address the “awards” cited in Ken’s post—as someone who has covered the wine and spirits industries for almost a decade, I have lit’rally zero clue what half of these competitions are. MicroLiquor Spirit Awards? Never heard of her. Also, 818 Tequila was apparently entered “anonymously,” but that’s not how any of this works (spirits are tasted blindly by judges, so my guess is that some ding dong on 818’s marketing team put their own uninformed spin on the language).
But enough about my personal grievances with white celebs exploiting Mexican heritage and labor—here’s what a bunch of bartenders and other industry experts had to say:
-"I hate it."
-"Nothing says appreciating Mexican culture and traditions like naming your brand after an area code in the U.S."
-"I don’t want it, send it back."
-"Big, heavy eyeroll to another white celebrity capitalizing on Tequila without giving proper credit to the people who created it."
-"Just bad, all around."
-"What are the chances that she will use any profit for purpose and put thoughtful care and investment to tackle appropriation, sustainability, investing in the workers and local community in and around the distillery?"
You get the idea. Whether or not Kendall and her mask-free posse, who enjoy aimlessly cutting lemons in half to stage curated product shots, end up putting the actual people behind the spirit at the forefront, pay fair wages, prioritize maintaining healthy and safe working environments, replant more agave than they harvest, thoughtfully implement other sustainable practices and protocols, and find constructive ways to give back to the community that’s probably going to make them a shit ton of money remains to be seen. In the meantime, here are a few upstanding agave spirit brands to support:
-Tequila Casa Dragones, which is produced sustainably and was co-founded by Mexican entrepreneur and Maestra Tequilera Bertha González Nieves
-Sombra Mezcal, which continuously donates funds to charitable efforts and uses their spent agave to create bricks that are used to rebuild houses damaged by natural disaster
-Raza Azteca Tequila, the brainchild of Melly Barajas Cárdenas, who has made it her mission to hire and support women from the distillery’s rural community
-Casa Mexico Tequila, a tradition-led company founded by Mexican-American Don Buccio along with Mexican-American partners Mario Lopez and Oscar de la Hoya