Who Gets to Make Tequila? Not Kendall Jenner, According to the Internet

Another celebrity, another tequila brand — and another instance of cultural appropriation.


No celebrity family is more prone to getting heat than the Jenner / Kardashian clan. On Tuesday, Kendall Jenner announced the launch of her own tequila brand, 818, with an Instagram post. Commenters did not hold back, calling out Jenner for cultural appropriation.

In her announcement post, Jenner mentions she had been working on 818 in secret for nearly four years, "after dozens of blind taste tests, trips to our distillery, entering into world tasting competitions anonymously and WINNING." The lineup of 818 tequilas include a blanco, reposado and añejo, all of which have won some type of spirit award. (Notably, 818's reposado took home the award for best in its category in the 2020 World Tequila Awards.)

Jenner's friends and family rained praise on her and her tequila. Many others, however, were not so kind.

In a subreddit thread from six months ago, one user discovered 818 after winning in the World Tequila Awards. Last week, however, said subreddit became active again after Jenner's announcement. One user, who identified as a Mexican tequila maker, wrote: "This is a joke for real tequila makers, what Kendall did was literally make a bottle, found a bigger brand that bottles 'her tequila.'"

Diet Prada, an Instagram account that calls out wrongdoings in the fashion industry, also posted about 818, highlighting the pushback to the brand and Jenner. "Scrolling past the top comments from her influential friends, it seems the Mexican and Latinx community aren’t so keen on the launch," the account wrote, citing several comments criticizing Jenner's new venture.

Issues of cultural appropriation were behind much of the vitriol. Many of those commenters were angry that Jenner is another non-Mexican person profiting off a Mexican product, when so many Mexicans rely on making and selling tequila to support their families. Commenters also said they were worried about the potential exploitation of the workers who harvest the agave and make the tequila.

An apparent lack of tequila knowledge also seems to have led some to criticize Jenner. The model is seen sipping her tequila on ice, a faux pas among many tequila experts.

Beyond its celebrity parentage, little is known about 818. Its bottles mention "handcrafted" and "small batch" — buzzwords with little meaning — and all three are made in Jalisco, Mexico, from 100 percent Weber Blue agave.

As many noted, Jenner is hardly the first celebrity to start a tequila brand. Dwayne Johnson has Teremana; Nick Jonas and John Varvatos have Villa One; and perhaps most famously, George Clooney had Casamigos, which he and his business partners Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman sold to Diaego for $1 billion back in 2017. (On a related note, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have a mezcal brand, Dos Hombres.)

casamigos tequila founders george clooney, rande gerber and partner mike meldman celebrate the launch of casamigos at andrea's
Rande Gerber and George Clooney celebrate the launch of Casamigos in 2013.
Denise TruscelloGetty Images

The aforementioned celebrities have also received pushback for their foray into the tequila business, and the criticism from the Mexican community over cultural appropriation certainly seems justified. But the outcry over 818 certainly seems louder than that received by other celebrity-owned tequila brands.

(Either Jenner's gender or the fact that her family always manages to find itself on the receiving end of condemnation both seem likely potential reasons, however.)

And while the general public has yet to try 818, before you snap up a bottle, just remember: there are plenty of tequila brands out there owned by Mexican distillers that are making excellent spirits.

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