SB’s most read stories of 2021
Our coverage of celebrity spirits, damaging tariffs and the death of a cocktail legend captured the attention of readers last year. Here, we count down the most read stories of 2021.
While our pick of the biggest news stories of 2021 spanned topics from the changes in Japanese whisky regulations to booze bans in South Africa, our list of the most read stories from last year features one standout theme: celebrity spirits.
Brands such as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Teremana Tequila, Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila and Cardi B’s Whip Shots drew the attention of The Spirits Business readers around the world in 2021.
Our audience also gravitated towards coverage of the trade disputes that have rocked the spirits industry over the past few years, and was saddened to learn of the death of prominent bartender Douglas Ankrah, who created the Pornstar Martini.
Meanwhile, a few of the stories that narrowly missed the top 10 include the launch of low-sugar Baileys; Patrón’s decision to cease production of XO Café; and the release of Calirosa Tequila, the brand backed by Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine.
10. The Rock’s Teremana Tequila tops 600,000 cases
Pro wrestler-turned actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson made headlines when he launched his Teremana Tequila back in 2020, and the brand continued to be a hot topic in 2021.
At the end of last year, the Teremana team exclusively revealed its sales figures to The Spirits Business, which showed that the brand sold more than 600,000 nine-litre cases in 2021.
Johnson told SB that the sales make Teremana “the fastest-growing Tequila in the history of all spirits”.
9. The Rock takes Teremana Tequila to Canada
Canadian fans of The Rock were thrilled when the actor announced his plans to bring Teremana Tequila to their country in March 2021.
The brand, which launched with a blanco and a reposado expression, was first made available in Ontario and has since rolled out across Canada.
8. US to slap 25% tariff on Cognac and brandy
Trade disputes have presented major obstacles for the spirits industry over the past few years, and 2021 kicked off with devastating news for some French producers, as the US placed a 25% tariff on certain Cognacs and other French brandies.
The tax was lifted in March, when the US and EU agreed to a five-year suspension of tariffs. The deal did not cover American whiskey, a category that has been severely impacted by trade disputes.
In November last year, however, US whiskey makers also experienced relief, as the EU decided to drop its retaliatory tariffs on American goods from 1 January 2022.
7. Cardi B creates Whip Shots
Among the most eye-catching product launches of last year was Whip Shots, the vodka-infused whipped cream backed by American rapper Cardi B.
The range, which aims to ‘disrupt’ the spirits industry, features three flavours – vanilla, caramel and mocha – each clocking in at 10% ABV.
Whip Shots made our list of the most innovative launches of 2021.
A new study recently revealed the best value celebrity spirits on the market.
6. Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder’s Bourbon hits 17 states
Vampire Diaries stars Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley created Brother’s Bond Bourbon in 2020, and brought the brand to 17 US states in 2021.
E-commerce platform Reserve Bar said Brother’s Bond broke its record for the highest sales velocity secured in a 24-hour period, and the brand noted that there were early indications it could become the fastest-selling super-premium Bourbon in the US.
Later in the year, we caught up with Somerhalder and Wesley over Zoom to discuss their sustainability goals and to discover what’s in store for the brand, including plans to build a Brother’s Bond distillery.
5. Pornstar Martini creator Douglas Ankrah dies
Last August the international cocktail community mourned the death of Douglas Ankrah, a prominent figure in the London bar scene and the creator of the Pornstar Martini.
Ankrah co-founded the London Academy of Bartending (Lab) in Soho 1999, then went on to open Townhouse in Knightsbridge in 2002.
At Townhouse, he developed the recipe for the renowned Pornstar Martini cocktail, a mix of vanilla vodka, fresh passionfruit, passionfruit liqueur, vanilla syrup and lime juice that is served with a shot of Champagne.
London’s bartenders and cocktail lovers celebrated Ankrah’s life and raised funds for his family at an event during London Cocktail Month in October.
4. Sotheby’s to sell Jay Z’s 1969 D’Ussé bottle
One of last year’s most high-profile spirits auctions was the sale of bottle number one of D’Ussé 1969 Anniversaire Limited Edition Grande Champagne Cognac, which went under the hammer in March through Sotheby’s.
D’Ussé Cognac was founded by rapper Jay-Z in 2012. Spirits giant Bacardi, which owns the brand, created the limited edition bottling to celebrate the musician’s 50th birthday in 2019.
The Cognac was forecast to sell for between US$25,000 and US$75,000, with proceeds going to the Shawn Carter Foundation, Jay-Z’s charity.
3. George Clooney’s Casamigos hits 1m cases
Casamigos, the Tequila brand co-founded by actor George Clooney, demonstrated the major selling power of a famous face when it hit the one million case sales mark in 2020.
In 2017, Diageo acquired Casamigos in a deal worth up to US$1.1 billion, solidifying the brand as a benchmark of success in the world of celebrity spirits.
2. Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila sales soar
Keeping Up with the Kardashians star Kendall Jenner entered the spirits industry last year with the launch of 818 Tequila, and the brand reported rapid sales in the period following its initial release.
818 president Mike Novy told The Spirits Business that, in the first two months after the brand’s launch in May 2021, the company already had orders for more cases than it expected to sell in its first two years.
The Tequila brand experienced backlash last year due to a marketing campaign that was accused of cultural appropriation, and it subsequently began a partnership with industry charity Sacred Agave, which aims to support the rural Mexican communities that produce agave spirits.
Last month, 818 said it sold 136,000 cases in its first seven months of business.
1. Most followed celebrity spirits brands
The story that brought in the highest number of clicks on our site last year was our round-up of the celebrity spirits brands with the biggest social media followings.
Booze stockist Drink Finder conducted research on the brands with the best social media performances, and we revealed which ones came out on top.
The list includes Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin and Dos Hombres, the mezcal brand co-founded by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, as well as celebrity-backed Tequilas such as The Rock’s Teremana and Kendall Jenner’s 818.
The thirst for celebrity-backed spirits clearly continued to grow in 2021 – and if our most popular coverage is any indication, the trend is set to continue in the year ahead.