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Great Jones Distilling celebrates Basquiat’s life

A new whiskey and pop-up experience honours a famous artist, who lived and worked a few blocks from downtown Manhattan distillery Great Jones Distilling.

Three bottles of whiskey displayed with an artist's easel
Great Jones Distilling has introduced a seven-year-old Bourbon finished in Pineau de Charentes wine casks (far left)

Great Jones Distilling opened its doors in 2021, becoming Manhattan’s first and only whiskey distillery since Prohibition.

Now, the distillery is honouring its neighbourhood, the East Village, with a collection of whiskeys and event spaces that pay homage to famed New York artist Jean Michel Basquiat.

The distillery sits down the block from the site of Basquiat’s downtown apartment and art studio.

The distillery has introduced three new labels, including one new whiskey, each featuring Basquiat’s artwork.

Great Jones x Jean Michel Basquiat Dinosaur Edition (43% ABV), and Great Jones x Jean Michel Basquiat Skull Edition (43% ABV) contain standard four-year-old Great Jones Straight Bourbon but with updated labels featuring Basquiat’s iconic imagery.

Each will be sold for US$39 at liquor stores throughout New York state and via online retail partners.

Great Jones x Jean Michel Basquiat Pineau de Charentes Wine Cask-Finished Bourbon Distillery Exclusive is a new expression, containing seven-year-old Bourbon that was finished in Pineau de Charentes Wine puncheons for up to a year.

It is proofed at 45.5% ABV and priced at US$150 USD. There are roughly 1,800 bottles available exclusively at the distillery.

For head distiller Celina Perez, the Pineau de Charentes finish made thematic sense for this new collection.

“The experimental nature, and pushing the idea of what whiskey could be just aligned itself naturally with how Basquiat pushed art and pushed the boundaries of traditional ways of making things,” she said. “We do a lot of really small batch, out-there things and I think that that just went with the creative nature, artistic nature of Basquiat.”

In addition to the new whiskey, Great Jones has transformed aspects of its distillery to pay homage to Basquiat, his art, and his time living in New York City. The distillery’s tasting room, once outfitted with prop barrels, now captures 1980s New York, with decal graphics, neon lights, graffiti tags, a faux newsstand and more.

Great Jones Distilling
Great Jones has transformed its tasting room to reflect the 1980s New York that Basquiat lived in.

In addition to the standard tour experience (US$35), it is offering a VIP tour and tasting (US$55), which includes the Pineau de Charentes cask finish and dives deeper into Basquiat’s life and times.

The distillery’s basement speakeasy has likewise received a facelift. Now dubbed The Basquiat Bar, the space features two borrowed original Basquiat prints from Pace Editions, photos of the artist, and cocktails and bites inspired by him.

The bar will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6pm-10pm, with reservations available exclusively through Resy.

The Basquiat project will run from August to October, and will also include a curated collection of merchandise designed and produced by Rome Pays Off.

The partnership was created in collaboration with Artestar, a global licensing agency and creative consultancy representing high-profile artists, photographers, designers and creatives.

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