Close Menu

SB meets… Swizz Beatz, The Dean Collection

The husband of Alicia Keys and co-founder of The Dean Collection reveals all about his new Irish whiskey range.

Swizz Beats, The Dean Collection
The Dean Collection is limited to just 110 packs

*This feature was originally published in the July 2024 issue of The Spirits Business magazine.

Fresh off the plane in London, record producer and entrepreneur Swizz Beatz (Kasseem Dean) proudly unveiled The Dean Collection to The Spirits Business. A labour of love between him, singer-songwriter Alicia Keys – Dean’s wife – and business partner Stephen Dillon – the co-founder and head of innovation at Innobev – the four-strong Irish whiskey collection is limited to just 110 packs, priced at €25,000 (around US$26,700) each.

The single malts began their maturation journeys in ex-Bourbon casks before being transferred into 250-litre oloroso Sherry hogsheads. From there, the whiskey was poured into four custom-made 128-litre casks: oloroso, Amontillado, Pedro Ximénez (PX), and Moscatel.

Each flavour profile has been designed to offer the drinker a different experience; the oloroso bottling is dry, nutty and complex, with a touch of menthol and citrus, while the Amontillado whiskey delivers flavours of honeydew melon and banana alongside dried fruit and spices. The PX-finished whiskey offers baking spices, poached pear and soft salted caramel, while the Moscatel offering has touches of candied lemon peel, ripe fig, hints of leather, and barley sugar sticks.

The collection was inspired by Beatz and Keys’ art platform, also called The Dean Collection, which acquires and commissions work by visual artists.

How did it feel to see the final products?

It was better than I could have imagined. I’m a Virgo, so a Virgo is very detailed, very spontaneous, and very critical. Details matter to me, which I use in my music, I use in my craft with art, I use it in fashion, and I’m using it in the spirits business now. When I saw those bottles, it felt like freedom. To have a 21-year-old whiskey with four different cask finishes – this is not normal. And to partner with an artist like Derrick Adams on the packaging, to hold creatives to the highest capacity, which is where creatives should be, is amazing. Why not treat the spirits like art, because making whiskey is art.

How did this partnership for The Dean Collection of whiskeys come about?

Stephen and I met through giving gifts. I gave a friend of his a gift, and the next time they gave me a gift. It was a cask of Irish whiskey. It was unbelievable; I’m talking like butter. And then as we got to talking about making this whiskey together, I said I want to do four whiskeys. I always love a series. That’s where the idea for different cask finishes came in. There is nothing out there like it. The artist himself is a superstar, the liquid itself is a superstar. The key thing is quality, and the effort that went into giving consumers something different in each bottle.

It’s a bold move to put whiskey in a completely opaque bottle. How did you design the packaging?

We went back and forth for weeks with different bottles, and it came down to the aesthetics and the overall feel. That felt far more important than showing the colour of the liquid – which is incredible, it’s a beautiful deep amber. But this was also in some ways an art project and we wanted to showcase that art, and make it part of the bottle. We could have just done a standard label, but we digitally printed the design onto the bottle; it’s like no other.

How significant is the partnership with artist Derrick Adams?

He is an amazing, multidisciplinary artist. My wife, Alicia, and I trust his vision, and we’re big fans and collectors of his work. Derrick Adams is not going to put anything on the wall unless he feels it’s 100%. We shouldn’t put anything on the shelves unless we feel it’s 100%. So that’s where it makes sense. Derrick Adams has done four colours of The Masked Pioneer, one for each whiskey, and you get a print with the collection. We want to tap into something different that we haven’t seen in spirits. We’re here to disrupt big time.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No