Kendall Jenner’s new tequila line faces backlash

On Feb. 16, socialite Kendall Jenner announced on her Instagram that she is releasing her own tequila line called “818” after her hometown area code of Calabasas, CA. Though there isn’t a release date yet there has been controversy surrounding Jenner and the company for appropriating Mexican culture through the promotion of the line.

Jenner captioned the post, “For almost 4 years, I’ve been on a journey to create the best tasting tequila. After dozens of blind taste tests, trips to our distillery, entering into world tasting competitions anonymously and WINNING… 3.5 years later I think we’ve done it! This is all we’ve been drinking for the last year and I can’t wait for everyone else to get their hands on this to enjoy it as much as we do!”

Internet trolls were quick to criticize Jenner and her new liquor line. Lucas Assis, a Los Angeles-based bartender posted a TikTok expressing his view on the line appropriating Mexican culture Assis said, “For an outsider to say that in only four years she was able to make the best tasting tequila is really disrespectful… celebrities need to understand the detrimental effect that they can have in the tequila industry, but most importantly in the agriculture of the agave plant. And that plant is embedded in Mexico’s culture and history. And using that for nothing else than capital gain is cultural appropriation.”

More outrage occurred on Twitter as other people also pointed out that celebrities profiting off of farmers in Jalisco, Mexico, where the agave that is used to make tequila, is grown is a huge problem. Twitter user Ali said “Very hot take: I understand the frustration of Kendall Jenner’s tequila but I have never seen the same energy for people like George Cloonry Rande Gerber, the Rock, Nick Jonas Adam Levine, etc. for appropriation and their tequila brands.”

Elon Musks’ tequila brand mainly received backlash from Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council but not the majority of the public. His brand first started out as an April Fool’s joke in 2018 but in October of that same year his company filed to trademark the name “Teslaquila” which is what producers had an issue with. Reuters reported that the Tequila Regulatory Council stated that the “name ‘Teslaquila’ evokes the word tequila… (and) Tequila is a protected word.”

Jennie Molina on tweeted, “Kendall Jenner starting a tequila brand, with zero knowledge on Mexican culture and calling it ‘818 tequila’ is GENTRIFICATION. The 818 does not claim Calabasas. What about those smaller, family-owned Mexican tequila/mezcal brands? They deserve the hype & support.”

While 90 percent of Arette Tequila is exported to the U.S. it really depends on being suggested as a bartender favorite. When lockdown first began, tequila sales were up but the numbers Neilsen were reporting were from big brands such as Patrón and Jose Cuervo. Meanwhile smaller brands had reported different numbers.

Because of the high demand for agave, farmers are having a hard time keeping up with production, resulting in small family-owned distilleries having to struggle to pay for the influx at prices. COVID-19 has also been a huge reason why small brands are struggling.

Eduardo Orendain, a fifth-generation family member and sales manager for Arette Tequila told Seven Fifty Daily, “All the small producers are 50 to 60 percent down in sales, no matter who you talk to.”

Jenner has yet to comment on the backlash the tequila line is facing. She has retweeted articles from W Magazine and CR Fashion Book about her tequila. There is an Instagram account for the line but it doesn’t offer much information.