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Top 10 celebrity drinks launches of 2017

The success of their wine and spirits ventures don’t always reach the same lofty heights as their all-star careers, but that hasn’t stopped another slew of famous faces from launching a drinks brand in 2017.

Love them or loathe them, celebrities can bring an added sparkle to a new brand, helping it to get noticed in its early days – whether the liquid itself stands up to scrutiny is another matter.

So it’s no surprise that year after year, any number of famous faces choose to step outside of their primary career and try their hand in the wine and spirits trade, such is its allure for those with the cash to invest in projects that pique their personal interests.

While some celebrity-endorsed or celebrity-owned brands go on to become established names – respected and valued irrespective of their famous founder – others disappear without a trace almost as quickly as they emerged.

David Beckham, while merely a promotional tool for Diageo rather than a brand owner, has worked wonders for Diageo’s Haig Club whisky, while actor Dan Aykroyd’s fame is almost incidental, rather than the foundation, of the success of his distinctive Crystal Head vodka, launched in 2008.

George Clooney’s recent sale of his Casamigos Tequila for US$1billion proved that, while his star quality undoubtedly helped to boost its profile and appeal, the brand was ultimately a horse that Diageo felt it could confidently back in the long run.

Likewise Jay-Z, who owns Champagne Armand de Brignac, but keeps a deliberately low profile when it comes to his association with the brand, has successfully maintained the brand’s premium appeal without his persona becoming a gimmick to its success.

Other brands are not so fortunate. I doubt many will remember Hpnotiq Sparkle – an alcoholic blend of fruit juice, white wine, vodka and Cognac infused with “Champagne-like bubbles” – produced by the US-based Heaven Hill Distilleries and fronted by reality TV star Khloe Kardashian.

Former England manager, Sven-Göran Eriksson, also made a play for the wine trade, launching his own wine brand Sven in 2014, which has so far failed to set the wine world alight.

With this in mind, we have taken a look back at the year to see which celebrities have set their sights on the wine, beer and spirits market with the launch of a new brand. Will the following famous faces be infiltrating our drinks cabinet in the future, destined to become a multi-million dollar company? Or should they stick to the talents that made them household names?

Click through for a round up of the famous faces that launched into the drinks trade this year…

10. Taylor Swift

While T-Swift isn’t the brand owner, the pop star’s Tennessee-based record label record label will undoubtedly have scored some benefits through association having made its first foray into the spirits market with the launch of Big Machine Platinum Filtered Premium Vodka.

Big Machine has enlisted the help of Tenn South Distillery in Lynnville to produce the small batch vodka, which will carry the tagline ‘Pour It On…Turn It Up…Lean In…Or Lean Back…And Indulge’. The vodka is said to get its “superior freshness” from its “highest quality grains” and “purest Tennessee limestone water”.

“Over the past 11 years Big Machine has provided the soundtrack to millions of fans worldwide,” said Big Machine Label Group President and CEO Scott Borchetta. “With the launch of Big Machine Premium Vodka, we are now offering a superior product that perfectly complements the music we take such great pride in.”

During its initial launch period, Big Machine Platinum Filtered Premium Vodka will only be available in the Mid Tennessee region.

Big Machine Label Group is home to superstars such as Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line, Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Thomas Rhett and Brantley Gilbert.

9. Lady Gaga

In February the rumour mill whirred into action with talk that eccentric songstress Lady Gaga was to release her own brand of wine called Grigio Girls, named after a bonus track on her album Joanne.

The song Grigio Girls is a tribute to one of Gaga’s best friends, Sonja, who has cancer.

By December, her actual plans came to light, with Gaga confirming that she was set to release wines not under the catchy but somewhat constraining name Grigio Girls, but under the ‘Joanne Trattoria’ brand, named after the Italian restaurant in New York owned by her father.

As reported by The Blast, representatives for Gaga filed documents to secure the rights for ‘Joanne Trattoria Vino Blanco’ and ‘Joanne Trattoria Vino Rosso’.

Run by her father, Joe Germanotta, Joanne Trattoria in New York’s Upper West Side is named after Gaga’s late aunt.

In addition to wine, Gaga plans to release wine coolers, punches and cocktails under the same brand name.

8. Kelsey Grammer

Beloved actor Kelsey Grammer, known for his long-running roles in US sitcoms Cheers and Frasier, confirmed he was to release his first beer having founded a brewery in upstate New York called Faith American.

Kelsey has owned the property in Delaware County for 25 years and has been working to bring it up to scratch as a brewery for several years. Speaking to Kelly Ripa on US chat show Live with Kelly and Ryan, Grammer confirmed the project and the upcoming release of a beer, but said that building work to the brewery itself had been held up.

The brewery will be located in Delaware County, near the Catskill Mountains, in Margaretville – a village on the northern edge of the Catskill Park – and will be named after his five-year-old daughter Faith Evangeline Elisa.

Its first beer will be called Faith American Ale.

Grammer shot to fame in the 1980s on the TV sitcom Cheers, before taking on the leading role in long-running US comedy Frasier. He also voices the character of Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons.

7. Francis Ford Coppola

A respected director and winemaker in his own right, Francis Ford Coppola this year announced his first foray into the world of spirits with the launch of a vodka, gin and brandy inspired by “unique and remarkable” women throughout history.

The range is inspired by “unique and remarkable” women including Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Countess Maria Walewska and computer programmer Ada Lovelace, and includes three spirits: American brandy Maria Gaetana Agnesi 1799 Aged 5 Years Old, Countess Walewska Premium Vodka, and Ada Lovelace Gin.

Each spirit is made with spring water from Coppola’s Inglenook property in Napa Valley. The water is naturally filtered through lava rock at the base of an inactive volcano.

Paying homage to English-style gins, Ada Lovelace Gin contains 10 botanicals, including roses and lemons from the Coppola family’s Napa home.

Coppola, who operates the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in California, launched the range after securing a craft spirits license.

“My mother, sister, wife, daughter, and granddaughters have all inspired me, as have all of the incredible women we celebrate with Great Women Spirits,” said Coppola.

“We all know well the great men of history, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon and so on. I can think of as many women who distinguished themselves at that level in the fields of politics, science, mathematics and philosophy, so my choices and reasons for this collection are very personal.”

6. Sting 

Rock star-turned-winemaker Sting has long been a figure in the wine trade, with the singer producing six wines from his Chianti estate called Il Palagio, some of which take their name from his songs, such as Message in a Bottle or his flagship Super Tuscan blend, which is called Sister Moon.

This year, while attending the annual ProWein wine and spirits fair in Düsseldorf, Sting confirmed this year an addition to his range of six wines from Tuscany with a new label named after his hit single, Roxanne.

The wine already exists, and comprises a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot and 10% Syrah. Currently called Message in a Bottle for all markets, Sting pointed out that there was a “trademark issue” for this particular wine in the US, and, consequently, he would be renaming it Roxanne for the North American market.

So, although the wine isn’t new, he said that Il Palagio will be introducing Roxanne “soon”.

At the moment, Il Palagio produces a white, a rosé, and four red blends, including one Chianti DOCG, each with a different name and look.

5. Hilary Duff

American actress Hillary duff teamed up with California producer Callie Collection on a new range of wines in March.

The Cinderella Story star launched the wines at The North Cabana at La Sirena in New York’s Meatpacking District.

Duff, who shot to fame as a child star in the Lizzie McGuire series, posed for photos with the wines, which hail from California’s Central Coast.

The Callie Collection includes a 2015 Central Coast Chardonnay boasting notes of “lime, pineapple and crème brûlée”, a Central Coast Pinot Grigio offering aromas of “melon, flint and pear”, and a ‘Fresh Red Blend’, which delivers notes of “blackberries, strawberries and vanilla”.

The wines are priced at $13 each.

4. Martha Stewart

Home-making guru Martha Stewart already has a jump on the homeware, cooking, kitchen and entertaining sectors, with her brand among the most successful in America.

This year, she moved into the world of wine. The Martha Stewart Wine Company is an online service offering users the chance to buy bundles of wines from around the world cherry picked by Stewart.

Stewart roped in former French Laundry sommelier Chris Hoel to help her pick the wines in a collaboration with wine delivery marketing company ‘Drinks’. Collections are grouped by style, region and country, and include West Coast wine from California and Washington; a French selection; Italian reds; ‘worldly whites’; the ‘life is sweet’ selection; ‘Martha’s favourites’ and a 12-bottle ‘discovery’ case.

Wine clubs and subscriptions are offered, and videos feature Stewart’s tasting notes and entertaining tips.

“Wine has played an important role in that part of my life focused on entertaining and teaching others how to entertain,” Stewart said in a statement. “With the launch of this fabulous online wine shop, I am confident that we can teach consumers how to pour the right wine, and enjoy the right wine, at every occasion.”

The TV personality has built a successful media empire, which includes TV shows, a radio channel, cookbooks, paint, furniture and cooking utensils. On her Wikipedia page it claims she has been struck by lightening three times.

3. Sammy Hagar and Adam Levine

One of the most innovative of celebrity-based drinks launches this year came from the former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, who teamed up to launch a Tequila-mezcal hybrid Santo Puro Mezquila.

“Sammy Hagar and Adam Levine became friends over their shared love of Tequila,” a statement on the Santo Puro Mezquila website read of the unlikely duo.

“One night on a beach in Cabo, Mexico, their creative juices were flowing and they combined mezcal with Tequila, discovering a taste they could only describe as a revelation. They brought together an expert team to develop the perfect blend, and created, a higher spirit.”

Santo Puro Mezquila is described as an agave blend, combining 100% Blue Variety Tequilana Weber agave and 100% Espadin agave, of the Angustifolia variety.

The liquid was created in collaboration with Juan Eduardo Nuñez, third genera­tion master distiller at El Viejito which is located in Jalisco’s highlands, and is said to have an “intense agave aroma” that reveals an “earthy, light smokiness with a hint of herbs”. On the palate, Santo is “mellow”; the “intricate agave flavor and herbal complexity layered with gentle smoke, slight floral fruitiness and low saltiness”.

Hagar already has already proven his skills in the drinks trade, having founded the Cabo Wabo Tequila brand in 1996. He sold his stake to Gruppo Campari in 2010 for US$11 million, which still owns the brand.

2. Conor McGregor

Fresh from his debut fight in Las Vegas on 26 August, boxer Conor McGregor announced he has plans to “take over” the Irish whiskey category with the launch of a brand called Notorious.

The Irish mixed martial artist announced the new venture at a press conference, with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a bottle of Notorious in the other.

Taking to the podium with a glass in hand, McGregor said: “Notorious Irish whiskey, coming soon. I’m going to take over the Irish whiskey market – and this is delicious! Boy that whiskey tastes so good. Keep an eye out for it.”

In preparation of its launch, McGregor filed an application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (Euipo) for the Nortorious trademark before his world-famous Mayweather fight.

However the brand is yet to hit shelves, with Ireland’s Carlow Brewing Company, which owns the rights to a European trademark of the ‘Notorious’ name, moving to block the sportsman’s application, citing the launch of its own Notorious Red IPA pale ale last year. 

1. And finally, Sir Ian Botham

While not yet released, England Cricket legend Sir Ian Botham revealed to the drinks business last month plans to launch an English sparkling next year as part of a new wine range carrying his name.

The new range will comprise three tiers, with the priciest branded ‘Sir Ian Botham’, costing between £15-£20, and featuring a collection of still wines from Australia and New Zealand, along with one fizz, which will come from an as yet unnamed English producer.

Beneath this will be two further levels, with a mid-tier called ‘The Botham Series’, comprising a Provençal rosé, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and an Argentine Malbec, which will retail for £8-10. Coming later will be an entry-level range called ‘Beefy’ – Botham’s sporting nickname.

UK importer Broadland Wineries, who named former Accolade boss Paul Schaafsma as its CEO earlier this year, has already agreed a partnership with the Sir Ian Botham brand.

The most expensive tier will include a Chardonnay from Margaret River, a Pinot Noir from Central Otago, and a Pinot Gris from New Zealand, along with a Shiraz from the Barossa and possibly a Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra.

Botham, well-known for his love of wine, is the first known celebrity to put their name to an English wine – a significant development for the fast-growing English fizz industry.

The focus on wines from New Zealand and Australia under the brand Sir Ian Botham is a consequence of the sportsman’s many years spent touring these countries during his glittering cricketing career, as well as his preference for wines from the New World.

“We’ve been mates for a while,” Schaafsma said speaking to the drinks business. “Sir Ian is astute on wine, and he’s been around the world of wine for the last 40 years, and this year he asked me to source a range of wines from the producers he loves, using the name Sir Ian Botham for a top tier, costing between £15-20.”

The brand will be jointly owned by Botham and Broadland, with Sir Ian acting as the global ambassador for the wines. All of the wines in the Sir Iran Botham range will be officially unveiled at the London Wine Fair in May 2018.

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