Serious Eats: Drinks
Ron de Jeremy Rum: Celebrity-label Booze Takes a Weird Turn
Just in case years of entertainment-industry headlines and reality television have left any doubt, let's state it up front: many celebrities are quite fond of their booze. Increasingly, high-profile personalities have been formalizing this liquor/stardom arrangement by using their image, name and fame-slash-notoriety to sell spirits or even launch brands of their own.
It doesn't take much searching to find supermarket-tabloid names in the liquor aisle. Mogul and possible presidential candidate Donald Trump long ago tagged his name on the gaudy gold bottles of Trump Vodka ("Success Distilled"); more recently, Bruce Willis obtained a small ownership share in Belvedere in return for marketing of their Sobieski brand of vodka; Belvedere also recruited Usher as a global ambassador, hoping to emulate the success found by Ciroc vodka after the latter hired P. Diddy as its public face; and actor Dan Aykroyd made a stir in vodka circles last year with the introduction of his Crystal Head Vodka, sold in glass bottles shaped as skulls.
Beyond vodka, Willie Nelson dug into his back catalog and hung an old song title on the label of Old Whiskey River Bourbon; Danny DeVito took inspiration from his drunken near-disaster on The View and launched his own brand of limoncello liqueur; and rappers and hiphop artists from Ludacris to Snoop Dogg to Flavor Flav have partnered with cognac producers for special bottlings and brands, including a deal between Jay-Z and Remy Martin for a cognac selling for $3,000 a bottle.
The intersection between liquor and stardom gets more interesting when the entertainer takes a hands-on approach to the product and comes up with a spirit that's not only star-branded, but worthwhile on its own merits. For the unfortunately named Mansinthe, Marilyn Manson not only painted the label artwork but reportedly helped settle on the recipe for the classic French-styled and not-at-all bad brand of absinthe. While Jimmy Buffet is seemingly content selling green-tinted slushies at his Margaritaville chain of restaurants, Sammy Hagar invested in a tequila distillery, and the Cabo Wabo brand he founded (and later sold) may have a name that makes me feel silly to say in a bar, but the pure-agave tequila in the bottle is no joke.
This spring sees the entry of the latest entry into the celebrity-liquor market, and possibly the one with most questionable taste: Ron de Jeremy, a premium brand of aged Panamanian rum introduced by (and named for) hirsute adult-film star Ron Jeremy. Introduced by One-Eyed Spirits (don't think about the name too much), Ron de Jeremy is being sold with a marketing campaign long on the double entendre: the flavor is described as "long and smooth" and the website features "Drinkxxx by Ron," and even the obligatory "drink responsibly" tag is finished with "never do anything Ron wouldn't do"—which, when you consider that Jeremy holds the current world record for the most appearances in adult films, starting with "Coed Teasers" in 1983, is a warning that leaves plenty of room for rum-fueled leeway.
I'd be happy to lavish the same couldn't-care-less attention on Ron de Jeremy that I've previously reserved for celebrity vodkas and the like, but it's not quite that easy, primarily because the rum is not too bad. Distilled in Panama by Francisco Fernandez—whose past credits include distilling rum for Havana Club and Ron Abuelo, as well as producing the intensely delicious Zafra—the rum may have an unusual public patron, but its pedigree is worthy.
And the rum itself? As I said, it's not too bad—but that's not the same as saying it's good. Ron de Jeremy has a mildly funky, somewhat musty, brown-sugary aroma not unlike that of other Central American rums, and the spirit is medium-bodied and lightly sweet, with a grassy, lean flavor and an abrupt finish. As a sipping rum, you can easily do better, but as a mixing rum, Ron de Jeremy could have its place, which could give it a life span longer than other celebrity-endorsed, flash-in-the-pan spirits.
Does a spirit with a famous (or infamous) name attached to it catch your attention when shopping for a spirit? And are you more or less likely to try a rum or vodka if it comes with this kind of support or endorsement?