Review: 818 Tequila Blanco

Celebrity tequilas are a bit hit or miss. Casamigos is a downright banger, but other brands like Jaja have been bitter disappointments. And since the Kardashians are some of the most ubiquitous celebrities of the early 21st century, it’s only fitting that at least one of them branched into the spirits market. Today we are looking at Kendall Jenner’s tequila, 818 Tequila Blanco.


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History

818 Tequila is a celebrity owned brand of tequila produced by reality TV star and model Kendall Jenner.

So… why did Jenner decide to produce a tequila? With some celebrity spirits, there’s an obvious cultural link (like Conor McGregor’s Irish Whiskey). With others, it’s more of an accidental enterprise (like George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila, which was not originally created to sell to the public). There’s no such story here, though. The “Our Story” page on their website reads like a sterile business pitch deck, emphasizing quality ingredients and sustainable processes without a single word describing why this specific celebrity wanted to create their own tequila. Beyond, ya know, the obvious blatant cash grab.

The name 818 comes from the area code for Los Angeles where Kendall Jenner resides. Again, nothing whatsoever to do with the tequila, its process, or anything related to the spirit… and instead focusing on the celebrity owner.

Product

As a 100% agave tequila, this spirit starts with a crop of blue weber agave plants that grow for around seven years in Mexico before they are harvested. The plants have their leaves shaved, leaving behind only the hard fibrous cores that are shipped to the distillery.

For this tequila, those agave cores are cooked in a traditional brick oven for 40 hours, which converts the agave fibers into sugar and starts to loosen the hard cores. The cooked cores are then placed into a large stone ring where a stone wheel crushes them and releases the sugary liquid inside, which is a traditional method of extraction.

Once extracted, the sugary liquid is added to water and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic liquid. That liquid is then distilled twice in batches through some copper pot stills which creates the raw tequila.

In this blanco version of 818 tequila, there is no mention of any additional flavoring or maturation — the spirit appears to simply be proofed down with water and bottled.

Packaging

This has a pretty minimalist feel in both the actual glass bottle and the label.

The bottle is a fairly common design, with a thick glass bottom and a roughly cylindrical body. The sides are a bit squared off, which is something a little different from normal… but not enough to make the bottle stand out all that much. The sides slope outwards slightly before curving back inwards for the medium length neck. The bottle is capped off with a wood and cork stopper.

As for the label, there are only two colors here: a lemon yellow and bold black. The text is in big block letters, the biggest lettering for the 818 brand name and getting progressively smaller as you go down the label. It’s not a terrible design, but then again there’s nothing here. The label doesn’t tell a story and doesn’t evoke anything to the viewer, it is just a billboard for the brand name.

One thing I need to mention is that 818 and 512 Tequila are in a bit of a spat at the time of writing, with the Austin-based 512 suing 818, claiming that 818 copied their branding and even used images of their bottles in place of 818’s bottles in marketing and video games. As much as I want to agree with a small business from my hometown, I actually have to concede that I think the bottles on the shelf are distinct enough… but in a “copy my homework but make it look like you didn’t copy me” kind of way.


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Neat

This smells like it is walking in the footsteps of Casamigos — but where Casamigos used vanilla as an enhancement to the natural flavors of the tequila, vanilla and a hint of caramel is pretty much all I smell here. There’s a touch of actual herbal agave well in the background, but it is eclipsed by that strong sweet vanilla aroma.

Which is strange, because for all that aroma the very first thing I taste is… nothing. Just absolutely flat nothing. After a moment, some grassy flavors do appear (much like an actor that missed their cue, stumbling onto the stage), followed by some of that vanilla finally making itself known. On the finish, there’s a hint of black pepper spice, some vanilla, and then a mild bitterness that starts as soon as the liquid has left your mouth.

On Ice

The good news here is that the ice seems to have improved the situation.

First things first: the flavors actually seem to make more of an appearance. Ice typically has a muting effect on flavors, but this is quite the opposite. The vanilla note has been toned down, and the herbal agave is quicker to appear than before and with more strength. It’s still a very simple flavor profile for a blanco tequila, with some complications from the vanilla, but at least I’m able to taste them more clearly.

The bad news is that the bitterness seems to be persisting on the finish. Usually, ice will eliminate that problem… but in this case, I don’t think it is helping all that much. It isn’t worse than before, just the same. Which is unfortunate.

Cocktail (Margarita)

There are precisely three problems with this cocktail.

First, there just isn’t enough herbal agave flavor coming through to really make it pop. The Cointreau and lime juice contribute a significant level of citrus to the drink, and the herbal agave notes are what help add some earthiness and interesting flavors. Without that herbaceousness, this really just is a glass of bitter citrus.

Problem number two is the vanilla. It comes out of nowhere in this preparation, adding some new flavors but without the depth and complexity that comes from the brown sugar or caramel you’d see in a reposado or an anejo aged spirit. There isn’t enough ‘oomph’ backing it up… and as a result it just tastes awkward in the cocktail.

And finally, the thing that really makes me bitter is the bitterness. It’s still there, hanging out on the finish, just like we’ve seen at every other point on this journey. It literally leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and for a cocktail that is fairly bitter to start, the added bitterness from the spirit is not welcome.


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Overall Rating

I think just about everything about this tequila is terrible.

Right off the bat, I don’t get any sense that the owner of the brand (Kendall Jenner) actually cares about this tequila. There’s no sense anywhere on the website or any of the marketing materials that this brand was started out of a love of the spirit or even an enjoyment of tequila, it sounds from what they are saying that this was a blatant attempt to cash in on a famous name. I’d appreciate it more if they came out and outright said it (like Kevin Hart’s tequila does) but they don’t even give the drinking public that miniscule level of respect.

As for the actual contents of the bottle, I don’t trust what they say went into this. This tastes either like a heavily filtered reposado or an artificially flavored blanco (which is against the rules for a blanco). That vanilla note is so prominent in the flavor (whatever flavor I do get, anyway), and there’s no way whatsoever it could have come from a straight distillation of tequila. There’s something else going on here that isn’t described on the label, and that makes me wonder what else they aren’t telling us.

Not to mention that the flavor is just strange, bitter, and unappealing. There’s none of the herbal agave that is a hallmark of a good blanco tequila — just heavy vanilla and bitterness on the finish. That flavor doesn’t even work well in cocktails, since the lack of depth and support from other barrel aging components leads to an overall unbalanced flavor profile.

If you told me this was a cristalino tequila, I think I’d believe it and maybe give it some additional credit for trying a unique technique. But as a standard blanco, this fails spectacularly.

818 Tequila Blanco
Produced By: 818 Tequila
Production Location: Jalisco, Mexico
Classification: Tequila
Aging: Blanco
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $39.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 0/5
Bitter and superficial, potentially hiding something. Overpowering vanilla flavors and none of what you would expect from a blanco.


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