Celebrity sponsored spirits are definitely a thing these days. Some of them are pure gimmicks, some of them are legitimate labors of love from people who really just wanted to make a good product. Today we’re looking at JAJA Tequila, produced by an internet personality probably most famously known for their involvement with the most notorious and large scale fraud in the last decade.
Elliot Tebele founded an Instagram account in 2011, the name of which is not quite appropriate for mixed audiences. He built a following of millions, acknowledging in 2019 that the content he was posting was stolen from other people without crediting them.
That popular Instagram account launched a media company named Jerry Media, which was hired in 2017 to promote the notoriously fraudulent Fyre Festival. According to documentaries and news reports, Jerry Media was allegedly complicit in helping defraud the attendees and continued to promote the event even after learning of the event’s problems.
The following year, Tebele followed in the footsteps of other celebrities and decided to produce his own tequila. Normally, this is where most celebrities put at least some effort into creating a compelling backstory for their spirits (see: Casamigos) or discuss some novel and amazing production process that is used (like Dan Aykroyd’s ridiculous diamond filtration process for his vodka). But for this tequila, the story they went with was literally “we wandered around Mexico until we found a distillery.”
One summer not long ago, three friends traveled to Jalisco, Mexico, looking for the best tequila in the world. They wandered the hills and the mountains until they discovered a distillery that embraced traditional processes and eco-friendly production.https://jajatequila.com/
Called “JAJA” (pronounced “haha”), the name is an allusion to the comedy Instagram account where he gained his fame.
This tequila is produced on contract for JAJA at an undisclosed distillery in Mexico.
The spirit starts as a crop of 100% blue agave plants. Those plants are shaved of their leaves so that only the central pit remains, and then placed into large ovens to cook for 32 hours and convert the plant matter into fermentable sugar. The cooked plants are then added to water and fermented for 72 hours (longer than the usual 40 hours).
Once the agave plants are fermented, the mildly alcoholic product is pot distilled three times to create the new tequila. For this blanco version, the end result is immediately bottled after distillation with no resting period in oak barrels.
This is an incredibly boring bottle.
The glass itself is shaped like a very common and typical glass whiskey bottle, with the only remarkable aspect being that there’s a small note embossed into the lower portion of the bottle talking about how “JAJA” is actually pronounced “haha.” Otherwise there’s nothing going on here. This approach works for something like Casamigos, where the sparse nature feeds into the backstory, but here it’s just boring.
The label is fine… the pastel colors and rough illustration on the label definitely sets a mood and feels very trendy, but there’s no story or narrative that the branding is trying to convey.
I would say this is all flash with no substance… but I don’t get a very flashy vibe here, either. A thin veneer of trendy, instagram-ready marketing slathered over a bottle of spirits sourced from an unnamed distillery.
The aroma starts as you’d expect from any standard 100% blue agave based tequila: specifically, with a good hit of lemon citrus and a touch of herbal tones like fresh cut grass. What’s interesting and different from a bog standard tequila is that there’s also just a hint of vanilla under the surface that’s making it’s way into the profile.
Taking a sip, you’re getting pretty much exactly what was promised in the aroma. More citrus, more herbal notes, and a hint of vanilla keeping things interesting. There’s also a touch of bitterness, though — a little bit of a rough finish to what is otherwise a fairly standard tequila.
This is a bit of a surprise… but not necessarily in a good way.
Usually, when you add a bit of ice to a spirit, it has a positive impact to any bitterness present. In other words: you’d usually expect that bitterness to disappear. What we get here instead is that the bitterness we saw on the finish is now present throughout the experience, all the way from the very first moment.
I think that’s a second order effect — I suspect that the bitterness was there all along, it was just covered up. What really changed here is the vanilla — with a couple ice cubes, that vanilla note is significantly toned down, to the point of near extinction, and I suspect that has allowed the inherent bitterness to come through.
All that’s left is a little citrus and some herbal notes… and a great deal of bitterness
A margarita is a tough test. There’s a lot of flavors going on, and it’s tough for a spirit to be heard through that noise. So one of the primary things I’m looking for here is whether I can identify the flavors of the spirit through all that noise — and secondly, whether it brings any cool tricks to the party.
In this case, it performs about as well as any other standard tequila. The citrus notes blend well with the triple sec, and the herbal tones are really what’s noticeable at the end. There’s nothing special here, just standard tequila. But it works.
Bottom line here: this is a mediocre tequila at best, being marketed and sold either on the strength of Elliot Tebele’s name or on the strength of the bland-trendy label design alone.
I don’t feel any love of the game here. There’s no backstory to this specific tequila or really any detail about its provenance — the story of how it got started was literally “we drove around Mexico for a while until we found a tequila distillery”. This all reads to me like a naked attempt to squeeze some cash out of the tequila market as quickly and cheaply as possible.
One thing I am curious about is the vanilla in this flavor profile. Vanilla is usually something that comes from a brief stint in an oak barrel, a period typically called out in marketing copy as “resting”. The description of this tequila states that it is immediately bottled after distillation, which seems inconsistent with what we see here. Without resting, the only way I can imagine they’re getting this flavor is to add it during the process somehow… but nothing to this effect is described in their marketing or website.
|JAJA Blanco Tequila|
Produced By: JAJAProduction Location: Jalisco, Mexico
Classification: Blanco Tequila
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $32.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 1/5
Executed better than Fyre Festival… which isn’t saying much.