Insights from Drizly’s Top 5 Celebrity-Owned Whiskey Brands
These celebrity-backed brands span whiskey subcategories from bourbon to Irish whiskey
In 2022 to date, whiskey is the largest liquor subcategory sold on Drizly with 35 percent share of sales. And while celebrity-backed brands in the category aren’t as prominent as they are with celebrity wine and celebrity tequila, the top celebrity whiskey brands have a built-in audience and can serve as sales drivers for retailers.
Breaking it down further in the whiskey category, the top five celebrity whiskey brands on Drizly span multiple subcategories. Bourbon has by far the largest share of overall whiskey sales on Drizly at a 39 percent share, followed by Scotch (20 percent share), Irish whiskey (nine percent share), American whiskey (seven percent share), and flavored whiskey (seven percent share).
The top celebrity whiskey brands fit into these top subcategories with an Irish whiskey (Proper Twelve), two bourbons (Heaven’s Door and Brother’s Bond), and an American whiskey (BLACKENED). A Canadian whisky, Mercer + Prince, also makes the list of the top celebrity whiskeys, though the overall Canadian whisky subcategory share on Drizly is lower at four percent.
“Mercer + Prince is a new entrant to the list this year, an expansion into Canadian whisky,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “As more celebrity-owned brands enter the whiskey category, we can keep an eye out for expansion into new subcategories.” Mercer + Prince, backed by A$AP Rocky, took the place of Sweetens Cove, a Tennessee whiskey backed by Peyton Manning and Andy Roddick.
These are the top five celebrity-backed whiskeys on Drizly that retailers should have on their radar.
Proper No. Twelve
Proper Twelve is not just the top among celebrity whiskey brands, it’s also one of the top-selling Irish whiskey brands on Drizly, too. Mixed Martial Arts fighter Conor McGregor is behind Proper No. Twelve. The name comes from McGregor’s home, Crumlin in Dublin 12—proper as in a proper Irish whiskey and 12 in reference to his upbringing.
Proper No. Twelve is distilled at the Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland; McGregor partnered with master distiller David Elder, who previously worked at Guinness. The final blend of grain and malt whiskeys was first released in 2018 and is triple distilled in copper pot stills. It has notes of vanilla, honey, and toasted wood from aging at least three years in ex-bourbon barrels. Since its release, the 80-proof whiskey has won Gold at the 2020 Bartender Spirits Awards and Gold in the 2020 USA Spirits Ratings.
Bob Dylan collaborated with master blender Ryan Perry, who previously worked for Diageo, to create Heaven’s Door. The bottles for each Heaven’s Door SKU have a special connection to Dylan: Each is modeled after one of the welded iron gates that Dylan made at his Black Buffalo Ironworks studio, while the special editions showcase some of Dylan’s paintings. All of the designs are exclusive to the Heaven’s Door brand, making them a special connection for Bob Dylan fans.
Heaven’s Door has a straight bourbon whiskey that’s non-chill filtered and distilled and aged in Tennessee for at least six years in new American oak barrels. There’s also a double barrel whiskey made from a blend of two Tennessee whiskeys using a bourbon mash bill as well as a straight rye whiskey, which is all ultimately run through the Lincoln County Process of maple charcoal filtering. A series of ever-changing small batch whiskeys means there’s always something new for fans of the brand to try, with past releases including whiskeys finished in Jamaican rum barrels and mizunara oak.
Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder, who co-starred in the CW show The Vampire Diaries, are behind Brother’s Bond bourbon. While not actual brothers, they played vampire brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore in the show. The four-grain straight bourbon has a high corn and rye mash bill at 65 percent corn and 22 percent rye, with wheat and barley rounding the final whiskey out. It’s distilled using a copper column and copper pot-doubler and is aged in new American oak for a minimum of four years. The brand also has a cask-strength straight bourbon whiskey that comes in at 115.8 proof.
Brother’s Bond is a brand with a commitment to the climate: A portion of the proceeds support regenerative farming practices.
When it comes to big, well-known names, BLACKENED comes from two of the biggest. It’s backed by Metallica and was created in collaboration with the late Dave Pickerell, who is considered one of the fathers of craft distilling in America and who also worked with Maker’s Mark and Whistle Pig. The whiskey is a blend of straight bourbon and rye whiskeys that are finished in black brandy casks. As an added quirk, the aging barrels are subjected to a Metallica playlist that the band created. The brand calls the process BLACK NOISE, and it’s done in an effort to have the whiskey pick up more barrel flavors as it’s shaken up by low-Hertz sound waves.
When Pickerell passed away shortly after the brand launched in 2018, Rob Dietrich, who previously worked on Stranahan’s whiskey in Colorado, took over.
Mercer + Prince
Mercer + Prince is a new Canadian whisky backed by A$AP Rocky. In the second quarter of 2022, it was one of two of the top celebrity-owned releases in the spirits category, showing that there’s still potential for new entrants in celebrity whiskey even in subcategories that aren’t among the top sellers by share. The blended Canadian whisky is aged four years in ex-bourbon barrels and is influenced by Japanese mizunara oak for a fruit, vanilla, and baking spice flavor profile. The aesthetically designed bottle itself stands out on shelves: It’s rectangular, and the top and bottom of the bottle come off and can be used as removable acrylic cups.