First there was Diddy. Then came George Clooney. Now Ryan Reynolds is getting in on the celebrity liquor free pour, buying a stake in craft distiller Aviation Gin.
Reynolds, the world’s 15th highest paid actor in 2017, is perhaps the first celebrity to invest in the juniper berry-derived liquor, rather than vodka or tequila. A representative for Reynolds declined to comment on what percentage of Aviation Gin he acquired or the sale price, beyond calling him a “significant owner.” The Deadpool star will take a seat on its board and become a creative director for the brand, though it is not clear what that will entail.
“About a year ago, I tried Aviation for the first time. Since that day, I’ve spent my time finding some way to infiltrate the company,” said Reynolds, who earned an estimated $21.5 million pretax in 2017, in an automated email message. “I did this for one simple reason: It’s the best damn gin on the planet.”
Owned by craft spirits importer and marketer Davos Brands, Aviation is a small, growing player in an otherwise static gin market. The Portland, Oregon-produced alcohol shifted an estimated 15,000 cases in 2016, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation’s DrinkTell database. That is thought to have increased 20% to some 18,000 small batch cases last year.
Compared to gin giants such as Diageo-owned Tanqueray and Bacardi’s Bombay Sapphire, Aviation’s market share remains tiny. Founded in 2006 by distiller Christian Krogstad and bartender Ryan Magarian at House Spirits Distillery, it was acquired by alcohol conglomerate Davos Brands in 2016.
“Ryan has worked tirelessly to create some of the world’s most iconic media properties and will bring that drive and creativity to sharing Aviation with the world,” said Andrew T. Chrisomalis, CEO of Davos Brands.
Alcohol companies have long sought celebrity investment for a promotional boost. In 2007, Diageo teamed up with Sean “Diddy” Combs on Ciroc vodka, which has since failed to live up to its early growth. Three years later, Beam bought Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel’s SkinnyGirl for an estimated $100 million. More recently, Drake signed up to shill for Virginia Black whiskey; even Channing Tatum has invested in a vodka.
Reynold’s purchase comes eight months after another leading man, Clooney, sold his Casamigos tequila for upwards of $700 million to Diageo in June 2017. Clooney owned a third of the tequila brand, which he started in 2013 with entrepreneur Rande Gerber and real estate tycoon Mike Meldman. The trio each invested $600,000; Clooney is expected to earn up to $233 million from the deal after taxes.
But few are as fortunate as Clooney, and the Diddy effect usually wears off. Unless the liquor is in a fast-growing segment like tequila, a multimillion dollar exit is unlikely.
“At the end of the day it’s what’s in the bottle,” said Eric Schmidt, director of alcohol research at Beverage Marketing Corporation.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council, nearly 10 million 9-liter cases of gin were sold in the United States last year, generating $895 million in revenue for distillers, a 0.6% drop over 2016 totals. Gin sales are dwarfed by vodka, which tallied $6.2 billion domestically, and American whiskey, which shifted $3.4 billion worth in 2017.
Fans will have to wait and see whether Reynolds begins personally delivering gin to fans, as Tatum did last year. If not, they are guaranteed a sighting in May’s Deadpool 2.