Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds made the surprise announcement earlier this year that he was the proud new owner of a boutique gin producer in the Pacific Northwest.
But was it really that surprising?
“We’re at the beginning of what feels like a modern day gin craze. Millennials are drinking it. Young people are drinking it. Not toddlers, but young people,” Reynolds joked to a room full of reporters in Manhattan on Tuesday.
The media event—hosted by Aviation Gin and themed as an “employee orientation,” complete with a mock handbook about the importance of brand awareness on social media right down to using the right cocktail emoji on Instagram—was the first time Reynolds elaborated more publicly about why he wanted to be the owner of a gin company—and why this particular gin company.
Founded in Portland, Ore. with inspiration for the company dating back to 2005, Aviation Gin describes itself as an “American gin,” boasting a botanical mix touted to be smoother and easier to drink when compared to London Dry gins. The company had been owned previously by craft spirits importer Davos Brand after being purchased in November 2016. Other spirits in Davos’ portfolio include TYKU Sake, Sombra Mezcal, and Astral Tequila.
In February, Reynolds took over ownership of the company. (Conveniently, he now also serves as the familiar face for the brand on a number of marketing materials, social media, and billboards.) Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Reynolds admitted at the time that he had limited knowledge of gin—he had only tasted Aviation Gin for the first time the year prior—and even though he’s now the owner, he wouldn’t be in charge of everything.
This week, Reynolds elaborated further, noting he discovered Aviation Gin in his hometown of Vancouver over drinks over a year ago.
“I kept ordering this same Negroni again and again, and I didn’t know why it was so good,” Reynolds recalled. “It was because of the gin, Aviation Gin. I realized I didn’t need the Negroni. I just needed the gin.”
Fast forward to the present, and Aviation Gin says Reynolds is playing “an active role in the day-to-day business and oversees creative direction as part of his mission to introduce the world to the great taste of Aviation.”
While bluntly admitting you won’t find him in the distillery actually involved in the gin-making process, Reynolds said he’d like to be more involved with the marketing, sales, and distribution processes, the latter of which he explained would involve expanding selling ground across the United States and internationally. Reynolds said he learned during a recent business trip that Aviation Gin is doing “remarkably well” in the United Kingdom, which he said was “shocking” to him.
Appropriately enough, Aviation Gin is also available with a handful of airlines and in their airport lounges, and representatives for the brand said they hope to expand down that path soon.
The Deadpool star is just one of many Hollywood personalities diversifying their revenue streams with liquor. Among some of the most successful collaborations to date include Sean “Diddy” Combs serving as the brand ambassador for vodka brand Ciroc since as far back as 2007, Justin Timberlake’s tequila collaboration with Casa Sauza, and reality star Bethanny Frankel’s Skinnygirl line, which spans wines, vodkas, margaritas, and sangria in partnership with Beam Suntory.
In April, Matthew McConaughey announced he working on a collaboration to launch Wild Turkey Longbranch, a new bourbon filtered with Texas mesquite and oak charcoals. Then there’s George Clooney, who along with two business partners, sold his tequila brand Casamigos to liquor giant Diageo for $1 billion in 2017.
The well is deep with celebrities in the wine industry, too, including Francis Ford Coppola’s wine estates in Napa Valley, Drew Barrymore with Barrymore Wines by Carmel Road near Monterey, Calif., and Miraval Rosé, sourced from France’s famed Provence region and a joint purchase in 2012 by then-couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
When asked about this trend of mixing celebrities with spirits, Reynolds paid a few respects to those who came before him.
“Like a lot of people, I’m inspired by George Clooney,” Reynolds said, adding wryly, “I take my inspiration from him. Batman and Robin was an inspiring movie. That’s a big one.”