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John Denver Playlists, $200 Tequila and Other Revelations from Kendall Jenner

The model and entrepreneur talks her new tequila release, the growing pains of starting a spirits brand and the surprising family connection behind her love for country music
818 Tequila

Maybe it’s the early morning sunlight beaming into her home office that casts that perfect #NoFilter glow across her face, or maybe it’s the oversized grey sweatshirt she’s wrapped up in that feels like it’s been worn and loved forever, but Kendall Jenner has never looked more relaxed.

Hopping onto a Zoom call before most people have even had their first cup of coffee, Jenner is surprisingly polished — and chipper — for a Monday, as she leans into her laptop, perfectly framed against a bookshelf of travel books, supersized candles and a Prada basketball. Yes, in her sunlit office and comfy sweatshirt and propped-up chair, Kendall Jenner is the epitome of relaxation. But the reality is, she’s can’t sit still.

Between her stellar modeling career (currently the face of Prada; that basketball was cleverly placed); her TV show (The Kardashians, returning to Hulu September 22); and her popular 818 Tequila brand, Jenner is constantly on the move these days, from fittings to filming and all kinds of meetings in between.

This week, the model, TV star and budding entrepreneur is taking her tequila game to new heights — literally and figuratively — with the release of Eight Reserve by 818, a limited-edition ultra-premium añejo from her 818 Tequila line.

Developed in the traditional tequila-making region of Jalisco, Mexico, the new Eight Reserve liquid is a blend of one-year-old añejo and extra añejos as old as eight years old. With notes of vanilla, cloves and cinnamon, the tequila is at once soft and complex, with an elegant feel on the palette and smooth finish.

Retailing for $200, the Eight Reserve Tequila is housed in a handmade ceramic decanter, designed by local artists in Pachuca, Mexico. The elongated “8” shape is a nod to the brand’s name (818 is actually the area code for Calabasas and neighborhoods just north of L.A.) while the stark white colorway and sleek spout mirror the sophistication and refinement of the new liquid. Appropriately unveiled on August 18 (get it, 8/18?), the Eight Reserve Tequila Añejo will be available in select stores and online starting in September.

eight reserve by 818 tequila bottle

Buy 818 Tequila Collection Drizly

The launch of Eight Reserve by 818 comes on the heels of a successful first year for 818 Tequila, which was among the best-selling new spirits brands of 2021, according to recent data. For Jenner, it’s also a little bit of validation that her instincts in starting a tequila brand — rather than following her sisters into the beauty and fashion space — was the right move for her.

“I started this process five years ago and I had a ton to learn then and still have a ton to learn now,” she says, about the tequila launch. “But I feel so frickin’ lucky that I have these people that have guided me through this process, both publicly and privately. And even though we had some challenges, we’ve come through and we’re having a great time.”

kendall jenner 818 reserve

On an early Monday morning, Rolling Stone spoke to Jenner about the new tequila release, the growing pains of starting a spirits brand and the surprising family member behind her love for country music.

Kendall… we’re talking tequila at 9am on a Monday morning.
I was up at 7am! (laughs) I’m such a grandma — I go to bed super early and last night I was in bed by nine. My favorite thing ever is just getting in bed early and watching a TV show and then falling asleep.

Okay, so I think it’s genius to launch a new expression for 818 Tequila on 8/18 (August 18).
We want to celebrate 8/18 every year and last year was our first year doing it obviously. This year, we’ll throw a little party just to celebrate the brand and the new Eight Reserve, which is our ultra-premium version of what you see on the shelves today.

What was the process like in creating the 818 Eight Reserve?
We’ve been working on Eight Reserve for more than a year and it’s been a lot of tweaking, tasting different tequilas, getting on Zoom calls, doing meetings… it’s a long process. You build and you take notes and you come back — it’s not just like a one-time thing. I’ve gone back to the distillery and spoken with them on what I think is lacking, or what I think the tequila needs. But we are so stoked on the liquid that’s come out of it — it’s really unreal. It’s a really, really amazing blend of tequila and we’re stoked for everyone to try it.

I’ll admit, when you launched 818 last year, I thought it was a one-time thing. And now you’re on your fourth expression.
I would have never done this or started this brand had I not taken it extremely seriously and wanted it to be well-respected and have a long life. 818 is my baby, as corny as that sounds. I don’t have a human child, so this is my baby for now.

Longevity was always the goal, and so that’s always been at the forefront for me, like, ‘How can we make this as well-respected and long lasting as possible?’ I would have never done this had I not planned for it to be taken really seriously.

818-Tequila-Reposado

Buy 818 Tequila Reposado $48.99

Have you been to Mexico to visit the agave fields and distilleries?

Yes! My first trip there was pre-launch, obviously, and I was like, ‘This is what happens behind the scenes?’ Before learning about all of this, I was just a consumer and I didn’t know the depths of it all; you don’t realize all the steps it takes to get from the plant to a liquid. And so I’ve been able to really learn about it all over the last five years. I’ve been to Mexico a bunch of times at this point, and I’ve gotten to see our team that’s on the ground, and just meet with all of them. I think it’s been one of the coolest learning experiences for me.

What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced since launching 818?
This has been my idea from the jump, but I obviously didn’t know how to physically make tequila, so I had to gather the best people around me. And I think that a huge, huge importance for me and our team is just having the right people around. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they have to kiss my ass or not be honest with me on a certain note or idea. So we’re all really, really honest with each other.

There have been so many trial and errors in the process, too. I remember tasting our first-ever batch of 818 and we were all like, “Oh no, I don’t know what this is.’ But you know, we build and you create and you end up finding a flavor profile that you absolutely love. And we got to an amazing point with the 818 that’s currently on the shelves.

818-blanco

Buy 818 Tequila Blanco $36.49

For someone who appears in magazines and campaigns all the time, I’m surprised that you’ve kept your name and image off the branding for 818.

I honestly love it when someone walks into a store because they’ve heard about 818, but maybe not that I was involved with it; they just heard that it was really good, or maybe they saw it and thought it was cute and wanted to buy it. And then maybe later they find out like, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know it was her brand.’ That was always the goal in a way, for 818 to be like a nice, pleasant surprise moment.

Between modeling and filming for The Kardashians, how do you find time to run a tequila brand?
There’s never a moment that we’re not working or talking about things for 818. I literally was just on set here in L.A. and I’m in a makeup chair during a break, taking a Zoom call [for 818]. We have a massive group chat too and I’m constantly texting with our team.

You seem to thrive off a busy schedule…
I was just on set in L.A. last week and literally had to leave from set to go to Arkansas for meetings with our buyers and stores there. And then I went from Arkansas to Chicago for a day to do a couple of meetings and then I went from there to another place, like it was just crazy. So we do these mini tours all the time, where we kind of go around and have a bunch of meetings all over the U.S. But it’s really fun. I love stuff like that. I love the pressure of it all — and the stress.

Since this is for Rolling Stone, we have to ask about music. What’s on your playlist these days?
I’ve been listening to a lot of John Denver lately and I know that seems random, but I love country music. It’s my first love when it comes to music and I’m like, obsessed.

How did you get into country music growing up in Los Angeles?
Do you want to know the weirdest thing ever? My brother Rob got me into it. He probably doesn’t even know this.

Rob Kardashian was a country music fan?
Well, he had a CD collection when I was a kid, and I don’t remember how he got the CD, but he had some album and he was like, ‘I don’t want to listen to this, you can have it.’ And he gave it to me and it was a girl named Kasey Chambers and she had a song called “Barricades & Brickwalls,” and I absolutely fell in love.

I still have her album and I still know every single word to all of her songs. And Rob has no idea. I was a tiny, tiny little girl and he gave me the CD because he didn’t want it, and I listened to it a million times over. And I fell in love with country music from there and I just got into literally everything and everyone and every bit of country.

kasey chambers brickwalls and barricades

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That’s an amazing story.
I also listen to more modern stuff too. I’m really into Noah Cyrus — I think she’s so great and I love her songs. I just discovered a band called Teethe and they have a song called “Tag” that’s really beautiful. I love Julia Jacklin and Billie [Eilish] of course.

There are so many musicians in your family now — do you feel obligated to listen to their music when it comes out?
No! I mean, there are some of the greatest [musicians] of all time in our family, so I have no problem listening to their music. I love it.

What’s the goal with 818 Tequila moving forward? Aside from the new release, what do you hope to achieve with the brand?
I just want to create things that make people feel something. I feel like my goal in life — as corny as it sounds — is just to be spreading love and being love and immersing people in love. And I think that it’s something that we all really need right now. So I just love anything that can make someone feel good. And I always say that tequila, for example, is like the provider of a good time. I can show up to my friend’s house and have a really fun bottle with me, or like, show up to a party and be like, ‘I brought the goods,’ you know what I mean? I just love seeing that smile on people’s faces, whether it’s my personal friends or anyone else. I love that. And that’s all I want to bring to the world and to my brands in the future, for sure.