The Truth About Drake's Virginia Black Whiskey

Many big celebrities have attached their names to alcohol, and it's easy to see why. In some cases, they are passionate about booze. When Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston teamed up after Breaking Bad to make mezcal, they spent hours trekking across Oaxaca, Mexico, to find the perfect product to put their names on (via YouTube). Liquor can also be a savvy investment. After selling his Casamigos tequila in 2017, George Clooney suggested he didn't need to make a paycheck as an actor anymore. "Acting used to be how I paid the rent," he said, "but I sold a tequila company for a billion f****** dollars. I don't need money" (via Medium).

Some combination of money and passion undoubtedly motivated Jay-Z to become part-owner of D'Usse cognac, and Matthew McConaughey to develop a whiskey for Wild Turkey (via Men's Journal). And before you get the idea that celebrity alcohol is strictly a man's world, we'll add Kate Hudson (vodka), Cameron DIaz (white wine blend), and Sarah Jessica Parker (sauvignon blanc) to this list (via Real Homes).

Is pop-music superstar Drake passionate about his whiskey, called Virginia Black? We're not sure Drake even likes whiskey. He's more likely to be seen in public walking around with a tall glass of Santa Margherita wine in his hand (via Refinery29). Hollywood bartenders will tell you his favorite drink is a white wine spritzer (via Vice).

Drake is not the brains behind Virginia Black

While Drake might be the face of Virginia Black, the brainchild is Brent Hocking. After realizing he had a nose for quality alcohol, as Forbes tells it, Hocking launched the award-winning DeLeón tequila and then sold it off. For his next foray into the spirit world, Hocking connected with Drake. The Canadian-born rapper and singer's involvement falls squarely on the money end of the money-passion spectrum. He bought a stake in the company, and Hocking said Drake wouldn't have been allowed to attach his name to the brand if he hadn't.

Drake is part of Virginia Black because he wants to get even richer. He made it clear to Forbes that his goal in life is basically climbing higher up the magazine's list of wealthiest people. "That's pretty much my objective every year, other than making good music," he said.

What about making good whiskey? Virginia Black is a rye-heavy blend of two, three, and four-year-old bourbons that should appeal to people who don't drink bourbon (via Caskers). The whiskey is distilled by MGP in Indiana (via In Search of Elegance). Hocking told Business Insider Indiana is "where all the corn is" – bourbons by rule must be at least 51 percent corn, according to the American Bourbon Association.

Virginia Black was designed to appeal to women

To be a bourbon, a whiskey must also be "unadulterated," which means no coloring or flavors can be added. While Virginia Black may be made with a mix of bourbons of a certain age, some reviewers thought it might be adulterated after all, based on its taste (via The Whiskey Wash) or color (via In Search of Elegance). The reviewer at The Whiskey Wash noticed the word "bourbon" doesn't appear anywhere on the bottle. Marketing materials say the whiskey is finished with a "decadent profile," without bothering to explain what that means.

Hocking told Business Insider his aim was to "create a whiskey for everyone to enjoy, regardless of gender, age, location." With its fancy bottle and smooth finish, Virginia Black was specifically meant to appeal to women. The Whiskey Wash noted that Virginia Black was sweet and easy to drink, with vanilla showing up prominently in the flavor profile. A caramel taste gets mentioned in just about every review of Virginia Black, including the one by In Search of Elegance.

Booze experts tend to look at celebrity-owned alcohol brands with skepticism. The woman who reviewed Virginia Black for The Whiskey Wash also resented the whole idea of creating a "women's whiskey" in the first place. Still, she gave Virginia Black a respectable score. Overall, Virginia Black did well in reviews.

Virginia Black set a sales record in Drake's home province

It's hard to tell where Virginia Black is headed. It started strong when it debuted in September 2016. Virginia Black broke the opening-day sales record in Drake's home province of Ontario (via The Spirits Business). Drake and his father Dennis Graham appeared in two advertisements for Virginia Black (via Stereogum). The first is an attempt to one-up Dos Equis' popular ad campaign, "The most interesting man in the world" (via Instagram). Virginia Black has gone overseas, selling in the Middle East, Africa, and Ireland (via Business Insider). The liquor landed in 2019 at Dubai's airport, in the shops of luxury spirits retailer Le Clos (via The Spirits Business).

Other than that, Virginia Black's progress has been sluggish. The whiskey's Instagram account has posted only once in 2020. Drake and Hocking initially wanted to raise $30 million in 2018 by selling shares of their company (via Billboard), but Cambria Capital, the institution running the sale, now says shares won't be available until mid-2021. Meanwhile, Hocking has moved on to his next thing, a luxury Champagne called Mod Sélection (via Pursuitist). Drake joined Hocking in this project as a financial partner, not a creative contributor. Hocking made it clear to Pursuitist that Drake came in only after the Champagne was finished. 

Whatever becomes of Virginia Black will no doubt mean even more money for Drake. Then he can raise a toast to himself: a tall, refreshing white wine spritzer.