It’s been 20 years since Sean Combs, then known as Puff Daddy, launched his Bad Boy Entertainment empire “kickin mad flava in ya ear” with the upstart label’s first single by Craig Mack. Later in 2004 The Notorious B.I.G. would drop his debut album, Ready To Die, and the rest was history. Since that time Combs has made his mark in the worlds of fashion (Sean John), media (Revolt) and, more recently, spirits. In 2007 he inked a deal with Diageo to develop the Cîroc vodka brand, which has since grown from 50,000 cases a year to nearly 2 million. Yesterday Combs and Diageo announced a new joint venture, formed to acquire DeLeón tequila. The blue weber agave boutique tequila brand currently retails for between $120 to over $1000 per bottle, placing it in the fast-growing luxury tequila category. “Celebration is a cornerstone of all my businesses, and this joint venture is a natural extension of that portfolio,” said Sean Combs in a statement which also announced the launch of his latest business, Combs Wine & Spirits. “DeLeón is an outstanding brand that appeals to those who love exceptional tequila in a distinctive bottle. Together with Diageo, we will take DeLeón to new heights." When we caught up with Diddy for a quick chat he was definitely in a celebratory mood.
Interview by Rob Kenner (@boomshots)
How you doing, sir?
I’m doing great.
I bet you are. I’ve been reading about your latest business venture. What’s the story with this tequila?
DeLeón was named the best of the best by the Robb Report. It has been known for tequila drinkers...that are true tequila drinkers as a real tequila, a luxury tequila. They way I got introduced to it is that every place that I would go to, rather it was the Soho House, staying the Gramercy Hotel or any cool, real immersion type of spot, I would see it. Then I was in the movies one day and I’m watching Iron Man 2and that’s all Iron Man had behind his bar. And, I was like, ‘This thing is calling me, man.’ I’ve always had a dream to have a tequila. I love this. And, I always wanted to acquire a company. I’ve always launched a company. People don’t realize...this is a historic day for Sean Combs as a businessman. And, even hip-hop.
People don’t realize...
this is a historic day for Sean Combs as a businessman.
And, even hip-hop.
How so? Is this different from other deals that you’ve done?
Those deals are…Those are certain that don’t require actually buying out a whole company. This is actually a respected company. I’m not starting something from scratch, so buying this tequila that has these credentials is something that’s rare. We hear deals. People bought basketball teams, but we don’t own the whole basketball team. We don’t own the whole… I own this with Diageo. We bought it. This is the first company I’ve ever bought.
Thank you. It’s a little bit different of a business story. You're right, I’ve always had announcements about deals, but I’ve never had an announcement like this.
How does this differ from what you did with Ciroc? Is this a different type of deal?
Yes, this is both of us buying the company. Ciroc already existed and was already with Diageo. So, I couldn’t go and buy Ciroc from Diageo. This is something that we have bought together and It’s a joint venture and I have 50/50 say, you know what I’m saying?
OK. And Ciroc probably wasn’t as prominent a Vodka brand when you got involved as DeLeón is within the tequila world, correct?
Yes, I think you said it right. The way I describe it to people is with Ciroc, myself and Diageo, which is an $80 billion company, the biggest and the most respected wine and spirits company in the world. For an $80 billion public company to do a joint venture with me in the world of business, for them to trust me at that level is a huge thing. That right there is the major difference. We dated with Ciroc. With DeLeón we got married.
That makes it very clear.
OK? And, we introduced to the world Combs Wine and Spirits. We have Ciroc and we have DeLeón. And we have more to come.
What do you attribute the success of Ciroc to? It grew dramatically during the time you were working with them. Was it your social media game? The product placement with artists?
I always say it’s the product. I know how to turn people on to things, but to keep them coming back… Ciroc just tastes better than all of the other vodkas. If you taste Ciroc right now and you taste Grey Goose, Circo tastes better than Grey Goose—you can’t deny that. When you have an actual product that can’t be denied that’s something I can get behind. And, people wanted a new vodka and they have it. Ciroc represents this millennial culture and I think that’s why it was hugely successful. Also it’s a lifestyle. It’s Ciroc life. But, let’s be clear, Ciroc and DeLeón are two separate things. That’s two different human beings. We’re not even trying to partner with Ciroc. Ciroc is going to be on its own. DeLeón is going to be over here. It has two different staffs. Two different points of views and two different approaches. So people have to wait to see what the marketing will be.
I read that a bottle of DeLeón could cost up to a thousand dollars. What is the proper way to enjoy DeLeón?
The proper way to enjoy DeLeón is it’s a sipping tequila. We’re bringing… People have this certain perception about tequila, that it’s supposed to be shots and it’s supposed to be rowdy.This right here, this is sensual. This is sexy. This is something that you take your time with. So, I’ma say to enjoy it on the rocks. It may hold with a cigar, you know? One of the things that really sold me on it is I saw women ordering it. They were sipping it. They weren't taking shots. That was rare. There’s an art to tequila that we will break down for everybody to get into.
Speaking of art, what was the spirit of choice when you were were first getting into music? When you would be into the studio in the early Bad Boy days what would be the drink of choice?
In the early Bad Boy days we were drinking champagne, you know? We was drinking Moet. We graduated from Moet then we went to Cristal. We had to flip out on them then we had to get our own company, we got Ciroc. Jay got Ace of Spades, And, today I got DeLeón. We up in here. We went from buying, supporting, to owning, you know? And, it started from the bottom.