Back in the 1980s, the renowned artist Jean-Michel Basquiat created many of his iconic artworks in his studio on Great Jones Street in New York City. These masterpieces were typically found on display in museums all around the world. However, now you can find them in a different kind of setting – on bottles of limited-edition whiskey at Great Jones Distilling Co., Manhattan’s first and only whiskey distillery to open since Prohibition.
Great Jones Distilling is known and respected for its Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which is expertly crafted using locally sourced ingredients from New York. But they wanted to take things up a notch and bring Basquiat’s artwork to life on a smaller scale. That’s why they partnered with Artestar, a global licensing agency and creative consultancy, to create a collection of three exclusive bottles featuring Basquiat’s most iconic works of art. One of the bottles is a new distillery exclusive expression that has been aged for six years in rare wine casks and bottled at 91 proof.
Celina Perez, head distiller at Great Jones, explains, “With the brand-new Distillery Exclusive, we wanted to select the most exquisite liquid to complement Basquiat’s iconic crown, and went into our rickhouse to select an incredibly unique seven-year bourbon finished in a rare Pineau de Charentes cask. We wanted to make sure that the liquid inside the bottle would honor the legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat and his tremendous talent.”
These limited-edition bottles, featuring Basquiat’s artwork, are now available for sale. The collection includes a Dinosaur Edition and a Skull Edition, both featuring Great Jones’ Straight Bourbon. There is also a special edition called the Great Jones x Jean-Michel Basquiat Pineau de Charentes Wine Cask-Finished Bourbon Distillery Exclusive, which showcases Basquiat’s iconic crown motif on a bottle wrapped in the “Bird on Money” painting. This exclusive edition is only available at the Great Jones Distillery in Manhattan.
Perez shares that her favorite part of the process was going through Basquiat’s estate’s artwork, known for its bold color and composition, and deciding which whiskey to put in these show-stopping bottles.
In addition to the bottle releases, the collaboration also includes a curated collection of merchandise designed and produced by New York City brand Rome Pays Off. This includes a hoodie, baseball cap, and T-shirt that celebrate Basquiat’s work.
If you happen to be in New York City, you can visit the distillery and pick up a bottle of this special collaboration whiskey, as well as the merchandise. While you’re there, make sure to check out “Basquiat Bar,” an underground pop-up speakeasy experience. The bar offers small bites and signature cocktails inspired by Basquiat’s work, such as The J.M.B, which features Great Jones Straight Bourbon, red bitter aperitivo, molasses, fresh pineapple juice, and lime.
Perez explains, “The Basquiat Bar is an homage to Basquiat’s New York and one of his favorite watering holes, The Mudd Club.” The space is adorned with photos of Basquiat and his friends, and even features two borrowed original Basquiat prints from Pace Editions. “We wanted the menu to pay homage to NYC in the 80s and that iconic era, and created all of our Great Jones cocktails based on the most popular drinks from that time.”
The collaboration’s final element is Basquiat’s New York, a tasting room inspired by downtown New York, located within the distillery’s multi-sensory Barrel Room. Visitors can sign up for a special distillery tour that ends with a whiskey tasting and complimentary cocktail, or they can participate in an exclusive Great Jones x Basquiat cocktail class, held every Wednesday and Saturday.
Perez concludes, “This partnership celebrates New York: its history, its agriculture, its culture, and now its whiskey. That was the ethos behind this project and our collaborative work with Artestar and the Basquiat Estate.”