Everything Elon Musk has been touching of late has turned to s*it.
Twitter, er, X’s value has plummeted as many sane users have fled to Threads. His Starlink satellites are deorbiting. His Hyperloop is doomed. And while Tesla sales remain strong, the electric vehicle manufacturer has been mired in controversy, most recently with Musk being accused of using company funds to build a literal glass house.
But there’s one Musk product that has quietly been rising in value: Tesla Tequila.
Nearly every month, bottles appear on international spirits auction websites like Whisky Auctioneer and Unicorn Auctions, where they sell for hammer prices sometimes nearing $2,000. Never available at traditional retail outlets, online purveyors like Caskers and Frootbat sell bottles for as much as $1,700. Bottles are flooding the private secondary markets that are usually the playgrounds of Pappy. Even empty bottles go for around 200 bucks on eBay.
All this for a poorly reviewed tequila in a silly bottle. So what’s the deal?
As You Wish
Like many of Elon Musk’s recent pursuits — buying Twitter, manufacturing flamethrowers, proposed manhood measuring contests with Mark Zuckerberg — Tesla Tequila started with a lame joke on the social media platform. On April 1, 2018, after Tweeting an April Fool’s prank that Tesla had gone bankrupt, Musk claimed he was now passed out next to his Model 3, surrounded by bottles of “Teslaquila.”
While some dinged the CEO for joking about something that could actually affect financial markets, many Musk sycophants keyed in on the fictional spirit he had just conjured.
“Teslaquilla. Please make this happen!” wrote one user. “I want some teslaquilla too (sic)” wrote another. “As you wish,” responded Musk.
And, remarkably, by November of 2020, a single page had emerged on the Tesla website now selling, direct-to-consumer, Tesla Tequila, an “exclusive, small-batch premium 100% de agave tequila añejo” aged in French oak barrels. It was bottled in a garish, hand-blown decanter in the shape of a lightning bolt — unable to stay upright on its own and necessitating a stand (and featuring shot glasses unable to stay upright on their own and necessitating a stand) — which came with an instruction manual on how to open it. (Reportedly, the Consejo Regulador del Tequila had rejected the name Teslaquila as it infringed on their protection of the word “tequila.”)
Priced at $250 — higher than even the most acclaimed añejos — a reported 20,000 bottles nonetheless sold out almost immediately. Based on social media postings, the earliest customers seem to mostly have been of the Musk fanboy / doesn’t-know-anything-about-tequila / doesn’t-drink-tequila / worst-people-in-the-world variety.
“I don’t really drink.. But it HAD to be done!! (sic) posted one Musk enthusiast on Instagram, displaying his newly acquired Tesla Tequila bottle atop an image of $100 bills.
“I don’t think anyone is buying it just for the tequila inside. Elon Musk and Tesla have a lot of fans.”
Tesla Tequila is sourced from NOM 1438, the Destiladora del Valle de Tequila in Jalisco. According to Tequila Matchmaker, the facility produces a jaw-dropping 175 other brands, most of little regard and acclaim. The distillery is the 83rd-ranked distillery (out of 118 listed) on Tequila Matchmaker and Tesla Tequila gets abysmal scores from critics and users on the website. In 2021, Esquire called it the 2nd worst celebrity spirit out of 63 ranked (to be fair, I wrote that article, too).
For the few people who have tasted it, they find it laden with caramel and vanilla notes, which is highly indicative of additives used to cover up underripe agave notes and produce a spirit more palatable to neophyte drinkers. Of course, few purchasers of Tesla Tequila seem to care to drink it, and that was even true from the get-go. As one Tequila Matchmaker user wrote, “Good investment on the collectability of the bottle outside of tequila drinkers.”
Indeed, over two years after that review, he’s been proven correct.
Trending on Secondary
“I don’t think anyone is buying it just for the tequila inside,” says Cody Modeer, one of the co-founders of Unicorn Auctions, a Chicago-based online auction started by Modeer and fellow whiskey enthusiast AJ Heindel in 2020. “Elon Musk and Tesla have a lot of fans.”
Unicorn Auctions seems to almost exclusively deal in the sort of bottles that most excite whiskey enthusiasts today: The Macallan, Willett, Van Winkle, BTAC, the tater-ific Weller family. When tequila appears, it’s usually of the sort finished in unicorn whiskey barrels… or it’s Tesla Tequila.
Now it’s not completely unusual for spirits ignored by the cognoscenti to garner a certain collectibility. See: the polarizing Don Julio 1942, Louis XIII Cognac, or even Crown Royal Peach. Nor is it unexpected for a spirit from a celebrity, even an infamous one, to create a secondary market frenzy. I recall a brief moment after Trump’s election when his Trump Vodka, last produced in 2011, was seeing some movement on buy/sell secondary market groups on Facebook. But even among the fairly conservative coterie of collectors who patrol the online spirits secondary markets, those bottles rarely sold for much higher than $200.
Tesla Tequila is another story.
“[It’s] has been trending on secondary for a while it seems,” says Henry, the semi-anonymous business traveler behind the popular @thewhiskywalker Instagram account.
While he’s typically collecting and drinking baller bottles like The Yamazaki Sherry Cask, Michter’s 20 Year, and “DRC” wines, he also decided to stockpile Tesla Tequila bottles early on. Unlike those aforementioned whiskeys and wines, however, he never had any plans nor interest in drinking Tesla Tequila — he thought it made, at the least, for an interesting display piece in his home bar.
Though, he predicted much more from Tesla Tequila than that.
“I did expect the value to go up when I bought it, due to other items that Elon has released gaining collectible status,” he claims, citing the flamethrower.
Of course, more bottles have reached the marketplace since that initial November 2020 release that Henry purchased. Four months after that, Tesla Tequila was restocked on its site and, yet again, sold out. On April 20 (4/20), 2022, one more batch of 420 bottles of Tesla Tequila became available, now selling for the har har price of $420 (ELON MUSK WANTS YOU TO THINK HE LIKES WEED IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW.)
It’s hard not to wonder if the Tesla Tequila bubble is about to pop, though.
“The volume of bottles I’ve seen on secondary would suggest collectors hoarding them and trading back and forth with other speculators,” Henry says.
Is that the case? Has this recent frenzy been driven, not by the expected Elon Musk fans, but by the standard-issue online bourbon bro? Have taters ruined gimmicky tequila as well? Sure seems like it. As Henry notes:
“I doubt many Elon fans are pursuing these bottles hard enough to end up on the secondary auction sites.”
Ed footnote: OK, not everything is turning to shit for Elon Musk. SpaceX also appears to be doing great, at the time of publishing.