2016 was a landmark year for Drake — it marked the release of his landmark (and still his best-selling) 2016 album Views, a second time hosting Saturday Night Live and launching the hugely successful Boy Meets World tour. All of these achievements earned him accolades worldwide and marked another hugely successful year for Drake’s ever-expanding entertainment empire.
Introducing Virginia Black
But there was another significant milestone in 2016 too; the year also marked Drake’s debut into the world of adult beverages, continuing a grand hip-hop and rap tradition of artists who venture into the world of signature spirits. It’s a prestigious list — Diddy, Jay-Z, Nas, Ludacris and 50 Cent, to name just a few. Given the long history of name-checking different drinks in songs, it’s no surprise that it’s emerged as a popular choice for artists who are looking to expand into ventures beyond music.
And now Drake’s Virginia Black whiskey has joined that prestigious list. While Drake is best known for his performance skills as a singer, rapper and actor, he’s also long had an entrepreneurial streak, which has encouraged him to make forays into clothing, restaurants, the NBA and various philanthropic ventures. For Drake, alcohol was a natural avenue for the extension of his brand.
The result was Virginia Black, a personally-selected collection of two, three, and four-year-old bourbon whiskey. Focused on a high-rye content and finished with a decadent profile, Virginia Black was the outgrowth of a collaboration with Drake by Brent Hocking of DeLeón Tequila fame. Brent Hocking and Drake might seem like an odd combination at first glance; but given Hocking’s previous experience working with high-profile hip-hop artists, it’s a more natural fit than many might realise.
Brent Hocking and Drake: two entrepreneurs
Brent Hocking himself is a storied individual. Having spent the 90s working in housing finance, he became enamoured with the world of prestige liquors during one of his many trips to Las Vegas. The early aughts would see him exit the finance world, but in 2009 he would launch DeLeón Tequila and make a bear instantaneous mark on the world of spirits. His star would only continue to ascend when 50% of DeLeón was snapped up by Diddy as part of his business expansions in early 2014.
Drake himself has spoken effusively of both Hocking and their collaboration on Virginia Black.
"We hit it off on our love for basketball, music, style, fashion," Drake told Business Insider in 2017. "We were like-minded. Over a couple years getting to know each other deciding if we wanted to work together, I told him what I saw on the marketplace next with the whiskey category, the hole I saw, and the style of the brand I wanted to bring out with Virginia Black."
Drake’s drink for a new generation of whiskey aficionados
The goal with this new Drake collab was to introduce whiskey to a new audience, both men have noted in the press around Virginia Black. Often seen as solely the purview of older men, and in Brent Hocking’s words, “heritage-centric”, there’s no question that the audience is in actuality far more diverse. Looking to the future, that’s a trend that has the potential to be even more so, looking to the future. Why restrict the enjoyment of bourbon whiskey to a handful of its potential adherents?
Accordingly, Virginia Black features a sweet scent with notes of raisins, dried figs and vanilla. Its smooth — yet complex — flavour profile is often compared to cognac; notes of honeyed cherries, rich vanilla and oak finishing mingle with hints of toffee, orange peel, and baking spice. It’s a sophisticated, decadent combination of flavours that are designed to be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It’s equally enjoyable neat, on the rocks or as a key ingredient within a cocktail. It’s the sort of approach to whiskey that gears it as a perfect introductory drink for someone who’s always wanted to expand their palette into the wonderful world of whiskey, while also offering something new to more seasoned drinkers.
Drake’s whiskey around the world
After five years in business together, there’s no question that Drake and Hocking’s initiative has been a success. Selling 30,000 cases during its first year alone, sales have increased year-on-year and Virginia Black is now available in Canada, the U.K., Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Burundi, Uganda, and United Arab Emirates.
There’s no question that a great deal of its initial appeal was driven by Drake’s high profile. But sustained success doesn’t come without a quality product, and it’s clear that Virginia Black is being increasingly embraced by new and existing whiskey drinkers alike — no mean feat for a new brand in a space dominated by legacy heavyweights.
Arguably the biggest indicator of the increasing interest in Drake’s drink is the upcoming IPO acquisition for Virginia Black. Expected to launch in mid-2021, reports from 2018 indicated that Drake and Hocking were looking to raise around USD 30 million to “redefine whiskey” and continue to expand the brand’s reach around the world.
What does this mean for Australian drinkers?
Well, there’s good news. Previously the domain of expensive import sales or lucky overseas travellers, Drake’s whiskey is now available in Australia.
If you’re looking to secure your very own bottle of Virginia Black, keep an eye on BevMart and join our email list. We are the exclusive supplier of Drake’s Virginia Black Decadent American Whiskey, so you’ll be among the first to know when it launches. Delivery is also available Australia-wide — so no matter where you are in the country, we’ll be able to ensure you get your bottle of Virginia Black as soon as it launches.
Virginia Black: five fast facts
- Launched by Canadian megastar Drake and longtime luxury liquor mogul Brent Hocking
- 1970s-styled bottle, capturing the essence of the decade’s decadent nightlife
- Ideal for new and long-time whiskey drinkers, thanks to its smooth and complex flavour profile. Equally enjoyable neat, on the rocks or in a cocktail
- Upcoming IPO acquisition aimed at expanding brand reach further around the world
- Voted one of the Top 5 Spirits by Wally’s Wine and Top 100 Spirits by Wine Enthusiast, earning a 91-Point Rating