In the ’80s, New York City’s revered artist Jean-Michel Basquiat created much of his famed artwork in his studio on Great Jones Street. Typically you’d find these masterpieces at scale in museums the world over. Now, you can find them displayed on bottles of limited-edition whiskey just a stone’s throw from the artist’s former residence, at Great Jones Distilling Co., Manhattan’s first and only whiskey distillery to open since Prohibition.
Great Jones Distilling is revered for its Straight Bourbon Whiskey—crafted using New York ingredients. To up the ante, the distillery has teamed up with Artestar, a global licensing agency and creative consultancy, to bring some of Basquiat’s most iconic works of art to life on a smaller scale.
The full collection includes the release of three exclusive bottles featuring Basquiat artwork, including a new distillery exclusive expression that’s aged for six years in rare wine casks, then bottled at 91 proof.
“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,” says Celina Perez, Great Jones’ head distiller. “We wanted to be sure the liquid we put inside the bottle would honor the legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat and his tremendous talent. ”
The limited-edition bottles are now up for sale and feature Great Jones’ Straight Bourbon in both a Dinosaur Edition and a Skull Edition. The Great Jones x Jean-Michel Basquiat Pineau de Charentes Wine Cask-Finished Bourbon Distillery Exclusive, featuring Basquiat’s iconic crown motif on a bottle wrapped in the “Bird on Money” painting, is available exclusively at the Great Jones Distillery in Manhattan.
Perez tells Men’s Journal her favorite part of the process was going through the estate’s artwork, best 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 collab also includes a curated collection of merchandise designed and produced by New York City brand Rome Pays Off, including a hoodie, baseball cap, and T-shirt celebrating Basquiat’s work.
If you’re a NYC local, you can grab a bottle and merch straight from the distillery when you pop by to experience “Basquiat Bar,” an underground pop-up speakeasy. Offerings there include small bites and signature cocktails like The J.M.B, which features Great Jones Straight Bourbon, red bitter aperitivo, molasses, fresh pineapple juice, and lime.
“The Basquiat Bar is an homage to Basquiat’s New York and one of his favorite watering holes, The Mudd Club,” says Perez. The pop-up bar features photos of Basquiat and friends, and 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 serves from that time.”
The collaboration’s final element is Basquiat’s New York, a downtown New York-inspired tasting room housed in the distillery’s multi-sensory Barrel Room. You can either sign up for a special distillery tour that ends in a whiskey tasting and complimentary cocktail, or partake in an exclusive Great Jones x Basquiat cocktail class, which takes place every Wednesday and Saturday.
“This partnership celebrates New York: its history, its agriculture, its culture and now its whiskey, and that was the ethos behind this project and our collaborative work with Artestar and the Basquiat Estate,” Perez concludes.