Drinking whiskey with Bob Dylan in his boxer shorts. Creative Director for Dom Pérignon. Lenny Kravitz has already had a lot of adventures in the world of wine and spirits. Now he’s jumping in even further with the release of Nocheluna Sotol — a Mexican spirit native to Chihuahua. Speaking with Kravitz at the release party on a Williamsburg rooftop, we shared some sotol and discussed everything from his new entry into the drinks business to why there’s just too many princes to keep track of in Lichtenstein.
What was your first drink?
In life? (laughing) Are you serious?
It’s that kind of interview.
Ok, this is embarrassing.
Well, yes. But first alcoholic drink. Manischewitz at one of my relatives. Chanukah party in Staten Island. When I was 5 or 6. And it didn’t end well.
You overdid it at 5.
Yes, that is why I’m not an alcoholic. That got me.
When did you start enjoying wine and spirits as an adult?
I didn’t like wine. When I started touring when I was 24 I spent a lot of time in Europe and I ended up going to a prince’s house. I can’t remember which prince. You start going to Switzerland, Lichtenstein and there’s a lot of them. It was one of the princes and they were having this big dinner and they were passing out Château Lafite Rothschild like it was water.
Did you try it?
I didn’t want to be rude, I said I don’t like wine. And why didn’t I like wine? Because I didn’t have the right wine. So the first one I’m having out in the world is Château Lafite Rothschild — I can’t remember the vintage — but I drank it and wow! I started learning as I travelled, I met different wine experts that became friends. My first passion in wine was Bordeaux, I became a fanatic.
You eventually wound up working with Dom Pérignon.
Not just through business but passion. Many years before I started working with Dom Pérignon as Creative Director I became really good friends with the Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy. We were introduced by mutual friends. He came to my shows and he brought me out to Champagne. Because I live in Paris I spent a couple of years hanging out with this guy and we just realized what we do is very similar. Even though it’s two people who you couldn’t think are more different, the discipline in what we do and how we create are the same.
Everyone is creating tequila and mezcal brands. What made you want to go with sotol?
I got sent a secret unmarked bottle with a sticker on it. I was actually in the Dominican Republic at the time making a movie with Jennifer Lopez (Shotgun Wedding) and they sent it to me and said I think you’re going to dig this. I tried a shot of it and I was like ‘oh, what’s this?’ I didn’t know what sotol was as many folks today don’t. We started mixing it with different fruit juices, it mixes well and it’s also good neat. I love the smokiness. I love smoke, whether it’s in food, fragrance or in a spirit.
Then I said I want to know more about this. So I went to Chihuahua and hung out with the guys who make it, families that have been doing this for generations. I watched the process, we started a relationship and I said I would love to be a part of this and help introduce it internationally. I loved that it’s a new category. We have enough tequilas, gins and rums. People are always looking for another story, another taste. I believe in it and think it’s going to take off.
Ever gotten to share a drink with one of your idols?
I think my best sit down drink ever was over whiskey with Bob Dylan.
What did you two talk about?
Everything. This was 1990. My first album ‘Let Love Rule’ came out in ’89 and he had heard about me, heard the record and he liked it. We were playing a festival together and he said “you’re that black jewish kid, right?” And I said yeah… that’s me. And he said to come to his room. I’m new, right? Wow…
So what happened?
I went in his room and he had some boxer shorts on because his wardrobe person was ironing his slacks before the show. I’m thinking if my teenage self could see this. I’m sitting in Bob Dylan’s dressing room. He’s in his boxers. He pours a thing of whiskey and gives it to me. I wasn’t even into whiskey.
Did you drink the whiskey?
I drank the whiskey.
Do you have a favorite guitar?
I have ’59 Les Paul sunburst that looks like it came off the factory line last week. It’s only for the studio — it doesn’t go on tour. And it’s my favorite.