Bruno Mars just wants to keep the party going. After collecting one gilded gramophone after another for his hip-swaying hits — most recently as Silk Sonic with Anderson .Paak — the Grammy-winning musician aims to liven things up with his rum brand, SelvaRey.
Mars (né Peter Hernandez) is more than just a starry face of the spirits company. He co-owns the Los Angeles-based label, which was launched in 2014 by brothers Seth Gold (a former real estate developer) and Marc Gold (a journalist-turned-retail and restaurant entrepreneur) and their longtime friend, Robert Herzig (who previously worked in business development). The “Leave the Door Open” singer also brought on the rest of the Hooligans — his cohort of longtime musical collaborators — to back the brand.
“When I came on board with SelvaRey, I said to Seth, ‘Let’s start with the bottle on the shelf, and the way it feels when you hold the bottle, the way it looks next to anything else on your shelf,’” Mars told The Hollywood Reporter in mid-May from the green room of Las Vegas’ Dolby Live theater at the MGM Grand, where he and Silk Sonic would hit the stage shortly. “I’m a sucker for medallions and gold. My first idea was to put a gold medallion on the bottle! I think people want to feel cool holding a bottle.”
SelvaRey’s lineup includes chocolate, coconut and white rum ($40 per bottle) and an Owner’s Reserve ($150), each made from single-estate rum blends aged between three to five years in antique copper column stills in Pesé, Panama, by master blender Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez. Notes of vanilla, key lime pie, citrus and pineapple make up the white rum, while the chocolate rum is infused with toffee, cardamom and chocolate-covered espresso beans (both earned the highest rating for their category from trade magazine Tasting Panel).
The Owner’s Reserve boasts a blend of rums aged between 15 to 25 years and features tasting notes of baked apple, dried apricot, baking spice and flambéed pears. Mars himself designed the packaging, including the label, bottle and gift box, and he concocted cocktail pairings for every track on Silk Sonic’s debut album.
“The bottle needs to reflect what’s [inside] and just the spirit around it,” said Mars. “Because when I tasted it, all of a sudden, I felt like I was sparkling. For me, personally, it’s the perfect thing after I’ve had a hard day, I want to smile, I want to listen to some music, or celebrate with my friends. So with rum, it’s a very uplifting, upbeat feeling.”
Mars is hardly the only big name to get behind alcohol, but he’s one of the very few to get into the rum game. (Lil Wayne and Sammy Hagar included.) George Clooney, Kendall Jenner and Dwayne Johnson are among many who have launched tequilas. Ryan Reynolds, Bob Dylan, Matthew McConaughey, Drake and Conor McGregor have cornered the celebrity whiskey market. Diddy, Kate Hudson and Channing Tatum own vodka brands, and Jay-Z and Ludacris each have cognac labels. Hollywood vintners include Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz, Julianne Hough and Nina Dobrev, Sarah Jessica Parker and Snoop Dogg.
SelvaRey joins a nearly $8 billion rum industry in the U.S. — one that has grown four percent after years of decline, according to Market Watch. Perhaps that, and his upbringing in Hawaii (“growing up [there], I understand what rum means to people, especially when they’re on vacation”), is why the multi-instrumentalist — who is notoriously selective about brand deals — gave his stamp of approval.
It’s why fans are not able to add any Bruno Mars-branded guitars, Hawaiian shirts, dancing shoes and aviator sunglasses to their collections. Pepsi, Philippines-based retailer Bench, NJOY e-cigarettes and sheet music app Chromatika (which was since acquired by Take Lessons) are among the handful of brands that have landed Mars’ official endorsements.
“I’ve never done that before for the simple fact that it’s not my thing. I need to be able to stand by whatever it is, just like a song,” explained Mars. “You put out a song that doesn’t work — but I can sleep at night knowing that I loved that song, [even if] the world didn’t like it like I did … The same thing goes with [SelvaRey]. No matter what happens, in my opinion, this tastes delicious. And everyone that I’ve given it to gives the same feedback.”
He continued: “[I’m proud] that the product speaks for itself. We are driven to make rum sexy and get people knowing about SelvaRey and drinking our rum. I think a lot of people have to get educated about rum. I don’t think people really put the two and two together. When you’re drinking a piña colada, a mojito, a mai tai — it’s all rum.”
Fans can get the full SelvaRey experience when Mars returns to Sin City for the second “An Evening with Silk Sonic” residency at Park MGM, where music-themed nightclub On the Record will host the band’s afterparties. (Tickets start at $183 and are available at SeatGeek, StubHub, Ticketmaster and Vivid Seats.) The bar menu will include SelvaRey-infused cocktails, such as a classic daiquiri, piña coladas and a fresh twist on the Dark ‘n’ Stormy (traditionally made with ginger beer and dark rum) that swaps the beer with ale.
The stylish speakeasy isn’t the only Vegas hot spot that’s upgrading its rum shelf with the celebrity-backed brand.
“What we’re seeing on the [Las Vegas] Strip is the same thing we’re seeing across the country,” Seth Gold tells THR. “For years, the best bars, hotels and restaurants have been offering so many high-end tequilas, whiskeys, gins and vodkas. A lot of them are now tasting SelvaRey and realizing it’s time to upgrade their rum selection too. They’ve all been asking their customers, ‘What kind of vodka do you want in your martini?’ or ‘What kind of tequila do you want in your margarita?’ Now with SelvaRey, they’re starting to offer better rum in their mojitos and piña coladas too.”
Ahead of the summer party season, the brand has rolled out festive music-fueled video spots, with more to come. (Mars co-directed last year’s short film to toast the debut of the company’s coconut rum.)
“I got 30 jingles as we speak,” Mars joked. Filming last summer’s video “was so much fun! Those are guys I work with on my music — all the songs on this album and on the last album. They love the brand. The fact that they’re part of this, i is this fun when we can bring music into it. That’s why I think that [working on SelvaRey] feels so organic and natural is because after the show, we’re going to be drinking; we get to party and pick up some instruments.”
He continued: “We are really focusing on changing the narrative about rum. Seth gave me the ball and let me run with the packaging and imagery and how I want people to feel. I want them to feel how I feel; it’s no different than a song. The trick in writing a song is if it makes the person that wrote it dance, then you have a better shot of getting everyone else dancing. So it’s the same thing. If you genuinely like it, then you got a better shot.”
“I have seen our rum convert so many new people to the category — they forget those old college memories and their all-too-familiar misconceptions about rum,” says SelvaRey global brand ambassador Brian Klemm. “Being single-estate gives us an opportunity to really control the process from start to finish — the sugar cane, the stills, the barrels, the fine-tuning and technique, all coupled with the beauty of Panama and all its climate and terroir naturally have to offer. The ingredients, the elements, the environment and the pursuit of perfection, all make for an absolutely pristine spirit. It’s an immaculate and artful process that cannot be ignored.”
Added Mars, “I want to be a part of that; I want to be a part of the fun. With my music, with my performances, with anything that it is that I get my hands on, it’s gonna have this level of joy and fun. That’s what I’m trying to do with SelvaRey.”
This article originally appeared in THR.com.