Hollywood's New Whiskey Baron

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Filmmaker Brett Ratner’s Los Angeles home is the inspiration for his burgeoning side project: a small-batch spirit brand.

"It all goes back to my house,” says Brett Ratner of his whiskey, made in partnership with spirit giant Diageo. The director (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand) is referring to his Beverly Hills abode, Hilhaven Lodge, after which he named his liquor. It was built in 1927 as a guesthouse for entertaining. The owners sold it to Ingrid Bergman in the 1940s. It was actress Kim Novak’s love nest. In the ’70s, producer Allan Carr built a disco in its basement. “People have been partying at Hilhaven for decades, Ratner, 48, says. “It needed a house drink.” Here, Ratner’s whiskey wisdom.

Why whiskey? Because George Clooney has the celebrity tequila market cornered?

Whiskey is the coolest drink in the world. Sinatra drank whiskey. Everyone cool I’ve ever met drinks it. I thought if I could make one that women can sip without mixing it, there could be an opportunity for a new audience.

What does it taste like?

It’s smooth with a silky finish because it’s a blend of rye from the 1980s, Tennessee whiskey from the 1990s, and bourbon from the 2000s. It’s rich with fruit notes, a light spice, caramel, and oak—my house is made of oak.

You won big at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Congrats!

For the whiskey to be successful, I knew an award would validate it. We won the double gold in a blind tasting. It’s literally the equivalent of winning an Oscar.

How do you drink it?

Neat. I don’t use ice, but it’s great on the rocks. Or in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. Brown liquor has always been a night thing. But you won’t feel guilty drinking Hilhaven in the day.

What else is in your bar cart?

Don Julio tequila. Cîroc vodka. Every time I go to Europe I bring home Havana Club rum.

What's been your favorite house party?

My 40th birthday. I love old men. I thought instead of having a big party I’d just invite over a bunch of legendary old guys: Al Pacino, Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, Eddie Murphy. We all danced in the disco, which is like a time capsule from the 1970s.

The best host gift?

Guests should always leave with a present. Now I have whiskey to give, but before I would have people take photo booth pictures.

How is being a liquor mogul different from being a movie mogul?

With this, I’m like the filmmaker—I designed and conceptually came up with the whiskey—and Diageo is like the studio that distributes it. But just like classic films, great spirits have a great story. thehilhavenlodge.com.