Diageo and Discus ‘bigger split than Taylor and Burton’

Diageo split
Pic: Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

News that Diageo and Discus (the rap name for the Distilled Spirits Council of the US) have parted ways has been described by celebrity drinks watchers as ‘like Charles and Diana, Burton and Taylor and Johnny Depp and Amber Heard all rolled into one.’

Hello! Goodbye!

The couple’s coming together was captured in Hello! magazine back in 2003, when the pair delightedly showed the assembled press just how much money they were going to make by making it easier to sell the world low-strength gin.

But after the glitzy celebrations of the early days, things have turned sour. Celebrity watchers in the US had said that all was not well between the pair for quite some time, with frequent arguments about whose turn it was to take the grain bins out.

‘Discus didn’t think that its domestic agenda was being taken seriously, while Diageo apparently hated the company its partner was keeping,’ said journalistic irritant, Pia Smorgan.

‘It said that Discus had lost its figures during Covid and really let itself go – that it was hanging out with some corn-mash tramp.’

I’m leaving

Diageo has told friends that it is leaving at the end of the year and ‘taking all of its brands with it’ – though it could be talked into leaving Baileys because ‘well, why wouldn’t you’.

Discus is said to have cut up all of Diageo’s suits, trash-talked it on social media and got tearily revenge-drunk exclusively on Pernod Ricard brands.

E’s are good

‘This kind of fall-out was always on the cards,’ said spirits writer, Dave Brush. ‘America and Europe are just fundamentally different. Ask any barrel maker.’

Core to their conscious uncoupling seems to have been an almighty argument over how to spell the word whisky.

‘Discus just got tired of putting e’s on the table night after night, only to have them rejected,’ said Lynne Guistics, professor of drinks etymology.

‘They tried reaching a compromise with brackets but that just made them both as miserable as a night drinking Captain Morgan.’

Changed priorities

In a statement through its lawyer, Diageo said it was leaving the lobbying body in order to ‘concentrate on key strategic issues that we feel it is imperative to prioritise at this time.

‘Such as making money.’

Discus has said that it’s ‘really enjoying being free again, and that it’s going to take the opportunity to go out and do something useful with its life for a change.’


While some celebrity splits have cost the higher earner dearly, the global spirits giant seems likely to escape.

‘Diageo earns $7bn a year, while Discus stays at home and washes the industry’s dirty laundry,’ said spirits writer Bear Blowman. ‘So a divorce could have cost it a fortune. Though probably not as much as it paid for Clooney’s tequila.

‘But fortunately it looks like Discus didn’t read the pre-nup too closely. Or perhaps that should be pre-nip.’

Diageo, he said, ‘would probably be able to keep cashing in on students’ livers with Smirnoff red for quite some time to come.’

All about the splits

This is just one of several high-profile celebrity drinks splits over the last two years.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are engaged in a bitter argument over who gets to pretend they give a shit about making Provence rosé, while the Bordelais divorced Common Sense with their pricing for the 2021 vintage.

Click here to read about Brad Pitt’s decision to launch You Cow Angelina champagne

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