Peyton Manning and His Famous Friends Released a Bourbon, And It’s a Winner

Sweetens Cove transcends your typical celebrity vanity project

September 11, 2020 8:10 am
Sweetens Cove
Sweetens Cove investors Tom Nolan, Andy Roddick, Rob Collins, Mark Rivers and Peyton Manning
Sweetens Cove

Happy return to football, America! Let’s celebrate with some whiskey and a Manning.

More specifically, a new bourbon launched by Peyton Manning, along with Andy Roddick, Tom Nolan, Rob Collins, Mark Rivers, Skip Bronson and Drew Holcomb. The spirit is Sweetens Cove, and has its roots in a well-loved but rather backwater nine-hole golf course in Tennessee — no clubhouse or plumbing, as their press materials note — that the founder’s group acquired in 2019.

Sweetens Cove
Sweetens Cove

“It’s a special place, with a Field of Dreams meets Tin Cup sorta vibe,” as SC managing partner Mark Rivers tells us. “There was a wonderful ritual there that predated us; taking a shot of Tennessee whiskey before you took your first shot on the golf course. We loved it, and that’s when the inspiration hit and we said, ‘We should have our own whiskey.’”

Easier said than done. Fortunately, the founders got their hands on 100 barrels of 13-year aged Tennessee product that was being stored in a warehouse in Kentucky (the bourbon’s origins have not been disclosed). “It’s rare for that age profile to emerge from Tennessee,” as Rivers notes.

Then the brand smartly hired Marianne Eaves, formerly of Castle & Key and Kentucky’s first female bourbon Master Distiller since Prohibition, to act as its Master Blender.

Marianne Eaves
Sweetens Cove Master Blender Marianne Eaves
Sweetens Cove

Only problem? Eaves was pregnant. “They brought me down to Tennessee and I tasted all 100 barrels. It was a lot of spitting and swishing water between sips,” she says. “It took me a week to figure out the characteristics of each barrel and then I started pairing them together.”

In the end, they came up with five batches and four single barrels. While there will be subtle differences between each release, Sweetens Cove thankfully doesn’t come across as a vanity project. It’s at once sweet, floral and spicy with a satisfying mouthfeel; although the rye content on my sample batch was only 8%, it provided just enough kick while somehow the spirit itself remained gentle (I also picked up a bit of maple and pecan).

Overall, this is a complex sipper that exponentially improves over a day’s time — though at cask strength it’s going to sneak up on you hard. It seems like an ideal partner for a few rounds of golf. 

And it’s distinctive; as I told Eaves, I could pick Sweetens Cove out of a blind tasting lineup in a second (in a good way).

Drew Holcomb
Musicians and Sweetens Cove investor Drew Holcomb
Sweetens Cove

As for the celebs behind the product: You may not see Peyton or Andy at liquor-store tastings, but they’re supposedly a major part of the release. “They’re active on a daily basis and in the best of ways,” says Rivers. “You’ll see their shoulders behind the scenes, building a proper business. And [partner/musician] Drew Holcomb is our resident whiskey specialist; he has a really good sense of products and the culture, with a pretty stellar collection of his own. The rest of us are relative rookies but enjoying the process and learning.” 

“I’m a longtime fan of the golf course and Andy Roddick is a friend of mine through golf; he asked if I wanted to be involved, and it was an easy yes for me,” says Holcomb (who’s currently covering Adele and Willie Nelson in a popular Kitchen Covers quarantine project). “In my mind, whiskey makes me a legendary golfer. My scores say otherwise.”


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