23 Sep Peyton Manning Tackles Indiana Craft Beverages With Release of Sweetens Cove Tennessee Bourbon
by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap
The Indianapolis area (and perhaps other Indiana locales) is about to gain a new bourbon product for the whiskey connoisseurs. Peyton Manning has been in town this week introducing his former football home to Sweetens Cove Tennessee Bourbon, the alcohol brand he owns with former pro athlete Andy Roddick. Let’s explore the eclectic story of Sweetens Cove, which involves many disparate things – golf, Kentucky, tennis, shrimp, cold calls – they all add up to whiskey with local ties.
Taken from the accounts this week in the Indianapolis Star and some discussions with local liquor stores, Sweetens Cove Bourbon actually was born from retired pro athletes playing nine-hole golf courses. Andy Roddick is friends with Peyton Manning from way back, when Roddick came to town for the old RCA Tennis Championships and met up with Manning for dinners at St. Elmo’s Steak House. They shared a love of sport in general, and golf in particular.
Roddick has been an advocate for nine-hole golf course as opposed to the eighteen hole variety, and had discovered a great one called Sweetens Cove Golf Club in Manning’s adopted home state of Tennessee. It’s a funky course, with no frills – without a clubhouse, without plumbing for gosh sakes! Nevertheless, GolfWeek and the New York Times rank Sweetens Cove as one of the best courses in the country.
Roddick loved the geography, the size, and the offbeat vibe of the course – so he bought it in 2019 along with some other investors, including Manning. How does a golf course lead to a bourbon in Indiana – and how was Kentucky be involved? Well, the second part of the story begins at that same golf course. Apparently, one of the traditions at Sweeten’s Cove is that the players all take a shot of whiskey before they tee off on the first hole.
Manning, Roddick, and their fellow investors were all about this (although Manning admits he’s more of a light beer drinker), so they decided that a great course should have a great bourbon of its own for that toast. Enter Marianne Eaves, a Tennessee-born distiller who was trained in Kentucky and was actually the first female master distiller in Kentucky in the post-Prohibition era.
Marianne was intrigued by the prospects of the brand, and was aware of barrels of Tennessee bourbon that were being aged in Kentucky (Breaking Bourbon suggests that they are probably George Dickel product and barrels). They purchased barrels from different years, and Marianne set to working on blending a cask strength bourbon. The first batch was released in 2020, only 13,000 bottles, and now the 2021 release has come out with 14,000 bottles. That’s bottles, not cases, so this is definitely a rare product.
The bourbon itself is cask strength as noted, a 113.7 proof bourbon using 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley and blended from 4, 6, and 16 year barrels. At $200 MSRP/bottle, this is a sipping whiskey for those who have the means to purchase one. And it’s good, the 2020 release was reviewed by Breaking Bourbon and was pronounced “a quality product…that drinks easy and features a flavor profile many will ultimately enjoy.”
Now we have golf, tennis, Kentucky and bourbon in the story, but we still need to rope in the shrimp, Indiana, and cold calling. This part of the story is all about Manning. Wednesday evening (22nd), an Indiana release party for Sweetens Cove was held at HC Tavern + Kitchen at Fishers District (the small complex that houses Sun King Fishers Small Batch Brewery).
The HC in HC Tavern stands for Hulse Culinary, the team that owns the Saint Elmo’s and Harry and Izzy’s restaurants and brands. Manning is a partner in those ventures, as well as the owner of HC Tavern + Kitchen. It was that shrimp cocktail from St. Elmo’s that started this whole ball rolling, from Manning’s involvement with the restaurants, to his dinners with Roddick where they talked golf and from which the golf course and bourbon brand were born.
Recently, Manning has been working the phones as well as making appearances to promote his brand to the Indiana market. The 2020 release was available in Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas (maybe because Manning had been considering the purchase of the Carolina Panthers), but the 2021 release has expanded the footprint of the brand and will include Indiana. Manning stated that he has been calling local liquor franchises, like Total Wine, Big Red, and 21st Amendment. He says that his name gets him many call backs, but beyond that the bourbon has to stand up on its own.
I talked to the spirits manager at Total Wine & More in Nora about this new more-than-just-celebrity of spirits. He told me that the bourbon is already available in Kentucky and points south, but that it hasn’t been stocked in Indiana yet. I also contacted Southern Glazer Wine & Spirits and they do have the item as one of the products, so they will be a distributor it in Indiana, but they don’t have a date yet for when retailers can order it to stock the shelves. Keep an eye on your favorite local spirits shops to see when it is available – I assume that the Manning name will ensure that as much as possible is ordered by retailers.
In the end, it’s a good story. I like the shrimp cocktail contribution – man do I love that horseradish sauce. No one can say that Peyton Manning has rested on his laurels since retiring from the NFL, and it’s apparent that he has varying interests in which he is willing to invest. I don’t know where I will come across some of this bourbon, but I wouldn’t refuse a taste if someone wanted to bring it to a bottle share. If you do partake, let us know what you think – is it a touchdown or incomplete?
This information for this story was taken from the IndianapolisStar.com of 9/22/21 by Dana Hunsinger Benbow (here and here), from the Fox Business report of Alejandro Avila of 9/23 (here), and the Sweetens Cove website (here).
banner image credit: The Commercial Appeal