Peyton Manning’s Sweetens Cove Could Impact Bourbon Boom


July 19, 2021

Can Peyton Manning change bourbon like he did football? His brand, Sweetens Cove, is in the middle of bourbon-pricing evolution that may lead to the next phase of the Bourbon Boom.

The NFL Hall of Famer and host of the new game show, College Bowl, recently joined my PodcastOne show, The Fred Minnick Show, to discuss Sweetens Cove, a partnership with Peyton and his brothers Eli and Cooper, retired tennis star Andy Roddick, musician Drew Holcomb and real estate developer Mark Rivers, among other investors. 

At $200, Sweetens Cove joins a growing number of bourbon SKUs that are breaking traditional bourbon pricing barriers. Traditionally, premium bourbon was priced between $30 to $50. With steady growth the past two decades, prices have slowly increased, while a secondary market blossomed showing the real worth of underpriced products. 

In came new business blood and new-and-increased prices across the landscape.

Kentucky Senator, Blue Note, Blue Run, Kentucky Owl Horse Soldier and Old William Tar are other notable brands selling in strong three figures. The industry’s everyday brands—such as Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey and Knob Creek—remain under $40 and usually out taste most new-and-expensive bourbons. These sourced whiskeys must charger a greater premium as the price of barrels continuously goes up. Wholesale barrels that were once $800 are now $2,500 and higher per barrel. This forces price increases down the line.

That being said, Sweetens Cove and others like it are selling out and illustrating consumers will pay for the product as long as it’s tasty. 

I’d put Sweetens Cove at the top of this new group of brands. I tasted batch 2 with Cooper and Peyton Manning on the podcast, and again independently, which I would recommend any critic do when tasting with the Mannings. The two have a back-and-forth comedic chemistry that would skew any objective tasting session.

About: Blend of Straight Bourbon at 4, 6 and 16 years. All distilled in Tennessee. This is a sourced whiskey, with stocks coming from brokers, who purchase directly from distilleries. Blender Marianne Eaves batches stocks. 

Nose: Caramel, orange zest, pear, leather and fresh-out-of-the-oven cornbread.

Palate: It begins with with an orange sherbet note that is extremely appealing and dives deep into its sweet notes on the tip of the tongue, yielding a caramel apple and cracker jacks. Then, an exploding of candied fruit, like a fruit roll up, and a nuttiness, nearly bitterness, hits with a trickle of back palate pepper spice. 

Finish: Long with a powerful note of hazelnut. The nuttiness that appears toward the end of the palate dominates the finish. 

Score: 92

As I sipped Batch 2 with the Manning brothers, their personalities showed, with Cooper saying “I feel like a savvy [bourbon] veteran;” and Peyton responding, “Fred, that’s what’s scary is he thinks he’s on your level. He’s dressing like you, he’s going to speak like you and have his own podcast like you.”

In that moment, while the cameras focused on Peyton giving Cooper a wry look, I realized that the Mannings may have co-created a brand to have an excuse to drink bourbon with one another and their friends. They said partners Andy Roddick and Eli are most likely the ones to steal bourbon on a trip, saying they’re “silent assassins.” 

Beyond the jokes, though, Sweetens Cove is a serious business venture that requires an inside expert to guide them. Manning says blender Marianne Eaves, former master distiller for Castle & Key, is “quarterbacking” the product, which is now available in Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Colorado.

The second batch was an improvement over the first—a 13-year Tennessee bourbon, which tasted similar to other Tennessee bourbons.

Batch 2 breaks away from the typical George Dickel flavor profile, where most of the sourced Tennessee bourbon originates, and gives us a look into what the future may hold for Sweetens Cove—blends. Eaves blended four year bourbon with six year and 16-year-old stocks. Good blenders are better when they have an array of ages to play with, and Eaves certainly showed that with Batch 2, helping Sweetens Cove stand out a little stronger in the sea of $200 bourbons.

This new trend of bourbon price increases will continue as long as consumers will buy them. The old supply-and-demand theory applies, but hopefully, the quality line holds.

For Peyton, Sweetens Cove is as much about the story as it is the whiskey. It is a lot about the people and the place in which after it’s named—a 9-hole golf course in Marion County, Tennessee “that’s hard to find,” Manning says. “It’s the story that’s kind of drawn me to this project. You’ve got to come to the golf course and just kind of see it, and feel it. … It’s a real story – it’s authentic.”