Celebrity whiskies are nothing new these days. It seems like everyone has one. The one thing they all seem to have in common is that they’re putting their names on young whiskey or low proofed whiskey or both. But Sweeten’s Cove Bourbon, which is most commonly associated with Peyton Manning, is a whiskey that seemed to be using highly aged, barrel strength bourbon from Tennessee. The only deal breaker was that it was sourced from Cascade Hollow, makers of George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m not a Dickel hater and sometimes find it to be more complex than certain Kentucky bourbons.
The name of the brand that Peyton’s marketing team went with was Sweeten’s Cove. They chose it because it was the name of a golf course that Peyton is part owner of. Before you tee off on the first hole, everyone is required to take a shot of whiskey. That story did not exactly set the hearts of bourbon enthusiasts on fire because taking shots is something associated with crappy whiskey like Fireball. Does Peyton even know anything about whiskey?
Then the pricetag of around $200 was announced and the collective groan could be heard from whiskey drinkers coast to coast. What on earth was Dickel doing with a pricetag above $100? On top of that, with a name as big as Peyton’s in the lore of University of Tennessee football, why didn’t Jack Daniel’s beg for the chance of supplying their whiskey for his brand? If they didn’t, they’re fools. And if Peyton didn’t ask them, then he’s the fool.
But much to my chagrin, Sweeten’s Cove seems to be a hit. It has spawned multiple batches, single barrels and even a lower-priced version called “Kennessee.” The latter is a blend of Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey and is priced right around $50. What many bourbon drinkers can’t understand is how you blend Kentucky Bourbon with Tennessee bourbon and somehow the price goes down.
I may have underestimated Sweeten’s Cove popularity among non-bourbon drinkers because this label continues to sell. Perhaps it’s because of Peyton’s sporadic “road shows” where he shows up in markets that it wasn’t available before and shills for it at exclusive launch parties. Even here in Indianapolis, bourbon enthusiasts who talked shit about the brand and the whiskey inside suddenly went full fanboy at the chance to meet Manning and tell him how much they love his whiskey. But as soon as he left town, the unsold bottles remained right where they sat, collecting dust on the shelves of retailers.
What I’m really here to find out is just how overpriced Sweeten’s Cove really is. The review today is for the second batched release which came out in 2021. It’s a blend of 4, 6 and 16 year old Dickel and comes in at a little under 113 proof. The first release (2020) contained all 13 year old barrels and was around 101 proof. Both releases command a $200 price tag at most stores which seems strange considering the second batch contains a large percentage of younger barrels.
I’m not even giving it the benefit of the doubt that it’s a $200 whiskey. It’s not. If this contained all 16 year old bourbon inside, then maybe we’d be closer to that number but in my head. Until then, I believe that this is going to taste like a $75 bottle. The main reason I’m doing this review is because I want to see just how far off I am on that.
So, yes, I’m admitting to my prejudice beforehand but I’m also clear-eyed about what it is and what it’s not. With that in mind, let’s dive in. I sampled this by slamming a shot and then playing 9 holes of golf in the middle of Tennessee. Just kidding, it’s getting the glencairn treatment just like all my other reviews because that’s how you should be drinking a $200 whiskey, you stupid taters.
Nose: Sweet and fruity scents are the hallmark of this nose with notes of caramel, baked sugar bread, orange zest and vanilla cream. Softer notes of ground cinnamon and sweet oak couple nicely with almond paste. I usually detect a sweet nuttiness to Dickel products in the form of either sweet peanuts or marzipan, but prefer the latter. I’m glad it’s in this one. As a final note, the chewable multivitamins that often turns most people off is present with each sniff but it’s mostly subdued. This is still an excellent nose all things considered.
Palate: The flavors that rush to the front of the line are a mish-mash of all things that make you think of powdery vitamins: Tang Powdered Drink Mix, crushed flint and slate rocks and sweet peanuts. There is lots of fruit to be found to which I was very fond of. Cherries, dried pineapple pieces and even flat ginger ale are really delicious treats that can be found. There is some baking spices to help add depth to it all with cinnamon, dry oak and ground black pepper. Overall, this is actually one of the better Dickel products I’ve tasted as it seems to contain the best tropical fruit flavors coupled with aged flavors like oak and cinnamon. The heat is kept in check too making this an easy drinker for novices too.
Finish: The dry oak note on the palate becomes a bit more dominant than I expected on the finish. The orange note carries through as well but comes off a little burnt. The caramel sweetness is also toned down a bit. A little savory note comes out in the finish which I have found in other Dickel products and seem to enjoy. And I appreciate that the age of this product shines through all the way to the end with a bit of dried leather and tobacco.
To restate my previous opinion, a $200 bottle better knock my socks off. My socks still remained on my feet after I was done drinking this one but I was a little surprised by how close it came anyway. Had it been put into a Barrell Bourbon bottle, I would’ve happily paid $100 for it all day long. But Sweeten’s Coves number one issue that it will continue to have is its price point. As soon as it crossed over that $100 price threshold, I tapped out. I just can’t get behind Dickel at that price. I can see Peyton and Marianne Barnes wanting their slice of the profits but doubling the price it should be seems greedy and out of touch.
What we have here is perfectly acceptable bottle of Dickel. You could tell that these barrels were some of the better ones that came from the depths of Cascade Hollow’s rickhouses, so it’s not totally a scam. But unless you see a sale for these bottles that brings the price down to about $100, there’s no way that they’re worth it. While I can appreciate that many people will buy this simply because they love Peyton, you should also be aware that the shelves are full of much better bottles at this price point. Let the buyer beware.
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