We value our liquid assets and the master distillers who make them special, so we’re not the least bit impressed when a celebrity attaches his name to a brand—as should be evident from our (May 2019) review of Metallica’s Blackened Whiskey.

We were similarly unmoved by Justin Timberlake’s Sauza 901, George Clooney’s Casamigos, Michael Jordan’s Cincoro Tequila, Drake’s Black American Whiskey, Bob Dylan’s Heaven’s Door Rye Whiskey, Conor McGregor’s Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey, Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka and Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin. 

We’ve tried them all. With much more compelling offerings in each category, there’s simply nothing special—move on.

So, we were skeptical when the news came that sports celebrities Peyton Manning, Andy Roddick and Jim Nantz—co-owners of Sweetens Cove, a Tennessee golf course with a cult-like following—were “collaborating” on the launch of a new, eponymously named premium bourbon whiskey. Intrigued by the course tradition of welcoming newcomers with a celebratory “shot” of whiskey at the first tee, we found the story became even more interesting when they hired Marianne Eaves, former Brown-Forman blender and Castle & Key distiller, to blend the first 100 barrels of their 13-year-old, $200-per-bottle Tennessee bourbon.

With the initial 14,000 bottles to be sold only to Tennessee residents, finding Sweetens Cove is a challenge. When we were able to secure a tasting bottle before the June commercial release, we invited our favorite whiskey connoisseur and collector, David Sweet, to put Sweetens Cove to the test against other coveted whiskeys with more mature age statements.

Sweet brought some age-stated Jack Daniels and Knob Creek whiskeys to our tasting, as well as a selection from his own award-winning label, Barrel and Bottle.

Four Winning Whiskeys

Knob Creek 12 Small Batch Bourbon

First up, this age-stated Knob Creek was originally positioned as a limited edition bourbon when it was released in late 2019. 

Proof: 100

Age: 12 Years

Color: Bronze

Price: $60

Mashbill: 75% corn, 13% Rye, 12% malted barley

Nose: Brown sugar and maple with sweet oak  

Taste: Long rich flavors: brown sugar, light vanilla with burnt caramel and oak 

Finish: Luxurious black pepper, oak and peanut

Mature, sophisticated, serious bourbon. The age is prevalent. We preferred it neat.

4 out of 5 luckboxes

Jack Daniels #27 Gold Maple Wood Finish

Initially, JD’s #27 Gold was intended to have limited distribution. The bottle became available at the Lynchburg distillery shop in 2018 and is now available in select markets throughout the United States

Proof: 80

Age: Not stated

Color: Gold

Price: $100

Mashbill: JD’s flagship bill: 80% corn, 12% malted barley and 8% rye

Nose: Light, sweet maple syrup

Taste:  Approachable creamy caramel and molasses

Finish: Smooth, very easy to drink

The whiskey finishes in maple barrels from six months to a year. If there were such a thing as a “session” whiskey, this would be it.

3.5 out of 5 luckboxes

Barrel and Bottle’s Oloroso Sherry Barrel

Dave Sweet, our expert guest, has launched Barrel and Bottle, a new spirits label made in collaboration with the special releases of storied distilleries. This past June 1, the label introduced a new skew featuring Town Branch Single Malt aged entirely in an Oloroso Sherry casks for over 10 years. To keep it real, Sweet sat out of this tasting.

Proof: 120.5   

Age: 10 years and 4 months

Color: Dark red and brown 

Price: $100 

Mashbill: Malted Barley

Nose: Dark cherries, chocolate, dark molasses and baked plums 

Taste: Rich molasses, dark cocoa, baked fruits, and raisins that spring from Oloroso sherry barrel aging

Finish: Oak, cocoa, burnt fruits and slight pepper; water brings out milk chocolate and sweeter fruits

One of the oldest American single malts available is a recent winner of Double Gold at the 2020 San Francisco Spirits Awards. It’s a standout. Opulent and distinctive.

4 out of 5 luckboxes

Sweetens Cove Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey

Last up, Sweet comes back to the tasting table for Sweetens Cove Tennessee 

Straight Bourbon Whiskey. We’re big fans of Manning’s gridiron exploits, but expected to feel indifferent to yet another celebrity collaboration.

Proof: 101.4 (cask strength)

Age: 13 years

Color: Dark caramel

Price: $200

Mashbill: 84% corn, 8% Rye, 8% malted barley

Nose: Peanut, oak and banana

Taste: Berries, pecan and a full range of black pepper and spices at the outset

Finish: A big finish of dark cherry, dark chocolate and oak explodes, then lingers  

Wood from the age penetrates through the spice. Water opens up an orange finish. Unusual. Awesome. Touchdown!

4.5 out of 5 luckboxes