Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Sweetens Cove. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Several things make me wary when encountering a product, especially whiskey: 1) A massive media kit filled with wasteful packaging; 2) celebrity involvement or excessive endorsement; 3) being sports-adjacent. I do not understand, or ever want to understand, any sort of sportsball.
So when a boot-size box containing the 2021 Sweetens Cove Tennessee Bourbon was placed on my lap, I was understandably skittish. The box held a bottle of whiskey, a branded rocks glass, and a pillow’s worth of padding. It’s backed by a few sports people, including Peyton Manning, tennis legend Andy Roddick, and sportscaster Jim Nantz. And it’s named for a golf course called—surprise!—Sweetens Cove, a beautiful 9-hole track at the end of a gravel road in Tennessee’s Sequatchie Valley, where first-time-to-the-first-tee golfers traditionally take a celebratory shot of whiskey.
I’ve never played golf unless you count the mini-golf courses of my extremely sweet & innocent childhood dates (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
But once again, it’s not about me, it’s about the bourbon, and Sweetens Cove has shown itself to have some serious whiskey chops—we wrote about it coming out this time last year, and several months later gave the 2020 edition high marks. I’m going to go out on a limb except not really and share my opinion that this is largely because of badass broad Marianne Eaves, Sweetens master distiller and blender formerly of Woodford Reserve and Castle & Key. Eaves was also Kentucky’s first female master distiller. And she’s got a subscription service: Eaves Blind.
Now, the 2021 version is here and we’re curious if it lives up to the hype for which we, ourselves, are partly responsible. The 2021 limited release of Sweetens Cove Tennessee Bourbon is a blend of three Tennessee bourbons, aged 4, 6, and 16 years.
As we mentioned, the 2020 offering came from 100 identical barrels barreled on the same date and from one distillery; but the 2021 blends three different ages stored at different locations and produced from multiple sources.
According to a recent piece in the Dallas Morning News, Eaves tasted and smelled more than 260 barrels as part of developing this whiskey. Parts of the process took place when she was pregnant with her first child; she’s now pregnant with her second.
See? Badass. Let’s see how this bourbon stacks up.
Sweetens Cove Tennessee Bourbon (2021) (image via Sweetens Cove)
Vital stats: A blend of Tennessee bourbons aged 4, 6, and 16 years; 113.7 proof; about $200. It’s only available in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, Colorado, and Louisiana.
Appearance: In the bottle, it’s a ruddy gold but in the glass it’s more greenish gold, like it has a patina. Glossy in the glass, nice legs. It’s also the same color as one of my favorite kombuchas: the Ginger Lemonade one from Costco. Don’t judge.
Nose: It is subtle. It does not bash you over the head with heady fragrances. Which is fine. It’s introverted; I get that. Brown sugar, browned butter, butterscotch, a just-scraped vanilla bean pod. Red currants. Later sniffs bring new-mown grass and a faint smell of drying paint of a color you really wanted to paint a room and are totally excited about how it’s going to look.
Palate: This is fascinating, and I love it. There’s an echo of high-ish proof at the finish, but it’s like a flirty mic drop. Before that finish, I get honey but not sickly sweet, brown sugar again but not teeth-hurtingly so. Also: berries, wintergreen, graham crackers, gingersnaps. It’s butterscotch and cookies and fire and fun. It’s got the texture and mouthfeel of a really good s’more. Like there’s a mix of fire and an echo of smoke and prevailing sweetness and smoothness.
I did, in fact, find myself wanting s’more of it. (Use your judgement because this ain’t low-proof.). But it’s fun and not like your typical bourbon. Yet it’s not like “wow this is… interesting,” when it’s actually really weird and maybe like a collector’s item you don’t want to drink. I will definitely be drinking this.
Although its name sounds like a Netflix show I’m embarrassed to admit I watch, I am super, super into Sweetens Cove. Damn. Does this mean I have to try Casamigos tequila now?
A decade ago, I traded a 5th floor walkup in Hoboken, NJ for a house in SE Portland and remain grateful for the swap. Portland’s a great whiskey town: It fits the weather and my general mood (even improves it sometimes). I enjoy exploring the many shades of brown liquor...