Follow Terry Bradshaw, four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, on Facebook and you’re likely to catch one of his many live videos. They are personal diary entries from his ranch and the road, but on one late July day he greeted his followers from inside the O.Z. Tyler rickhouse in Owensboro, Kentucky.
“I’m a nostalgia guy,” Bradshaw tells Whisky Advocate. “You put me in something that’s old and ancient and has history behind it, I have a love affair with it.”
Bradshaw’s trip to O.Z. Tyler (recently renamed Green River Distilling Co.) was as much about business as pleasure: The distillery is the home of his own brand, Bradshaw Bourbon. Launched in February, the straight whiskey has a mashbill of 70% corn, 21% rye, and 9% malted barley, and is proofed to 51.9% ABV, a nod to the quarterback’s career completion percentage.
“I’ve always been a bourbon drinker,” Bradshaw says, noting that he didn’t discover his love for the spirit until after his playing days. One day a few years back, he told his agent that he wanted to have a bourbon with his name on it, and in no time, he was describing his preferred flavor profile to a Tennessee-based consulting firm. “I like it smooth and so forth. I don’t want it to bite. I wasn’t into the cinnamon taste,” he says. “If it tastes good, it tastes good. I don’t know what makes it tastes good. It’s just if I like it, I like it. That’s all there is to it.”
Designed for Drinking
Once he settled on a desired flavor profile, Bradshaw connected with Green River to make the whiskey and Silver Screen Bottling, which specializes in film- and television-related licensing and distribution, to oversee branding and sales. “Terry has been great to work with on this project,” says Green River master distiller Jacob Call, who stood alongside Bradshaw in the rickhouse video. “He definitely knows his bourbons. He wanted a smooth, easy-to-drink bourbon that was approachable for everyone.”
Also approachable is the price point. At $40, the whiskey remains a reflection of Bradshaw’s humble Louisiana roots. “The price was key. It’s got to be affordable,” Bradshaw says. “What good is it to have a $100 bourbon and nobody buy it?”
Earlier this year, Peyton Manning, another Super Bowl winning quarterback, was part of a team that released Sweetens Cove, a $200 Tennessee bourbon. “I can’t comment on other people’s bourbon, but I’m just telling you the price was important [to me],” Bradshaw says. “Quality, reputable bourbon was my goal. One that people would be proud to drink, not because my name is on it. But because my name is on it, I will say this: It has to be quality.”
Although Bradshaw Bourbon has secured distribution in nearly all 50 states, the rollout has been challenged by COVID-19, and Bradshaw has been limited in actively promoting his whiskey. “We’re right in the middle of a pandemic, the worst time to come out with new product,” he says. “But we’re riding the storm. And when this thing lets up I’ll be out traveling the country going to distributors, having meetings, promoting it, pushing it. It’s a big project for me. I enjoy it.”
Call thinks that Bradshaw’s personable nature, as much as his football fame, will be helpful in getting the word out. “He is definitely a man of the people,” Call says. “He literally said ‘hi’ to everyone at the distillery. I think once he is out promoting the brand you will really see it take off.”
Bradshaw says there are plans to release a rye, which will be similarly priced, as well as an additional whiskey, but that for now, they are focusing on expanding distribution and developing brand recognition. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t excited about what he was tasting in Kentucky. “They said [about the barrel sample], ‘This is what your whisky will taste like in four years’ ’cause it’s the same blend that I have,” he says. “And I went, ‘Oh my gosh, is that good.’”