by Randy Mastronicola
If you’ve been a reader of Cigar & Spirits Magazine for any length of time, you’ve noticed we feature many celebrity spirits brand owners and ambassadors. Generally, there’s a split between those folks and others who grace our pages. Some happen to be real-deal cigar enthusiasts with or without a spirits product to promote, and others enjoy the publication for themselves and want in.
Many of these high-profile celebrity brand owners have a serious passion for their liquid. NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen certainly falls into that category. Scottie teamed up with spirits wunderkind Dave Phinney this year to launch DIGITS Bourbon.
DIGITS is a Tennessee five-year aged bourbon blend that comes in with a 46% ABV. The brand was launched appropriately in Chicago, where Scottie has been known to have a bit of success as a six-time NBA champion with the Bulls. DIGITS is bottled by Savage & Cooke in Vallejo, Calif., on Mare Island, and blended by master distiller Jordan Via.
We sat down with Scottie to talk about life after his illustrious career, his passion for bourbon, and his growth as an entrepreneur.
You’ve had a busy 2021. Your memoir, Unguarded, just came out, and your super-food popcorn line, HUSK, hit this year. Of course, DIGITS Bourbon is breaking. We might call it the “The Renaissance of Scottie Pippen.”
It’s just some things that I’ve been working on post-career. I saw an opportunity to really try and get myself out on the marketplace to some degree.
I don’t particularly want to say I’ve been under the radar. I was pretty visible right before the pandemic working with ESPN, and I’ve been involved with the Chicago Bulls for quite some time. I’ve changed course a little bit and gone into the organic snack business, the beverage business, and decided to do my memoir as well. I guess everything just fell in place about the same time.
You sampled a lot of bourbon before you hit on the right blend. How would you describe the profile of DIGITS Bourbon?
I think our master distiller, Jordan Via, did a great job of really understanding what my palate was like, and what I was expecting from a bourbon. Again, I can throw out Crown Royal as an example to say that I wanted something easy to drink, something smooth, not harsh—no hard edges. I wanted people to take their first sip and be able to take that next sip without any hesitation. I wanted a bourbon that you could drink, whether it was straight or drink it as a mix. I think we found the right bourbon—the right smoothness that I was looking for.
Those guys are the best at what they do, and I knew they were going to create something great. They know how I feel, and my profile. They wanted to take me higher, or at least keep me at a high level. I had that type of confidence in terms of going into this with Savage & Cooke at Mare Island and being around the distillery. Jordan gave me the confidence that he was going to mix up an awesome bourbon, and he was able to do that.
Do you see any connection between being a world-class athlete and creating a world-class bourbon?
Yes. I think when I go back to the starting point of where this all came about, it was about being with the best. Dave Phinney, Savage & Cooke. My whole team, and business partner, R.C. Mills. It was really about me creating something that was not only competitive in the marketplace, but creating a winner. I think that’s what we all wanted. Something that we felt was going to be a winner, and have a championship feel. That’s where the competitiveness of myself and Dave, and even Jordan, comes in. I’m still learning on the fly, but it’s been a great relationship that I’ve created with Savage & Cooke.
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