The bottle

Digits bourbon, $69.99

The back story

Basketball great Scottie Pippen may be known as one of the players who led the Chicago Bulls to multiple NBA championships — that is, other than his even more famous teammate, Michael Jordan. But these days, he’d like to reintroduce himself to the world in a completely other way.

Namely, as a whiskey maker.

Pippen, who retired from the game after 17 seasons in 2004, has joined forces with Savage & Cooke, an up-and-coming California distillery, on a newly released bourbon called Digits. The named refers to the hoop legend’s sizable hands (and fingers). Naturally, a photo of those digits graces the bottle.

So what does playing basketball have in common with making bourbon? Pippen says a team approach is required for both. “Everyone does a job in playing their role and sharing their ideas,” he told Weekend Sip.

Digits emerged over a lengthy dinner conversation between Pippen, a bourbon aficionado, and Savage & Cooke founder Dave Phinney, who had a previous background as a winemaker (he created the top-selling Prisoner label). As the story goes, Phinney was intrigued by the idea of a bourbon partnership, but wanted to make sure the basketball star would commit to getting behind the brand and promoting it. Pippen says he has followed through on that front — “This was not something that was going to be passive,” he says — and was also involved in taste-testing the final product.

As for that product, it’s a bourbon that’s been aged for five years — Phinney already had aged whiskey available to work with, but the plan is to distill from scratch going forward. Pippen says he wanted a bourbon that was soft and smooth, with particular appeal for novice sippers.

Pippen is also busy these days on other fronts. He’s got an autobiography, “Unguarded,” coming out and he is behind Husk, a line of gourmet popcorn. But is there any documentary about Pippen in the future, a la Michael Jordan’s “Last Dance”? Pippen doesn’t rule it out. “There’s still a lot of footage that was collected back in my playing days,” he says.

What we think about it

We are often skeptical of celebrity sips, but Dave Phinney is not a spirits/wine professional to take lightly. And he clearly fulfilled Pippen’s vision of an easy-to-drink bourbon — this is pleasingly light on the palate, with nice vanilla notes. Sophisticated bourbon buffs might want a little more bite, though.

How to enjoy it

This works neat or on the rocks. But Pippen says he likes to have a little fun and mix it with cranberry and pineapple juices.

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