Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Sort of Almost Stitzel-Weller: Blade and Bow 22 year old
Blade & Bow is a new series of bourbons released by Diageo under the label "Stitzel-Weller Distillery." This is, of course, utter bullshit and merely an attempt to capitalize on the hype surrounding Pappy Van Winkle's Stitzel-Weller Distillery which a corporate ancestor of Diageo had the foresight to shut down back in 1992. (If you want to have fun, try to count the mentions of Stitzel-Weller on the Blade & Bow website).
The series includes a non age statement bourbon and a 22 year old, which I review today. The NAS uses a solera method which Diageo claims includes some Stitzel-Weller bourbon. The 22 year old includes bourbons distilled at Buffalo Trace and the Bernheim Distillery but was "inspired by the passion and craftsmanship of the legendary Stitzel-Weller Distillery." The odd thing is that Buffalo Trace and Bernheim are no slouches when it comes to great bourbons, but I guess they just don't have the cache of Stitzel-Weller.
Blade & Bow 22 year old, 46% abv ($150)
The nose is rich caramel and dry oak; it smells like a lovely, old wheater, much like some of the aged wheaters from Bernheim that were bottled by Willett (though I should note that Diageo has not stated whether this is composed of any wheated bourbons). On the palate, it's very dry and oaky with some acidic notes, and then it just fades away. You get a quick taste of those old wheaters, but with none of the complexity or strength. On the finish, there is lots of dusty bourbon with more great caramel and oak.
This has the nose and finish of a great bourbon, but the palate is just average. My guess is this may have been great at cask strength, but they added too much water. Old whiskeys, especially old wheaters (and this definitely tastes like it has some wheated bourbon components), can be very temperamental with water. Too much water breaks up the complexity and dulls the long-slumbering subtleties while giving emphasis to bitter and/or acidic notes. As it is, it's fine bourbon, but the best thing about it is that it hints at some of the great old ones.
Thanks to John Burlowski for the sample.