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.


Funky Tape said...

Uh oh, you said 'wheater' about seven times there. That should pop the 2ndry price by 50%.

What you described sounds a lot like Vintage 23 or maybe the 17 with maybe a few more years on it. Good for Diageo if they actually had the foresight to set some of that stock aside.

BTW, this is so extremely limited it's on the forklift rack at Costco in some markets for $129.99. So don't be a sTITzel, go out and get you a case of it.

Carlton said...

The marketing surrounding Blade & Bow and the Orphan Barrel releases has been so egregiously misleading that it makes me want to steer clear of Diageo products altogether. The only thing exceptional about these whiskeys is their age, and that, along with the marketing spin and fancy packaging, is enough to sell all of it they can bottle. Have to think that the goob who dreamed this up in response to "How do we get rid of all this old bourbon?" got a nice, fat bonus.

Steffen Bräuner said...

Nice see a review of this

Anonymous said...

Sounds like they aged a number of barrels which did not make the grade for use elsewhere. They kept letting them age hoping they would eventually amount to something. Now they are over-aged and over-oaked. What to do? Build up a storyline, create some hype, and dump these on an unsuspecting public at inflated prices. The bourbon sheeple will buy anything with a S-W byline.

Anonymous said...

All of the "Orphans" and these two Diageo products would have been better if not great at cask strength but there's no way Diageo would sacrifice profits to put out a product that actually lives up to the billing. Then again Diageo's target market of late-to-the-party new found bourbon lovers would probably find cask strength to be a bit "hot".

Anonymous said...

My absolute favorite aspect of Orphan Barrel/Blade and Bow/IW Harper releases has been watching Diageo assault the cult of personality surrounding Bourbon and pissing off sanctimonious followers.

Anonymous said...

what a load of horse-droppings...every so often someone comes along claiming they discovered some rare bourbon in a barrel hiding under the stairs or behind some speakeasy like hideaway wall. Stop with the stories already and concentrate your efforts in distilling instead of pulling the wool over ones eyes.

So tell me how can you start with 6-7 year old bourbon from unmentioned distilleries or seemingly mass-produced grain-like spirit from Illinois and end up with a 22 old bourbon? The alchemists must be proud but the mathematician in me says three 7 year old bourbons aged in the same barrel for a year does not make 22 nor does cascading it in a pyramid fashion from barrels one to five.

It is not worthy of $150 per 6-sided bottle where each side represents the five processes for distilling bourbon...oh and an extra side for the label. The bourbon may be tasty but so are a ton of good straight bourbons without the $150 price tag and a bs story line.

Anonymous said...

Your review is very accurate and similar to what I experienced, my guess is Bernheim as well as a source. The nose on the bourbon is nothing short of epic and the finish long and woody but the palate as you said leaves a lot to be desired. I could only assume it has even older bourbon in the mix and only palatable and not overly tannic at such a low proof.The honey barrels selected at Willett of 17-23 yr Bernheim are but gone so this is most people's on approachable oulet.