One of the many ways whiskey companies look to compete is through unique production methods. These ideas frequently stem from other (often similar) industries. In the case of Stitzel-Weller’s Blade & Bow bourbon, that idea is Solera aging. The gist of this method is, to quote their site-provided video, “older bourbon from Stitzel-Weller is mingled with other, younger whiskeys. No barrel is ever fully drained ensuring the oldest bourbon is always present…” Furthermore, Blade & Bow is touted as having some of the last bourbon produced at Stitzel-Weller before it previously closed in 1992, before eventually being purchased by Bulleit. This should theoretically result in a consistent product from bottle to bottle, but I do wonder just how much of that pre-1992 whiskey exists in each bottle. Perhaps the goal is to have whiskey that’s of a similar age by the time it does run out?
Regardless, let’s dig in and see what Blade & Bow has to offer. The sample used for this review was provided by a fellow whiskey fan.
Nose: Brown sugar, soft fruit notes, a tiny touch of pepper and oak on the back. A light honeyed orange and peach throughout with some vanilla and dry woodiness and fruit. Dried, candied orange bits with caramel and lightly glazed nuts. After sipping the youth becomes more apparent, but this hides its (lack of) age very well on the nose.
Palate: Has a surprising bite, comes across as way younger and hotter than the nose would lead you to believe. Lightly sweet corn and spicy pepper. Quite grainy on the palate, but I don’t mind since it brings some degree of brown sugar sweetness to go with it. Hints of traditional bourbon notes like caramel and vanilla, but they’re overshadowed by corn, pepper, and citrus. There’s a touch of fruity sweetness buried amidst the pepper and oak spice too.
Finish: Mostly warmth from the pepper spice, corn, and other grains. Eventually get a trace or two of caramel and diet root beer after a few seconds, but it’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” type of experience. Otherwise, little to speak of flavor-wise. Moderate length heat-wise, super-short taste-wise.
Talk about a sneak attack! The nose (and proof) made me think I’d get a light, traditional bourbon experience. Instead, I was treated to a spicy and rather young-tasting dram. The fact this caught me off-guard definitely factored into my initial distaste for this pour. I rarely want pepper or spice to be a dominant characteristic in my whiskey, and young or grainy-tasting bourbon almost never impresses me (but it can be well executed). Blade & Bow brings both of these qualities to the forefront on my palate.
However, each sip made me gravitate towards this a bit more.
One word I’d use to explain why is “acclimation.” After the initial surprise of spice and likely youth, my palate began to adapt and pick up more sweet notes that were previously buried. My fellow peated scotch fans will undoubtedly relate. It is still a light pour once you reach those sweeter, more pleasant notes, however, which only adds to the likelihood of this being a divisive whiskey.
The best thing I can say about this sample of Blade & Bow is that while I can’t exactly call myself a fan, it did leave me curious enough to consider eventually buying a bottle. Truth be told, I think the $50 price is more of a limiting factor than the spice. Most people buying whiskey (especially bourbon) for that much money will want something almost guaranteed to be an enjoyable pour. To that effect, Blade & Bow is one of the last bottles I’d recommend to an average whiskey drinker, least of all to those who like bourbon because of its sweetness. Yet if you’re looking for something a bit different, something that’ll turn your mouth into a bit of a fiesta, Blade & Bow is worth considering. I think this would make a nice gift for the more experimental and adventurous whiskey drinker, which is only aided by the stellar bottle design.