Whiskey Review: Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old (2017)

Tasting the re-released Blade and Bow 22-year bourbon makes for one of those cases when you wished you had the original. Comparison of such limited releases provides context, but when you’re a reviewer receiving 100 ml press samples, the odds of retaining a remnant of the previous whiskey are absurdly low.

I tasted the first release at the behest of a generous restaurateur I was interviewing for another story. He was right, it was quite good. So it makes sense I’d be excited to taste the 2017 release, which was first poured publicly at a private dinner the night before this year’s Kentucky Derby. The generous mini-snifter of the whiskey capped off a fussy-fun evening already liquified by the B&B 6 year (and a host of cocktails born of that brand). I was pleased by the 22’s sturdy presentation and fruity nose; it was an all-around muscular pour, perfect on the heels of a five-course dinner.

Tasted alone, however, it’s different. Oak is ample and what I recalled as abundant fruit is greatly diminished sipped solo. Make no mistake, no matter what I write in the paragraphs below, Diageo, will fetch its $200 asking price from thousands eager for a dram of this grizzled maturate. Its long-aged whiskey stocks seem as bottomless as the pockets of its fans, so why change a thing?

Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old

Tasting Notes: Blade & Bow 22-Year, 2017 Release

Vital Stats: 92 proof. $200 MSRP/750ml. Aged 22 years from mingled stocks of whiskey made at Bernheim and Buffalo Trace Distilleries, and aged at Stitzel-Weller Distillery.

Appearance: Golden-brown and copper, thin widely spaced legs

Nose: Straight out of the bottle you get some peach, pipe tobacco, walnut and sawn cedar. Given some time to open up, the fruit character softens to orange and bruleed sugar.

Palate: To give it some bottle air, I stretched my Diageo-provided 100ml sample nearly 10 days. With time, some cherry emerged along with vanilla and light oak at the mid-palate. At the finish, it dries firmly, delivering the oak and mild bitterness you expect from a 22-year Diageo whiskey (think of the Orphan Barrels). It’s light bodied, so while it drinks easily, it ultimately lacks complexity. Brown sugar and sawn oak emerge on the exhale, and the show ends.

Summary

Does one have to be a fan of oaky whiskeys to drop a pair of Benjamins on this release? Probably so, and more power to those who like such dry and tannic finishes. I’ve had similarly aged bourbons (such as the Heaven Hill 20th Anniversary Fire Edition) that were far softer and fruitier, more solicitous of the sinuses and which I wanted to pour again and again.

3.0
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About the author

Steve Coomes

Steve Coomes is an award-winning restaurant industry veteran turned food writer. In his 26-year career, he has edited and written for national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. In 2013, he published his first book, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke." A past restaurant critic for Louisville magazine, he pens features for Edible Louisville, Food & Dining Magazine and ghostwrites for multiple clients.