Bourbon

Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old Bourbon Review (2017 Release)


When Diageo began seriously embracing American whiskey a few years back, it was full steam ahead.  There was a market for ultra-aged American whiskies, which was perfect for the company because it had a large stock of older whiskies aging at their Stitzel-Weller warehouses.  For the most part, these whiskies began seeing the light of day under the Orphan Barrel umbrella.  However, some was set aside for another new bourbon brand – Blade & Bow.  

Blade & Bow was introduced in 2015 as a solera-aged bourbon, with its oldest component whiskies being distilled at Stitzel-Weller before it was shuttered in the early 90s.  A limited edition 22-year-old bourbon also hit the market.  That release was made from bourbons distilled at what’s now Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill.  I have to admit that upon first tasting this limited edition I was a bit underwhelmed.  It was good, but not great.  After tasting it again months later, I enjoyed it more and even upgraded its score in my original review.  On Derby Day 2017, a re-release of the 22-year-old bourbon has been announced to commemorate the second anniversary of the brand.

This second batch is just as enjoyable as the first.  Layers of caramel, spice, dark chocolate and dark fruits fill the nose.  Taste-wise, I pick up hints of burnt orange peel, caramelized fruit, cocoa, vanilla and spiced dark fruits.  There is a bed of oak underlying most of the tasting experience, becoming more prominent towards the back palate.  The finish is long and features hints of dark caramel and spice.

Sadly, this release is extremely limited.  This sample is probably the only time I’ll be able to drink this nicely aged bourbon.  If you see Blade and Bow 22 for sale near the suggested retail price of $200, pick it up!  Chances are you won’t see it again.  8.5/10

Thanks to Diageo for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon Review (Batch B517)


I always look forward to tasting new batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.  Five months into 2017 and we’re just starting to see the second batch, B517, hit shelves.  This one comes in at 124.2 proof.  Not as high as previous batches, but still hearty nonetheless.  I find the quality of these releases to be pretty consistent.  I wouldn’t expect this batch to be any different.  

Waves of caramel, dark chocolate and dark fruits fill the nose.  Wisps of sweet corn and cinnamon bark also show up after a few minutes in the glass.  The entry is rich.  I’d expect nothing else from this whiskey.  Caramel and oak are prominent, complemented by hints of espresso, vanilla, allspice, black cherry and buttered corn.  The finish is long with bittersweet oak and spice notes.  

Bottom line, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon Batch B517 is pretty damn tasty.  I did find oak played a slightly bigger part here, especially compared to this year’s first batch.  That didn’t put me off from enjoying the whiskey, which I tasted at full proof.  I didn’t need to add any water to this one.  Sure, water will open it up a touch, but you’ll miss that concentrated blast of flavor that only a barrel proof whiskey can deliver.  8.5/10

Thanks to Heaven Hill for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Rhetoric 23-Year-Old Bourbon Review

One of the more interesting things happening under the Orphan Barrel umbrella is the Rhetoric line of whiskies.  The label calls it “an evolving exploration in bourbon maturation.”  Rhetoric’s first release was a 20-year-old bourbon.  That same batch was allowed to mature for another year giving us the 21-year-old bourbon.  And the same for last year’s 22-year-old release.  Now, Rhetoric’s fourth release is 23 years old.

The whiskey here was distilled between 1990 and 1993 at the Bernheim Distillery, now owned by Heaven Hill.  The mashbill is 86% corn, 8% barley, and 6% rye, so we’re definitely not looking at a spicy bourbon.  This 23-year-old edition of Rhetoric is bottled at a touch higher proof of 90.6 instead of the 90.4 proof previous editions were bottled at.  

The nose carries hints of dark caramel, black cherry, vanilla and coffee & chicory.  There’s a touch of baking spice on entry, followed by big notes of oak, dark fruits, burnt sugar, and dark chocolate.  The oak sort of tapers out.  It is much sweeter than I thought it would be.  Some wood spice, leather, and old oak begins to develop going into the finish, which is long with hints of dark chocolate-covered caramel. 

I poured a little Rhetoric 21 and 22 to compare.  First, the whiskies aren’t miles apart from each other in terms of flavor.  However, little differences do exist.  The 21-year is a little drier.  The 22-year feels thinner but has a touch more spice.  The dark caramel is more prominent on the 23-year expression, surprisingly.  The Rhetoric whiskies seem to get a little sweeter and richer with age.  They are all oak-forward, but I think the 23-year expression presents itself better than the others.  8/10 $120

Thanks to Diageo for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.