Diageo

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.

Crown Royal Wine Barrel Finished Canadian Whisky Review

Canadian whisky giant Crown Royal’s newest expression just hit shelves.  This second entry in their annual Noble Collection sees a particular blend of Cown Royal whiskies finished in medium toasted Cabernet Sauvignon barrels for six months.  I don’t see a lot of whiskies using Cabernet casks for a secondary maturation.  The only one that comes to mind is Blood Oath Pact No. 3, which was pretty good.  Cabernet Sauvignon is such a full flavored wine that it can easily overpower a whisky’s character.

“We experimented with a number of different wines and oak provenances – but ultimately American oak Cabernet Sauvignon best complemented Crown Royal’s signature red fruit notes and velvety mouthfeel for a taste that both whisky and wine connoisseurs will love,” said Jim Ruane, Director of Crown Royal.

I had a small taste of this whisky a few months back, and really liked it.  Fast forward three months, and I spent a little bit of time with this Canadian whisky for a more thorough tasting.  The nose has those familiar Crown Royal notes of maple syrup, toasted oak and creamy vanilla.  However, the wine barrel finishing adds an expected fruitiness in the form of red berries, but also gives the whisky a little more spice than usual.  Think ground cinnamon.  The palate follows the nose rather closely.  Waves of caramel and maple syrup build as raspberry jam and baking spices begin appearing midpalate.  There’s some vanilla pod that begins showing up along with a slightly drying oak.  The medium finish features some sweet red fruits and oak spice.

Crown Royal Wine Barrel Finished is just as enjoyable as I remember.  The blend is well balanced between a creamy caramel, sweet fruits, and oak spices.  Bottled at 40.5% abv, this whisky retains the “smoothness” Crown Royal fans like with a genuinely easy-sipping but flavorful character that I think is worth exploring.  Nicely done!  8/10  $60

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

Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Triple Grain American Oak Blended Whisky Review

New from Casa de Walker is the limited edition Triple Grain American Oak.  It’s the third entry in the Johnnie Walker’s experimental Blender’s Batch series, and first released here in the U.S. The Triple Grain American Oak (TGAO) is made up of three grain whiskies (wheat, barley, and corn) including some from Port Dundas, and two malt whiskies from the Cardu and Mortlach distilleries.  The whiskies here are at least 10 years old, and have matured in American oak casks.  

This blend is said to be inspired by Master Blender Jim Beveridge’s interest in American whiskies.  The last new Johnnie Walker expression I tried, Select Casks Rye Cask Finish, also tried to cater to the American whiskey drinker.  I really enjoyed that blend.  I’d love to see rye whiskey barrels used more in Scotland.  Johnnie Walker TGAO is bottled at 41.3% abv and can be found for about $30 a bottle, while supplies last.

Information from the brand suggests it was designed to be a mixer in cocktails, but it’s really nice on its own.  On the nose, I pick up – no smoke!  A rare deviation for Johnnie Walker.  Instead we get candied fruit, vanilla, caramel and a light floral note.  The palate is creamy, and combined with the vanilla on entry comes across as vanilla pudding.  Some caramel apple and spice follow, with hints of buttered wheat toast and very, very light whisp of wood smoke (maybe I’m imagining).  The finish is short and clean – sweet grain with just a touch of spice.

Add this to my list of Scotch whiskies for bourbon drinkers to try.  Sweet fruit and vanilla are the stars here, and are two notes usually found in bourbon.  There’s virtually zero peat here, which I know seems to turn off a lot people thinking of getting into Scotch.  I have to reiterate that Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Triple American Oak is a one-time release and very well priced for what it delivers.   8.5/10

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