Blade and Bow Bourbon garnishes a lot of popularity or chatter for its use of solera aging and the distillery it’s from. We’ll touch more on solera aging method and the Stitzel Weller Distillery soon, but our priority here isn’t about the distillery or methods used to craft this bourbon.
In this review, our goal is to answer a couple questions. Is Blade and Bow Bourbon good? Is it worth the price? What does it taste like and compare to?
Let’s cover some of the history and basics first, and then we’ll jump in to our tasting.
Blade and Bow History
Blade and Bow Bourbon was first released in 2018, so it’s a relatively young brand. However, some of the whiskey inside the bottle is much older. That’s because the real story behind Blade and Bow Bourbon, or at least the story that’s told to us, is the story of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery.
The Stitzel-Weller Distillery was opened in 1935, following the end of prohibition, by none other than Julian Van Winkle – more famously known as “Pappy”.
The distillery closed down in 1992, but was purchased and reopened by Diageo in 2014. Blade and Bow was released to serve as the face of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, past and present.
Blade and Bow is inspired by the 5 keys that used to hang on the door of the original distillery. The 5 keys represented the steps of making bourbon – grains, yeast, fermentation, distillation, and aging. These keys, skeleton keys, are made up of two parts – the blade, or the shaft, and the bow on top.
Diageo began buying up the last of the original whiskey that was left over to marry it with newer whiskey.
Blade and Bow Bourbon Overview
- Spirit: Straight Bourbon
- Owned By: Diageo
- Distilled By: Stitzel-Weller and other KY distilleries
- Aged: NAS – A blend of really old and 4+ yr old whiskey through the Solera Aging Method
- ABV: 45.5%, 91 proof
- Mashbill: Unknown
- Price: $50
Blade and Bow Bourbon features an unknown amount of original whiskey distilled by Stitzel-Weller – whiskey that would’ve been distilled prior to 1992. While they have a very limited supply, they ensure that the original whiskey is in every bottle of Blade and Bow. They do this by using the Solera method.
What is the Solera Aging Method?
Solera aging is a process in which whiskey is fractionally blended and aged. Old barrels of whiskey sit at the bottom and new barrels are filtered downward to eventually blend and age together.
Blade and Bow never fully empties the bottom barrels, so there is always a fraction of the old distillate left over, even if it may only be a tiny amount.
Distiller.com will cover this in some more detail as well as discuss some other brands that use this method, such as Hillrock.
Blade and Bow Bourbon Age
Some say that the youngest bourbon that goes into Blade and Bow is 6 years, but it is a NAS bourbon, so we really only know that the youngest whiskey is 4+ years.
Because Blade and Bow Bourbon uses the Solera aging method and because they say the original whiskey is in every bottle, some of the whiskey is aged 30+ years at this point.
Now, how much of the whiskey is aged 30+ years….? Likely, very, very little. Especially given the $50 price point which would be incredibly cheap if any meaningful portion of the bourbon was the original 30 year old whiskey.
Blade and Bow Tasting Notes
Alright, we’ve briefly covered almost all there is to talk about. Let’s jump into the important stuff, the whiskey inside the bottle. Is it good? Is it worth $50? Time to pour myself a glass and find out.
Nose: Peach and green apple with some rich cherry in the background. Honey and vanilla, a touch of brown sugar. Paint finished wood. A little grain and hay.
Palate: A little thin and sharp. But the nose translates over. Light, dry fruits with a bit cherry behind it. More vanilla on the palate, but honey on the nose. A hit of pepper with oak come in towards the end and into the finish.
Finish: A lot more oak shows up here on the finish – a dry oak. Vanilla and pepper join in, but fade as the oak stays behind for a medium to long finish.
I’ll tell you what… I’m slightly disappointed in Blade and Bow Bourbon. I had read some other reviews on it, and people said it relied more on the story and idea of the drinking the original bourbon from Stitzel Weller.
I didn’t think too much of it because I wanted to find out for myself.
Upon nosing Blade and Bow, I thought the other people would be dead wrong. It smelled great. Light, sweet fruits sat in front of a rich cherry. Brown sugar kicked in with some honey and vanilla. Sure, there was a little bit of graininess and paint, but it was minimal.
The second it touched my lips, I realized I was wrong – the palate was thin and sharp. Now, it wasn’t crazy thin and sharp, but for $50, this wasn’t up to par. It drank similar to Jack Daniel’s Bonded, which I recently reviewed, in terms of mouthfeel. JD Bonded is $15 cheaper, higher proof, and better, in my opinion.
I like the bottle, I like the key that comes with it, I like the idea of having some 30-yr-old bourbon from the original Stitzel Weller supply, and I love the nose – I just don’t love the bourbon.
I’ll gladly drink Blade and Bow Bourbon, I just won’t happily pay for it again. It drinks like an above average $30 bottle but comes in at $50.
Blade and Bow Bourbon Summary
The old Stitzel-Weller distillery was opened by Pappy Van Winkle and managed by him and his son. The distillery closed down in 1992, so people want to get their hands on bourbon crafted under the Van Winkle’s. However, finding that and being able to afford it is not so easy.
Blade and Bow offers you a chance to drink some, but it’s a drop in the bucket of younger, new-distillate. Hence why you can get a bottle for $50.
Blade and Bow Bourbon tells a story packed with history and lore, and it packages it real nicely. The issue is that it’s just a story. When you get down to what most people really want – a good bourbon at a fair price point – this misses the mark.