Blade and Bow
For our third installment, we’re reviewing Blade and Bow, because honestly, is there a more manly sounding name for a bourbon than Blade and Bow? Maybe Slit the Throats of Your Enemies and Drink Their Blood from Their Dried Skulls Bourbon or Crush Your Enemies, See Them Driven Before You, and Hear the Lamentations of Their Women Bourbon, but that’s about it. And I don’t even think those are real bourbons. But if they are, we’re gonna review them. And soon. In any event, Blade and Bow is produced by the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. The distillery was opened on Derby Day in 1935 by the legendary Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle, and continued to produce bourbon, though under different names, until 1992. The distillery reopened in 2014 with Blade and Bow as its product. The name comes not from weaponry, but from the two parts of a skeleton key: the blade and the bow. Now, that’s not quite as manly and cool as a sword and a hunting bow, but still pretty cool. Even cooler is that the name was picked to honor the history of the distillery, which is legendary in the bourbon world. In the original distillery, five keys hung on the door, each representing a different step in the creation process: grains, yeast, fermentation, distilling, and aging.
Blade and Bow currently has two offerings: The regular and a limited-release 22 year bourbon. A very cool aspect of their regular bourbon is that is created using some of the same product that was last distilled at Stitzel-Weller in 1992. The limited amount of this product mandated that it be mixed with others in order to have a widespread release. So, Stitzel-Weller came up with the Solera System, a process whereby the old product is put in four barrels, with a fifth barrel also being used that contains new product that is produced elsewhere (Stitzel-Weller has not been forthcoming about the location or nature of the new product). These five barrels are used to blend the old bourbon with the new to create the Blade and Bow regular product. While the exact mash bill ratio of the regular has not been released, the consensus is that it is comprised of corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley.
The product website gives the official tasting description:
Smell: Fresh fruit
Palate: Dried apricots, ripe pear, and sweet roasted grain
Finish: Charred oak and warm winter spices
Proof: 91 proof; 45% alcohol by volume (ABV)
Retail price: Around $50.00
That’s what they say, here’s what we say:
Rating Scale and Criteria
As you’ll recall from our initial review, found here, we’re going to review on a scale of one to five “fingers” and give our impressions about the taste, finish, burn, and quality at the price point.
Let me start off by saying that it’s good to be back in the game! The front office (the wifey) placed me on the 10-day DL after going 0-3 in the last game ( intense heart burn after a few pours). Its been hard not being able to play. But I would like to think that I’m a complete teammate, so while on the DL, I continued to encourage the team and find ways the make us stronger (hunting for the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection). Success! I was able to coach us up (two bottles in hand from the BTAC) and my team will be stronger than ever (sipping BTAC products by the fire pit this Fall).
I will admit I was a bit nervous stepping up the the plate my first game back against “Blade and Bow”. I had faced them before and was successful.I knew that the first pitch (sip) was crucial for my confidence. Still, I questioned myself. Was I returning too early? Was my body ready? Would I re-injure myself in the first game back? Had I prepared myself for the return?
The Pitch . . . WOW! What away to come back!. Loved it! I would consider B & B to be the Tim Wakefield of the bourbon game (off-speed, only 90 proof), soft but effective. I thought it had great flavor; smooth from start to finish with not a lot of burn, a good nose with hints of caramel and walnuts. The taste was fall and fruity. I couldn’t pick out a particular fruit flavor. Normally I like to face The Ryan Express, The Big Units, and Aroldis Chapmans (bold, high heat, high proof, 120 plus) of the game but I will definitely keep a bottle of the Blade and Bow around. As for the injury, I’m back better than ever. I went 2-2 (2 pours) at the plate with my confidence flying high heading into the playoffs (my annual bourbon party).
Here’s how I break it down:
- Taste – 3.5 fingers
- Value – 2.5 fingers
- Availability – 5 fingers
Overall Rating: 3.5 fingers – it was a great bourbon to get me back in the game; definitely better than a minor-league tune-up, but not quite a playoff team.
First of all, has anyone been watching this Game of Thrones show?!? Holy Mother of Dragons! No spoilers here, but if you haven’t been watching, this bourbon review of Blade and Bow may be slightly under the influence of GOT. In particular, the Lanisters, since Blade and Bow sounds like a cross bow, which is the chosen weapon for a few of the Lanisters.
Why listen to my opinion about bourbon you ask? Well, that’s what I do: I drink, and I know things.
My tasting of Blade and Bow was just after a round of pulled pork and chicken wings. Similar to how the Lanisters would have done a bourbon tasting in Westeros. It was smooth like Jamie, spicy late like Cersei, and has a killer finish like Joffrey. The flavor was a little short (insert Tyrion joke), but nothing to prevent you from throwing it out the window, like Tommen.
At around $54.00, I have many other bourbons I’d prefer from a value perspective, but if you’re looking for a gift to “pay your debts”, this is better than a fruit basket.
Here’s how I break it down, if you don’t agree with me, all I have to say is “YOU KNOW NOTHING JOHN SNOW!”
- Taste – 4 fingers
- Availability – 2 fingers
- Value – 3 fingers
Overall Rating – 3 fingers
“Blade and Bow is a great bourbon, it’s excellent.” ~ a quote from one of my friends, let’s call him “Dale.” Well, Dale is a liar. Okay, maybe that’s harsh. Okay, that’s definitely harsh. But to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Blade and Bow. (I feel I need to once again put this in context: it’s bourbon and I love bourbon, especially when supplied by my dear friends – thanks Marsh). In order to try and figure out why B and B doesn’t quite resonate with me, I cheated and did a little research. As noted above, the product website describes the taste as having hints of both dried apricot and ripe pear. There it is, I’m not a fan of either. It’s a strong bourbon with a decent amount of burn, which if you’ve read any of my other reviews, is not what I’m looking for. Having said all this, I can see why folks might like this one (especially liars like Dale), but there’s plenty of others bourbons at a better price I’d reach for first.
Here’s my breakdown:
- Taste – 2.5 fingers
- Value – 4 fingers
- Availability – 2.5 fingers
Overall Rating: 3 fingers
I’m not gonna lie, I love the Blade and Bow story. I love the name. I love the idea that it’s named for the two parts of a skeleton key, which is cool as shit. I love that five keys hung on the door of the distillery. And I love that the bourbon is made from product created in the 1990’s. Let’s just be real for a second: we want to feel good about what we’re drinking. No one feels good about ordering or drinking a fruity drink like Sex on the Beach or something along those lines. We want to feel like we’re drinking something as badass as we’re trying to be. Blade and Bow fits that category for me. So, my disclaimer is that I wanted to like this bourbon. And I did.
Here’s an amateur tip: always smell your bourbon before you drink it. You may or may not pick up on the actual taste from this practice, but you’ll notice something about the drink. I loved the smell of Blade and Bow. It’s not my favorite bourbon smell, a title currently held by Jefferson’s Ocean, Voyage Eight, but it’s fantastic. I noticed a lot of caramel in every smell, but not in an overpowering way like with Woodford Double Oaked.
The taste was very light on the front, which I love. I’m not a fan of bourbons that are really hot on the front end (I’m looking at you, E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof). This one was very light on the front, with a nice light burn on the back end. Very smooth. And, as I noted, manly as hell. Here’s how I rate it:
- Smell – 4.5 fingers – Yeah, I added a new rating category. Bourbon snobs would call this category “aroma”, but that’s not how we roll. In any event, the smell of Blade and Bow really enhanced my enjoyment of the drink. Don’t overlook it.
- Taste – 4 fingers – While no particular flavor jumped out at me, it’s smoothness did.
- Value – 3.5 fingers – At around $50.00 for 750 ml, it’s not a cheap bourbon. That said, I enjoyed it enough that I don’t think it’s overpriced. At $35.00, it would be a super value. At $50.00, it’s just pretty good.
- Availability – 3 fingers – Blade and Bow is by no means a rare bourbon, but I’m never surprised when I find out that a place doesn’t carry it; especially restaurants.
Overall Rating: 4 fingers. While the value and availability bring down the total score, I weight those categories a bit less than the others. As a result, I give it a solid four fingers. If you’re looking for a refined tasting bourbon with a cool-ass name and story, Blade and Bow has you covered.
Overall Rating: Just under 3.5 fingers. Honcho and Ness aren’t fans, TJ and I are. This is our lowest-rated bourbon so far. But it still sounds bad-ass when you order it, so give it a try. And talk loud when you order it.
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