2XO Kiawah Blend Bourbon Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
2XO Kiawah Blend Bourbon Review

It’s not easy for yet another non-distiller producer to scratch itself out a comfortable niche in the modern bourbon world, but Dixon Dedman’s 2XO seems to have settled in nicely in the last few years. Built both around a relatively affordable flagship (American Oak) and a series of ongoing special releases (The Icon Series) that hover around the $100 mark, the 2XO brand has rattled off a string of high-quality releases. The latest? That would be the fourth entry in The Icon Series, dubbed The Kiawah Blend.

This one is named for the small Kiawah Island, a barrier island on the Atlantic coast south of Charleston, which has apparently been a regular vacation spot for Dedman’s family over the years. He refers to Kiawah as his “happy place,” with this release intended to conjure up memories of time spent there. Like other 2XO limited releases, it’s available at select retailers and via the company’s website.

Like all 2XO releases, this one is exploring the possibilities of blending multiple mash bills, with some use of secondary barrel maturation. Specifically, this time involves two proprietary sourced mash bills, one being a high rye (35%) bourbon and another a moderate rye (18% bourbon). The high rye portion then receives a secondary maturation in newly charred oak, for “9 months to a year.” This is interesting to me, an exercise in Dedman blending distillate that has both undergone secondary aging and not had any additional aging. The double-barreled portion, meanwhile, reportedly makes up 60% of the final blend. The non-age-stated blend is bottled at a respectable 52% ABV (104 proof), for the previously stated MSRP of $100.

So with that said, let’s dive into 2XO The Kiawah Blend, and see how it compares.

On the nose, The Kiawah Blend is notably spicy, toasty and particularly buttery in nature. The secondary maturations that Dedman has specialized in via 2XO seem to have a tendency to deliver a lot of toasted oak and spice characteristics, and that is certainly the case here–cracked pepper and heavy baking spice mingle with toasted oak, bread crusts and pastry-like notes to suggest something akin to a steaming slab of French toast. A little dark chocolate rounds things out, but it’s the spice notes that really carry the nose.

On the palate, that heavy baking spice is joined by massive toasted oak character, but also continues in the vein of buttery pastry. At the same time, it adds some cooked dark fruitiness, suggesting raspberry and blackberry jam. I’m getting toasted malt and darker bread crust, and the ethanol is a tad on the prickly side–the booze itself is accentuating the dark fruity character. The spice, meanwhile, actually is putting me into a bit of an “island” mindset because it hits notably on allspice, which almost makes me think of the pimento dram one might use in a tiki cocktail. Overall, though, the profile is fairly dry despite the pastry and spice-type character, with modest tannin leading each sip to a modestly drying finish–it’s certainly not quite as desserty a dram as you might expect when first nosing it.

All in all, it’s another individualistic and memorable blend from Dedman, who has shown impressive ability to assemble thoughtful and engaging blends so far. 2XO remains one of the more interesting non-distiller producers out there today, a brand that whiskey geeks should check out if they haven’t already.

Distillery: 2XO
City: Non-distiller producer
Style: Blend of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskeys
ABV: 52% (104 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $100 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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