Dixon Dedman is no stranger to the art of blending whiskey. In fact, it’s exactly how he first made his name in the industry as a co-founder of the critically acclaimed Kentucky Owl brand. Having since moved on to his latest venture, 2XO, Dedman is hoping to recreate some of that magic now that he has more creative control.
The first release from 2XO, which stands for Two Times Oak, is the Phoenix Blend. “I named the Phoenix Blend very intentionally,” says Dixon. “Like a new beginning, 2XO aims to create something unique in American whiskey, and every release will strive to achieve something special.” For this release the brand chose to mingle Kentucky straight bourbon from two different distilling partners, combining what they call a moderate rye recipe and a high rye recipe. The central conceit of the 2XO brand will be to take whiskey that Dedman has hand selected and further maturing it in new, charred oak barrels. This approach fully leans into Dedman’s strength as a blender, and will allow him to put the personal touch he’s become famous for on every release.
2XO The Phoenix Blend comes out of the gate with sugary and fruit-forward aromas (think sugar-glass coated raspberries, fresh pear, and white grapes) which are accented by notes of graham cracker, vanilla, and pine sprigs. Taking a deeper whiff reveals tobacco leaf, clove, and a touch of mint which can only be found behind a hit of ethanol. Be aware while inhaling that this whiskey noses a bit hotter than the proof would indicate.
There’s a more prominent showing of spice on the palate as black pepper and nutmeg build on the clove from the nose – all of which interacts well with the vanilla cone, apricot, and brown sugar notes that arise at midpalate. The finish is a tad drying but that’s not a bad thing per se, and it serves mostly as a nudge to reengage in repeat sips. The mouthfeel is substantial and on its way to being almost “sticky” as droplets linger just a moment longer than one would expect on every inch of the palate.
What we’re left with is a solid blend that patiently vacillates between sweetness and spice without being overt on either end of the spectrum. Displaying such balance, one hopes, will be a hallmark of Dedman’s blending experiments going forward. If this first offering is any indication, 2XO will be a welcome feather in Dedman’s cap and truly showcase why blending can be as masterful an art as distilling.