Dixon Dedman is Back to Blending
April 25, 2023 –––––– Julia Higgins
Like many of his Kentucky peers, Dixon Dedman has whiskey embedded in his DNA. Dedman’s great-great-grandfather, Charles Mortimer Dedman, founded Kentucky Owl in 1879 and made bourbon until 1916, when Prohibition went into effect and shut down his operation. The brand would remain dormant for nearly 100 years, until Dedman himself picked up the blender’s mantle and revived his family label in 2014. His involvement with Kentucky Owl would be relatively short-lived, lasting just seven years—even as he successfully brought Kentucky Owl back into the whiskey limelight, its sale to Stoli Group in 2017 would signal the start of his moving on, which he did in 2021. But it certainly wasn’t the end of his blending career, and the fruits of his new labors are now here for all to taste, under the 2XO label.
2XO is quite literally a dream come true for Dedman. “I couldn’t have asked for a better situation,” he says. “I still pinch myself, thinking ‘How in the world did this come together the way it did?’” The road to 2XO was indeed short and sweet and sudden, in that it came out of nowhere and then rather swiftly fell into place. After his departure from Kentucky Owl, Dedman wasn’t in a rush to align himself with a new brand, especially given the nature of most offers he was presented with—private investors came to him with blank checks and the capitulation that there be immediate returns on investment, an idea he found disingenuous to his work.
As he bided his time, the right project materialized. “I was approached by a group that had been putting down their own barrels and custom mashbills for years—they had several thousand barrels nearing 6 years in age, plus access to other Kentucky straight whiskeys,” he says. That group—Prestige Beverage Group, an importer and brand owner—met with Dedman for advice on what to do with their considerable stockpile; within an hour of that first meeting, the company had a new master blender, and its first American whiskey brand.
2XO's lastest release, The Innkeeper's Blend, is part of the brand's Icon Series. (Photo by Brooke Forte)
The name 2XO is derived from “two times oak,” representative of the fact that some whiskey from every blend will be re-barreled into secondary oak for a minimum of 12 months. The first two whiskeys from the brand, The Phoenix Blend (launched last December) and The Innkeeper’s Blend (released this past March), are both part of the Icon Series, which will highlight small batch blends and Dedman’s creativity as a blender. To that point, Dedman stresses that no two blends from the Icon Series will be alike, with every release having its own unique flavor profile and mashbill.
Moving forward, two additional tiers will join the Icon Series. First up is the Gem of Kentucky, slated for release this summer. The high-end whiskey will have a high-rye mashbill and come from the best barrels Dedman has on hand. For flavor variation from release-to-release, he plans on playing around with different char levels in the secondary barrel. Just 75 barrels of Gem of Kentucky will be available annually. Set to follow in the fall is the Oak Series, a nationally available line that will feature more “everyday” whiskeys whose profiles stay the same year-over-year. While the Icon Series and Gem of Kentucky whiskeys are double-oaked in new charred American white oak, Dedman will explore additional oak finishes for the Oak Series; so far, he’s looked at French, Hungarian, and mizunara oak, as well as oak that previously held Cognac, sherry, and tequila.
No matter the whiskey, don’t expect to see an age statement on any 2XO bottles. “I never want to box myself in,” Dedman explains. “Years ago, age statements were a much bigger deal, and nowadays the whiskey drinker understands there’s so much more to it than a number on the label.” He goes on to say that most of 2XO falls within the 6 to 8 year old range, which is his preferred sweet spot given that he’s incorporating additional oak.
While Dedman envisions a home for 2XO at some point down the road, that won’t ever translate to a full-blown distillery—Dedman is a steadfast blender, and blender alone. “I understand maturation, I work with barrels, I work with liquid development,” he says. “I’m not a distiller, and I’ve never claimed to be one. I could run a distillery for maybe a week before it would blow up.” Plus, Dedman’s current stock doesn’t hurt this position—he says he’s in no danger of running low on liquid anytime soon, thanks to Prestige’s (undisclosed) distilling partners. So stay tuned for more 2XO, which will be making a nationwide splash by year’s end. The Gem of Kentucky will set you back $200, while the Icon Series bottles fall at $100, and the Oak Series at $50.