Whiskey Review: Fierce & Kind Straight Bourbon Whiskey

One evening last year I was sitting at the rooftop bar of Mister A’s, enjoying an old-fashioned and watching planes come through the low cloud layer on approach to San Diego International Airport (SAN). Naturally, I ended up posting some great looking pictures and video to my Instagram account. Not long after, the San Diego-based CEO and co-founder of Fierce & Kind Spirits, Basem Harb, reached out. And today, we finally run a bottle of their bourbon through the Thirty-One Whiskey ringer.



In 2020, Basem Harb and Cyndi Smith founded Fierce & Kind Spirits. Harb (a lifelong entrepreneur) and Smith (who had spent her long career in corporate leadership) wanted to create a business allowing them to give back to the community while cultivating a product that brings people together.

They felt that getting into the spirits business would allow them to best accomplish those goals. They “believe spirits have a unique power to bring people together and the act of sharing a drink with someone is a sacred, communal moment”. And they are able to accomplish this through a 100% employee and consumer owned business model with an incredibly diverse leadership team.

Partnered with the company is the Fierce & Kind Equity Foundation. This foundation receives 25% of profits made through the spirits sales. The foundation does work focused around “social, political, economic, and climate justice, and to help build generational wealth for our communities”.

Currently, Fierce & Kind distributes to the California market, which a heavy concentration in southern California. They participate in many San Diego events and are starting to get their bottles in many local bars and restaurants. They also have an online store, where you can purchase their spirits and have them shipped to you – this was the route I took and it worked great (as usual for our site, we purchased this bottle independently and at market price).


Fierce & Kind doesn’t actually make any of their spirits yet. Instead, they work with a distilling partner in North Carolina and together they developed their proprietary mashbill and recipes for the new spirits company.

Like many new distilleries, Fierce & Kind started with vodka. A neutral grain spirit with no aging requirements (like vodka) allows any distillery to quickly establish itself and begin making a profit, so it’s a common first step for new distilleries. However, while other small distilleries will take it slow and move towards other unaged spirits like gin or rum before they dip a toe into the aged bottles, Fierce & Kind decided to jump directly to bourbon from vodka

The folks at Fierce & Kind were kind enough to provide us with their mashbill, and they use 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley for this spirit. In their description they specify that they use locally source grains, and Harb clarified that all of the grain used to make their bourbon is sourced from local farmers within a 20 mile radius of the distillery. In his own words, “staying sustainable and locally sourced is in keeping with our broader ethos of responsibility and doing good in our communities and for our community”.

After the mash is fermented, it is then distilled into a high-proof white whiskey. This is placed into new charred oak barrels and bottled as they hit maturity. In this case the spirit spent two years and five months in a barrel before being considered good enough to be bottled for sale.

In the future, Fierce & Kind looks to age their whiskey for longer periods of time. They also are looking to experiment more with blending and finishing in partnership with California wineries.


This is a bottle shape that we see often with new distilleries: it’s a basic, medium-height round bottle with straight walls that round quickly at the shoulder and short neck. That bottle is topped off with black foil and a synthetic and plastic stopper. It’s a great size for a shelf, and feels comfortable in your hand when you pour.

The thing that I really like about this bottle is the labeling. Rather than a paper label glued on, all labeling here is printed directly on the glass. Most of the space is taken up by the distillery name and logo, with a small red-orange space at the bottom that talks about the type of spirit, proof, and alcohol percent.

The rich amber bourbon can be seen clearly through the minimalistic labeling. It’s a simple bottle but works really well and gives off a high-end vibe.



The first thing I notice when taking a deep inhale are a lot of very sweet notes. Most prevalent is a strong vanilla coupled with fruity strawberry. It reminds me of a warm summer afternoon enjoying some fresh berries.

The first sip provides a surprising flavor profile, especially compared to the nose — it’s not nearly as sweet as the aroma would let on. The vanilla flavor is there, but surprisingly mild compared to the strong vanilla aroma that I smelled coming off the glass. There seems to be more focus on the fruit in the flavor profile, specifically a mix of apple, pear, and strawberry rather than just the strawberry that we saw in the aroma initially. Accompanying those notes is an oak flavor that you would expect from a bourbon — but given that this spirit only spent two years in a barrel, it makes sense that it is an unsurprisingly mild note of oak. There is a lighter-than-usual burn at the end (which, again, is consistent with not having the time to really mellow that you might expect from something like a 4 year bourbon).

Neat is not a bad way to drink this bourbon, but it’s milder than I would prefer. It drinks like a wheated bourbon in my opinion — weak on the bourbon aspects, but with some mild and surprisingly fruity components. I think there is a lot of potential here and look forward to future bottles that have been aged for a longer period of time.

On Ice

Typically, when you enjoy some bourbon on the rocks, the flavor profile will mellow and become milder. In this case, the opposite actually happens. The ice seems to crank up the complexity dial on this bourbon.

The first thing I notice is that the fruit flavors become stronger. You can clearly taste the unique apple, pear, and strawberry notes. The vanilla also becomes stronger, but remains very pleasant and doesn’t rise to the level of overpowering the other components.

The ice also almost completely eliminates the light burn we saw earlier. Which, while it wasn’t a deal killer, is still something that makes this more enjoyable on the rocks.

In this preparation, the bourbon becomes very delicate yet flavorful. Between enjoying this neat and on the rocks, I would recommend adding a rock or two (just don’t go crazy).

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

I am always wary of using delicate bourbons in a cocktail. They may be enjoyable sippers, but the cocktail ingredients can easily overwhelm the spirit – which is, sadly, exactly what happens here.

Rather than accentuating the pre-existing components of the bourbon, this spirit is completely lost behind the added ingredients. There is no flavor distinct to the bourbon that I can pick out from the mix. It’s all sugar, bitters, and orange. It’s incredibly disappointing… but not surprising.

Fizz (Mule)

A review or two ago, I said: I do not think a good Kentucky Mule has to be made with great bourbon. It just must be made with a spirit that will stand up to the brightness of the ginger beer (unlike vodka, which is so neutral that the ginger beer becomes the star).

Well, let’s just say I did not have high expectations here and I anticipated correctly. Just like the old fashioned, the bourbon is lost in the cocktail. The only flavor is ginger beer and lime – so much so, that at first I questioned if I had actually added bourbon at all.


Overall Rating

The worst thing that a bourbon can do is be boring, and I think there’s enough here to make this whiskey worth the price of admission. It’s a delicate bourbon with a surprisingly fruity flavor that drinks best on the rocks. I could see this being a much better spirit if a few more years were spent in the barrel — the foundation is there, now they just need father time to do his part.

That said, this is a common flaw of young spirits companies: they have a great idea, good process, and the foundation to build a great bourbon. However, time is the biggest and most expensive element when creating any whiskey, so their early outputs are often not as strong as they can (and often, will) eventually achieve.

The good news is that the team at Fierce & Kind is focused on sustainability — and I personally consider self-sustainability to be part of that. Harb has shared some yet to be announced plans, and let’s just say we’re excited to see the product that is built upon the shoulders of this first bourbon.

Fierce & Kind Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Produced By: Fierce & Kind
Production Location: United States
Classification: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: 2 Years
Proof: 43% ABV
Price: $55 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 3/5
A delicate bourbon that is best enjoyed on a rock or two.


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