Forged Oak, the youngest of the Orphan Barrel Series clocks in at a 90.5 proof level and 15 years of age in the barrel. It is also the least expensive of the bunch, costing me a mere $60, although some retailers have decided to charge upwards of $100. I found it in Cape Cod over July 4th weekend, and everywhere in NYC has priced it higher. Too bad shipping across state lines has been severely curtailed–call your Congressman!
I repeat my earlier thoughts on Old Blowhard for Forged Oak: the bottle looks really cool, and it looks great on my shelf. All five together look great, and it is a testament to the marketing folks at Diageo for coming up with some spectacular label designs, although it seems they spent more effort on the label and the PR work than with the whiskey itself. The label is silver with a huge stag on the front, perhaps an allusion to Mr. Stagg? Who knows… but they do drop the S-W Bomb on the side label, claiming to have “found” this bottle “while foraging through the racks of barrels in the historic Stitzel-Weller rickhouse.” OK, who doesn’t get excited by S-W, but from what I can tell online, this was distilled at New Bernheim (now owned by Heaven Hill) and stored at the S-W rickhouse. The mash bill is 86% corn, 8% barley and 6% rye. This is “hand bottled” with pride in Tullahoma and is number 11,596.
The color is dark butterscotch, very reminiscent of a 18 year old Scotch.
My initial prejudice was to get a ton of wood on the nose, however, that was not my initial impression. I got apple pie, butterscotch, baking spices, and only on the second time did I get the wood notes. Old Blowhard had gotten me all ramped up about over-oaking, but this bottle does not suffer from the same neglect. It also hits you like you are going to get a bunch of heat, but teases you because the heat on the back of your throat never kicks in.
The sweetness on the nose is confirmed on the palate, with medium heat. The finish is more heat than flavor though as it does not linger as long as I hoped it would. The wood comes though on the tongue, but the tannins are just fine. It’s unfortunate that this was bottled at only 90.5 proof as it seems to be lacking a backbone that it could have had if it was cask strength.
I added some water to see what would happen and the nose changed. This time it was more fruit forward, apples, bananas: sweeter and lighter. However, when I tasted it, everything just fell apart. The water removed whatever flavor there was and just left me with wet disappointment personified. Warning: DO NOT ADD WATER. This reinforced my previous notion that had Forged Oak been bottled at 115-130 proof it might have been an impressive whiskey.