Orphan Barrel Whoop & Holler

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Perhaps the photo gave it away?  Once you taste this, it will explain everything.  Let’s not waste our times on the history of Orphan Barrel, or that this is just some 28yr old Dickel juice aged somewhere else, or why it’s called American Whiskey instead of Bourbon… I’m going to let other bloggers write about than and instead I’m just going to get into the review…

The color is extremely light, just from looking at it, I would have assumed it was a 2-3 year bourbon.  Very hard to believe this has been aged for 28 years.

The nose has aromas of my bathroom garbage can, used Band-Aids, pine needles and rubber.  The first time I tried it a few weeks ago it was more potent, now, although the smells are the same, they are less pronounced, but nothing better coming through.

The taste, hard to believe, is even worse than the smell.  It is dry, astringent, unappealing, just not good at all.  It has the feeling of being massively over oaked, without any of the positive aspects of oak–pretty amazing feat in itself.  I guess the only redeeming quality of the taste is that I’m getting a slight burnt orange aroma, which is better than the trash I was getting before.  The taste just brings a frown to your face, like you are sucking on a lemon, but a lemon that tastes like trash.  Just gross.

Now… here is the kicker.  I paid $199.99 for this thing.  I actually bought 6 of them for $1200.  I was convinced I was going to flip them and make a killing on it.  Can you imagine how upset I was when I got home and tried it?  For full disclosure, I did list them on bottle-spot and was able to get rid of all of them, after shipping costs, for just a little more than I paid for them, but I feel bad for those people who bought them.  This is just gross.  And the fact that Diageo had the balls to not only put this out on the market, but charge $200 a bottle for it is so bad.  It’s even worse that I bought it for that price.  I keep buying these stupid Orphan Barrels, partially because they tend to go up in value and also because they have such pretty labels and look good on my bar.  Why do I keep doing this to myself?  I hope everyone reads this before they go out and buy another Orphan Barrel ever again… I have just one more thing to say… Diageo: go fuck yourselves.  1/100

Gifted Horse: Orphan Barrel’s Newest Release

Ok…. Let me be upfront here. I’ve bought every Orphan Barrel release to date and have been largely disappointed by all of them. The only two I have legitimately enjoyed were the Lost Prophet 22yr (overall) and the Forged Oak 15yr (for value).  I picked up this bottle for $59.99.

Gifted Horse is a blend of 17yr and 4yr whiskey. Is the story about the accidental blending true? Probably not but it’s still a fun diddy to put on the side of the bottle.  It’s about 60% 4yr and 40% 17yr.

The color looks about right for the age mix with a medium dark amber hue, and the bottles all look good with a very cool design on the label.  For this release they changed the bottle to have a much larger cap and wider opening–subtle change, but a good one making it look more substantial.

Ginger snaps, mushrooms, chili peppers, plantains and fresh leather. So much going on here. For 115 proof the nose isn’t that hot.

Nice gritty mouthfeel, really bringing out the earthiness on the palate. Heat is extremely manageable, barely even recognizing a cask strength bottling. Enjoyable palate with a decent finish.

The story about accidentally blending a 17yr and a 4yr is probably complete horse shit as opposed to gifted horse. It probably was an over oaked 17yr that when blended with a 4yr was very enjoyable. Whether the blend was on purpose, fated by the stars or a random occurrence, I’m glad they released this batch the the public. 93/100.

Enjoy this release from Diageo and I deem it to be the best value they have released to date.  If you can get it from your local liquor store for $60, it’s definitely worth it.

 

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Barterhouse Vs Rhetoric: Only the consumer is the loser here…

Of the current five Orphan Barrels released to date, these are the last two that I have not reviewed and I figured I would do them together to finish them off.  Like pulling off a band-aid, I decided it was better just to end the pain and finish them off as quickly as possible.

The first is Barterhouse 20yr 45.1% abv which is a Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. The second is Rhetoric, the 21yr release, also 45.1% abv and is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Both are bottled in Tullahoma, TN. The last three bottles from Diageo were disappointing to me but interesting in their own way. The bar for me is low for these given how expensive they are.  Note that Rhetoric initially released a 20yr the year before, but I was unable to obtain it.  They say it is the same barrel selections, and that they have enough to release a 22yr next year and maybe we’ll even see a 23 and 24yr?

Both have a medium dark amber color.

Barterhouse has a nice candied orange nose, with some maple charcoal, leather saddle and wet bark. It’s an inviting nose but not overwhelming. Rhetoric has similar notes but more of a mushroomy forest floor undertones and less sweet citrus and maple; there exists hints of ash and smoke lurking deep in the glass. With the low abv, and this much age, it’s not surprising that neither have too much heat on the nose.

Barterhouse is definitely sweet on the tongue. The citrus comes through but there is a spicy pepper on the back that comes through on the palate that I missed on the nose. The spice and a touch of heat continues for a while extending the finish. This isn’t overly woody, a curse other Orphans suffered from. Rhetoric is much more woody and tannic than Barterhouse, equally spicy, but lacks some of the sweetness. The finish is equally long, but has much more wood. Both of these Bourbons are big with impressive finishes.

These are both enjoyable but only one of them is remotely worth the price. The Barterhouse wins. Whatever they did with this one, it retains a nice sweetness, while the Rhetoric shows like it was kept in wood just a few years too long. Both are expensive which hurt their scores.   Either way, neither are must owns, but they do look nice on the shelf.  It is important to mention that when Rhetoric comes out next year with a 23yr, it is best to steer clear of it as my guess is it will continue to get worse as the wood takes over.
Barterhouse 89/100
Rhetoric 21 83/100

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Oprhan Barrel Series Continues with Lost Prophet 22… maybe the best, still overrated.

After this one, only one to go to complete the current Orphan Barrel series, and thus far I have been pretty disappointed.  Largely it has been because the costs have been so high… all have been interesting in their own way, but none of have had any real value to them. This week I saw a blog that said Orphan Barrel has just had their TTB label approved for Whoop & Holler, a 28 year whiskey.  My guess is that it will also be an overoaked, not exciting bourbon, yet I will still try to buy 3 of them and will be first in line to buy it.  I will act like a Mets fan in April, self-imposed ignorantly excited, ready to open my wallet for September tickets, only to subconsciously know I will be disappointed again and should clearly know better.  But Hope Springs Eternal, and that’s how I feel when I try Lost Prophet.  As a Yankees fan I should know better….

When I first opened the bottle and it needed some air… Very flat on the open so I let it sit for 15 minutes.  Seriously folks, we need to do some research on this first open bottle thing…

Color looks like a black tea with two bags….

Interesting spicy nose, Necco wafers, cloves, Skippy Chunky Peanut Butter, toasted buttered cinnamon raisin bagel… Mild heat on the nose.

Very smooth, yet spicy palate. Very tasty but the finish is just okay, and not as long as I would have hoped. The mouthfeel is good but not great.  The nose teased me, but the taste just didn’t follow through.  So many great bourbons have finishes that last for one, two, three minutes or more… this was barely 15 seconds.

Thus far, Lost Prophet is my favorite of the Orphan Barrel series but given the price, it’s just not a must own. For value, Forged Oak is probably better, and given that it’s much cheaper and easier to find, if you feel to need to buy one of these, go for that one.  Overall, this is enjoyable, but if you don’t get to taste it, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.  89/100.

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Forged Oak: Orphan Barrel Series Continued: More Focus on Marketing, Less on Distilling/Blending…

As promised the continuation of the Orphan Barrel Series tastings: Forged Oak.

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.

Overall, this was an enjoyable Bourbon. It’s not amazing, and it’s probably not as limited release as people think it is either.  If you can find a bottle for $60, it’s probably worth buying because it looks nice on the shelf, and your friends might want to try it, but there are many better buys for the same price or less out there.  If your local store has it for $100, the decision not to buy it becomes far easier.  I’m rating this one higher than Old Blowhard because it’s cheaper and the overall experience was more enjoyable–I even went for seconds.  86/100

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