Orphan Barrel Entrapment

noun: entrapment; plural noun: entrapments
  1. the state of being caught in or as in a trap.
    “the feeling of entrapment grows as the roads close and the power goes out”
    • the action of tricking someone into committing a crime in order to secure their prosecution.
      “his style of investigation constitutes entrapment”


The title of the bottle pretty much tells you everything you need to know… you are basically being tricked into buying this because it has a big 25 on it.  Despite the fact that we know we are being entrapped by Diageo, we still overpay for the bottle anyway… on to the review:

Diageo’s Orphan Barrel Entrapment is the newest release and is a 25yr Canadian Rye from most likely Gimli, but could be Waterloo given they were distilling up to 1992  (Update: I have read online that it is in fact from Gimli).  They had admitted it is Crown Royal and decided to release it in this line instead of a special Crown Royal release or blend it into their normal product.

Extremely light colored. If it were Bourbon I’d guess it was six months old but it’s 25yrs old aged in used wood. The wood is probably so used there is nothing left to be absorbed into the distillate—I doubt the barrels were even reconditioned or recharred.

The nose is classic Canadian Rye, and that’s because it is. It’s Crown Royal and it’s smells just like their low end brand. Vanilla, Christmas tree and candy corn. Doesn’t smell like it’s been aged a lot. Reminds me a lot of older Canadian Club dusties that are easy to find, cheap and enjoyable.

The initial flavor is quite nice, smooth, sweet with vanilla and sugar candy and goes down easily. However there is no friendly heat, the mouthfeel is as thin as it can get and the finish ends before you know it. The taste is enjoyable but not complex.

Unlike some previous Orphan Barrel releases, this is totally drinkable. However it drinks well for a $40 bottle, not a MSRP $150 (I actually paid $199.99 plus tax because that was the only place around me that had it). I have several 70’s and 80’s dusty Canadian Clubs that taste better and I got for significantly cheaper. Prices affect ratings and this one is definitely not one you need to get but if you can find a pour for a reasonable price, maybe worth trying one glass.  DO NOT PAY UP ON SECONDARY FOR THIS! 86/100



The Whiskey Advocate vs Garrison Brothers…

As a subscriber to The Whiskey Advocate, I always check the reviews but maintain a grain of salt with their rating.  I also do the same with Jim Murray and other writers, bloggers and reviewers out there.  What you think is a 90 I may think is a 96 or a 76;  ratings are very subjective to one’s personal palate.  However, there seems to be strong agreement among most palates, the barrel proof BTAC, for example, always scores well.   Craft reviews are very interesting as they tend to have a much less consistent rating across different publications.

Despite all of this, I was extremely surprised by the grade Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon received:  79.


I agreed with a lot of their descriptors, they had caramel and baking spices and dusty corn.  Here is my review (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/garrison-brothers-cowboy-best-4-year-whiskey-ever/)  I had envisioned caramelized popcorn, basically those three descriptors in a single item… so it’s not like either one of us is getting different aromas on the nose, or that my bottle was remarkably different than the testers.

One major issue with Texas Bourbon is that the evaporation is intense… you start with a full barrel and end up with not much left due to the heat.  So, it’s going to cost more.  Even in my original review I mentioned that I thought it was expensive, but, as you can tell from my photo, that fact that I’ve bought several and already gone through two bottles and am on my third, tells you more than anything I can write.  Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it should get a bad review–although if it’s expensive and mediocre, then, by all means, lambaste away (see my reviews on the Orphan Barrel series…).

I’m trying this new bottle, which is #3516, and I can confirm my original conclusion which I will just copy and paste because it was correct all along: “This truly is one of the greats out there and easily the best four year whiskey I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.  I still can’t believe that it is this smooth at 135 proof and this young.  If this were $50, it would get a perfect score–it’s not though…  96/100”

The 2yr is less than half the price, and it also very good, here is that review:





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.


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


Phone Conversation with Chip Tate: Wyatt Earp or Dr Egon?

I had the pleasure of speaking with Chip Tate on the phone this weekend, discussing his new venture, his old venture, trends in the marketplace and life in general.  If you have read previous articles about him, keep reading, because you may see a different side of Chip compared to how he has typically been portrayed.  When I started this blog a couple weeks ago I never expected to be invited to chat on the phone with Chip Tate, especially after I completed bashed Balcones; I just wanted to blog about bourbon.  But life is a journey and I’m just following the road…

My general impression of Chip prior to my conversation was a man with a similar demeanor to a Wyatt Earp gun slinging Texan intertwined with knack for distilling; but very quickly into our hour long conversation, I realized that the reality is very different.  He is thoughtful, reasonable, entertaining and scientific.  He is far from the portraits painted online, but if there was going to be a fight at the O.K. Corral, I’d still rather be on his side than facing him…

When I phoned, cell reception was poor and he inquired if I lived in a steel framed house (I don’t, I just happen to live a couple miles north of the nearest cell tower in CT).  This morphed into a four minute explanation of electricity, cell phone signals and their reactive properties with steel frames.  Extremely thoughtful, but not pretentious, Chip’s attention to detail for his work starts right at the beginning of the story of his new distillery.

Post-physics lesson, I asked Chip what he has been up to and he said he has been building stills for Tate & Co Distillery, his new company.  Most distillers purchase their stills, but not Chip, he’s been welding them for a while–an admitted repeat still builder.  The new stills are going to be between 8-12x larger than the previous ones at Balcones and the total distilling capacity is going to be upwards of 30x, or 150,000 cases of annual production at full capacity.  While not expecting to run at capacity, their flexibility will allow Tate & Co to do one off seasonal specials like small batch brandies when certain fruits are ripe.  Their size will also allow them to engage in collaborative projects with other distilleries which promises to be exciting.  Not apply to stills, Yoda’s wisdom does…

Any conversation with Chip would not be complete without discussing “craft.”  The whiskey word of the year injects fear in the heart of many producers, forcing many to drop it from their labels (in addition to handmade, hand crafted, small batch, etc.).  Chip asserted that “[craft producers] need to add a lot of equity to the craft brand.”  After so much dilution from other so-called craft distilleries, the term craft needs to be re-established.

Chip joked that some of the largest producers have launched into the craft game by assembling myriad random barrels, slapping on fun looking labels and with full fanfare and backing by their monstrous marketing teams, announcing to the world a new craft brand.  While on the other hand, some other producers just lie about their product (you can guess which one he was talking about).  One of them recently “got their asses kicked for good reasons, as their sins are egregious.”  Chip claims there are a lot of NDPs out there that he really enjoys , but voiced his issues with the ones which spew falsehoods.  It’s one thing to omit the truth, but publishing lies is pretty low for anyone, and the consumer deserves better.  Like Chip’s previous projects, his future projects embody craft.  I mean, who builds their own stills?

I will post Part 2 of my conversation with Chip later in the weekend.

Balcones & Chip Tate Continued… The Magic of the Blend, Do Not Underestimate It.

For those who also follow me on Twitter, you probably already saw part of this exchange today, but for those of you who didn’t, Chip Tate, the former Master Distiller of Balcones replied to my tweet on a the Balcones Rumble.  He wanted to make sure that I, and all of you, knew that he had nothing to do with any of the Balcones production since August 5th, 2014.  We also exchanged several direct messages that you didn’t see and it is very clear that he is very proud of what is has accomplished, and is looking forward to his next project and leaving this all behind him.

For those of you who are not familiar with the history, the New York Times wrote an article providing the background (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/28/business/how-dreams-and-money-didnt-mix-at-a-texas-distillery.html?_r=0).  Essentially it’s a classic story of once a company gets to a certain size, the investors are no long happy with the founder and after continued disagreements, run him out of town.  These types of growing pains are unfortunately a recurring theme throughout the history of corporations (anyone remember Steve Jobs and Apple, the first time around?).  Restraining orders were exchanged, nasty words thrown back and forth, and as a result Chip Tate was no longer part of Balcones and the investors had the distillery, the brand, and the whiskey to do with what they pleased.

Chip made a very good point to me via twitter: “None of those bttls were blended by me. Good blending is extremely important, especially for young spirits.”  What I have noticed from reading other blogs, is that there appears to be too much emphasis on the origination of the distillation.  Certain blogs freak out about NDP (non-distiller producers), whether it’s Templeton’s, Whiskey Pig, or myriad other brands out there.  The negative connotations that bloggers put out about Indiana’s MGP kinda of makes me laugh–did they even try the product, or did they assume because it came from Indiana it must be bad?  On the flip side,  take some of the Orphan Barrel bottles (I owe you all reviews on them, I promise to get them out soon), or the post-Chip Tate Balcones… you could have the best master distiller, from the best distillery aged in the most historic rickhouse in the world… but if you don’t have a good blender, it’s all for naught.  So much of the magic that goes into the bottle is through finishing the whiskey, blending the right barrels together adding the correct amount of distilled water, and so much more.  Just because it was made at Stitzel-Weller doesn’t guarantee that it will taste like liquid gold… if it wasn’t aged enough, or too long (cough cough Old Blowhard), it will take one helluva blender to take the patient from code blue to resuscitated–or maybe a strong enough person is needed to tell the investors that they need to put it back in the barrel for another couple years??  A combination of both lesser blending and rushing product to market is what I think Balcones has been suffering from for the past 11 months, and it’s clear to me from tasting it.

Ultimately, a brand is only as good as it’s current product, and if the talented people who build the brand are gone and the replacements aren’t of the same caliber, the cache will erode and eventually fade away into history’s abyss.

Like I’ve always said, I judge a whiskey but it’s smell, taste and how it makes me feel.  The new Balcones product make me feel like I want my money back.

I haven’t tried the old stuff, and if anyone is willing to send me a sample, please direct message me on twitter as I’d love to try it and do another review.

Orphan Barrel: Old Blowhard… nice to add to collection, not worth the price

Over July 4th I was in Cape Cod and went into a couple liquor stores and felt lucky to find a few of the Orphan Barrel whiskeys from Diageo, still at normal prices.  I picked up one of each and over the next couple weeks I will be reviewing each of them.

You can still find Forged Oak (15yrs) at a reasonable price, and most places have Barterhouse (20yrs) and Rhetoric (20 and 21yrs) too, but Lost Prophet (22yrs) and Old Blowhard (26yrs) are basically impossible to find these days unless you want to pay up online.  I probably should have started with Forged Oak, but I’m not the kind of person who has a lot of patience, so I started with the oldest.

First a bit about the Orphan Barrel Whisky Distilling Co.  It’s one of Diageo’s newer brands, and it’s from “orphan” barrels from old distilleries.  Perhaps from distilleries they purchased along the way, or barrels they purchased from others.  The truth is unclear, and depending on which blogs you believe it could be Stitzel-Weller (very unlikely), Old (or new?) Bernheim, or who knows.  Ultimately, I pretty much only care about how it smells, tastes and makes me feel.  All of their production is bottled in Tullahoma, TN.  They have a very cool rectangular shape to them, and look nice on your shelf.

Old Blowhard is the oldest offerings of the Orphan Barrel series and was retired last year.  I have bottle number 4,179.  It’s bottled at 90.7 proof, which is too bad in my opinion–something like this should have garnered a barrel proof.  Some people have blogged that given the age it had to have come from Old Bernheim and aged at Stitzel-Weller, but I guess only Diageo and those who dumped the barrels know for sure.

The color is really cool, nice dark amber, richly colored and looks great in the bottle against the blue labeling with the whale right in the middle.

On the nose I get burnt orange, toasted walnuts, a bit of old stale baguette… on a deeper smell I’m getting candied orange peel but now a lot of wood, like a woody log cabin smell with a wood burning stove.  Overall it is hard to really handicap this one because it’s the oldest Bourbon I’ve ever tasted, but I’m not sure it’s that good.

The taste is unfortunately extremely woody, oily, and overwhelmed by wood tannins… The palate isn’t too complex, because all the other aromas that I was getting hints of on the nose are trumped by the extended exposure to wood. On the positive side, the finish is long and enjoyable.  I haven’t really mentioned a burn here, and that’s because it’s very mellow, which I rather appreciated, but given that the proof is on the low side compared to what I generally drink, I’m not giving it a ton of credit.
I let it sit out for a while and tried it again, and like a very tannic wine, a little air improved the smell and taste… although that could also be because I was drinking more and the last drink of the night always tastes the best?
I’m confused here.  I did enjoy it, and it’s certainly unlike anything else I’ve ever tasted before; but in my opinion it isn’t worth anything remotely close to what it retails for and more so to where it trades on the secondary market. To make a comparison to the wine world, this is a “trading whiskey” not a drinking whiskey.  I’m happy to have it on my shelf along with my other Bourbons, but it will probably stay there for a very long time as I don’t see myself reaching for it on a regular basis.
The rating here is a tough one, because it was enjoyable, and a unique experience for the age, but not worth the money.  85/100.