Orphan Barrel – Forged Oak – 15 Year Old – Straight Bourbon Whiskey | 45.25% (90.5 Proof) $69.99 (or here for more)
Color/Appearance: Red amber, though rather light in color and depth for a fifteen year old product. No real idea where this was distilled, since they don’t care to divulge that information. My bottle is numbered around forty thousand so there certainly is a lot of this stuff out there. I won’t go into a rant about the misleading marketing behind this that throws the Stitzel-Weller name around. Lets just be clear, it was stored in that warehouse but in no way was distilled there. The bottle itself is really nice, as all the Orphan Barrel releases have been. Great bottle shape and overall design. Wonderful illustration of a deer on a silver label that looks awesome.
Nose: Dried cherries, raspberry herbal tea, vanilla wafers, dusty oak, freshly shaven pencils, a single spent cigarette, and strangely, an empty metal bowl. The red fruit is very strong and then wood. If you are a big fan of fruit forward bourbon then this is the nose for you. I enjoy some fruit but this feels overwhelming and lacks the depth of flavors that I like to find in my bourbons. Enjoy it because it only gets worse from here.
Palate: Flat, thin and one dimensional. It follows the nose predictably with cherry, raspberry, tobacco and oak. Here the fruit is just a flash in the pan before a wall of wood comes your way. It is like a smoothy made from that juice you find in a maraschino cherry jar and wood pulp. No, that would have more depth and interest than this. I am struggling to find some more notes here but I find this taste harsh and thin and want to move on.
Finish: Bitter and dry with some lingering oiliness. Please make it stop. And thankfully it does rather quickly. Short and woody with little development. I now feel like I am trying to tie a cherry stem into a knot in my mouth. Oh, wait I have no idea how to do that and my mouth is now tired and my tongue hurts. Kind of medicinal and chemically tasting. Like cough syrup. I imagine you are getting the picture.
Overall: This stuff is the worst. I would recommend all the bourbons I have had over this one. That is even ignoring price. When you take the price into account the score goes even lower. To me this stuff is a huge letdown. I have been tasting a good number of great whiskies recently and yet due to life getting in the way I have not written about them. I thought my hiatus would be broken by enthusiasm but instead this horror is what lit a fire in me and forced me to write. If I can stop one single person from wasting their money on this then I have made the world a better place. I want to make it clear that I harbor no ill will towards Diageo. I just happen to not like this particular bourbon. I don’t assume I will hate other Orphan Barrel releases or upcoming Blade and Bow ones. I take each whiskey as it comes and try to judge them fairly. I have an unopened bottle of Lost Prophet and am rather looking forward to opening it. Though now my fingers may be crossed when I first taste it.