The fourth release (and best so far) in Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series. This bourbon was distilled at what was then called the George T. Stagg distillery (now Buffalo Trace) and spent the last several years maturing at Stitzel-Weller. It’s nicely balanced and not over-oaked, with spice (clove, cinnamon), oak resin, and leather, along with sweet notes (honeyed fruit, soft vanilla, coconut custard) and a nice creamy texture. Better than most 20-plus year old bourbons on the market.
A captivating nose presents hints of polished leather shoes and clean oak. Less sweet than expected, Entrapment goes straight to long-evolved high esters, dried figs and dates, green fruits, and soaring fruity floral notes. Its spicy finish lasts forever. This very complex and tightly integrated whisky has all the woody, acetone-like glories of long-aged scotches. Then finally, some barley sugar, but only after sitting long in the glass.
The fifth release in Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series (and the youngest of the releases so far). Distilled at the “new” Bernheim distillery and, once again, matured most recently in Stitzel-Weller warehouses. Complex flavors are well-integrated, with lovely spice notes (cinnamon, vanilla, mint, nutmeg), nougat, caramel, and subtle fruit. Long, satisfying finish. Not as distinctive as some previous Orphan Barrel releases, but more rounded and balanced. Nicely done!
A platform of caramel sweetness comes draped in lovely oak spice with dried flower potpourri—like rose petals and an old-lady’s perfume—along with horehound, cedary oak, and iced tea. The palate veers toward dried fruits—apple rings and dates—with bitter orange peel and a beam of spice that turns peppery on the long finish of tobacco and cedar. The overall impression is lithe, upright, and stately.
Delightful opening of fruit, praline, caramel, maraschino cherries, and spice, with a burst of smoked paprika and a hint of leather. It’s soft on the palate, easily gliding down the jawline, filling with flavors of caramel chew, saltwater taffy, coffee, and a rich, toasted pumpernickel rye with just a sprinkle of cinnamon. Based on the taste, I’d think this flavorful beauty would offer a long finish, but misses the mark. Thankfully, spice over the medium finish is quite pleasant.
Surprisingly lacking in oak intensity, given its age. Very creamy and soothingly sweet, with notes of honeyed vanilla, crème brûlée, sultana, orange creamsicle, peach cobbler, and a subtle array of tropical fruit. Soft and mellow on the finish. It’s very easy-drinking and should be enjoyable under most moods and circumstances.
The mix: 38.5% Bernheim-distilled 17 year old Kentucky straight bourbon, 51% 4 year old bourbon, and 10.5% 4 year old corn whiskey. Kudos for the full disclosure. This whiskey doesn’t fit in a typical American box. Hard to assess color with used cooperage from corn whiskey, so stick to aroma and flavor here. Impressive beginning of fruits, roasted nuts, citrus, vanilla, cherry, spice, and undercooked cornbread, followed by a quick caramel burst. Tasty, even better with a splash of water.
Caramel and cigar box lead the way, but leather comes in strong, followed by oak, earth, and mushrooms. On the palate, Nutella and roasted almonds resonate over crème brûlée, salt water taffy, vanilla icing, and nutmeg, with slight hints of apple and pineapple, at which point I think it really starts to pick up and take on some complexity. Alas, the short finish hurts what was a delightful experience.
Situated between siblings Barterhouse and Old Blowhard in flavor profile. Firm spice, botanicals, dried fruit, and a kiss of honey rest on a bed of caramel, along with resinous oak, leather, dark chocolate, and a hint of tobacco on the finish. Lovely nose, but there's substantial oak on the palate. The sweeter notes make an effort to balance the oak, but the oak still dominates. For these who like drier, spicier bourbon.
One year older than last year’s 20 year old release, (which I felt was on the precipice of being over-oaked) and the extra year is evident. On the nose, the whiskey is nicely balanced. The palate tells a different story, with soft vanilla, honey, caramel, dried fruit, and cinnamon segueing into dominant leather, tobacco, and resinous oak on a long, dry finish. I fear bottling this whiskey annually, one year older, is going in the wrong direction.
The most intense of the Orphan Barrel initial release. Very robust, with leather, tobacco, and roasted nuts. Quite spicy and resinous too. Toffee, maple syrup, and caramel struggle to soothe all this robustness, but the oak maintains the upper hand. A digestif, perhaps, after a large meal? Unless you are purchasing for a piece of bourbon history, my advice would be to try it before you buy because, while complex, it is also quite woody.
This composite includes 28 year old barrels that yielded a flavor profile similar to pre-Prohibition blends. Smoke, mint, herbs, dandelion, chamomile, and horehound. Earthiness warms the palate with a slight hint of whole-grain toast. A medium finish shows a bit of black licorice. This style is so reminiscent of early 1900s whiskeys that it’s a must-pour for a palate history lesson. You just don’t taste these notes elsewhere.