We were very excited to learn that spirits company Diageo recently unveiled the new Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company, a new project aimed at locating lost and forgotten barrels of whiskey from their extensive holding around the world.
The first two variants to be released from the company include the 20-year-old Barterhouse Whiskey and the 26-year-aged Old Blowhard Whiskey.
With a retail price of US$75.00, the Barterhouse stocks were sourced from warehouses at Diageo’s Stitzel-Weller facility in Louisville, Kentucky. Shuttered back in 1992, the barrels have been aging ever since; orphaned perhaps, but not lost. Official notes indicate a soft nose reminiscent of warm spice, biscuit and buttercream. The whiskey’s mellow taste includes notes of roasted grain, charred oak, and a brown sugar finish. They may be planning a possible second run, but it’s not yet confirmed.
Old Blowhard stocks, US$150.00, was also found at Stitzel-Weller. At 26-years-old, the whiskey contains exuberant, rich flavors with undertones of smoke and honey followed by a gentle finish – dry and spicy with a hint of orange peel. Old Blowhard whiskey is rare enough that the company has only enough for one run, so when it’s fully released and gone from the shelves, it’s gone forever.
In an interview with the Herald-Leader, Ewan Morgan, Diageo’s Master of Whisky, said, “Old Blowhard is from old Bernheim, and it’s a 1987 distillate, and Barterhouse is from new Bernheim; it’s 1993 distillate,” Morgan said. “They were stored on-site at Bernheim in masonry warehouses for a couple of years, then transferred to Stitzel-Weller, where we plucked them out of there.”
The two bourbons were shipped to Tullahoma, Tennessee, for bottling at Diageo’s smallest plant, which normally does about 250 barrels of George Dickel a day. Since Barterhouse and Old Blowhard were such small runs, both Orphan Barrel releases had to be hand-filled and bottled, Morgan said.
OTC received samples of both and we were definitely impressed. Rather than try and sound educated about this sort of thing -apart from stating that both Barterhouse and Old Blowhard are quite excellent, easy to drink, and perfectly delicious neat – we’ll defer to an actual expert. So, for the whiskey geeks out there, John Hansell of the Whiskey Advocate did a very thorough write-up of Diego’s Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project, complete with his tasking notes.