Tag Archives: Orphan Barrel

Lost Prophet Bourbon – First Look Review

Lost Prophet Background

Lost Prophet Bourbon from Orphan Barrel
Lost Prophet Bourbon from Orphan Barrel

The next release from Orphan Barrel is Lost Prophet. This is the fourth release in the series with Bourbons of Old Blowhard, Barterhouse, and Rhetoric 20. Lost Prophet is a 22-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon that was originally distilled at George T Stagg Distillery in 1991. The Stagg Distillery is the former name of the Buffalo Trace Distillery, and this makes Lost Prophet unique to the other Orphan Barrel releases. The other releases came from either the old Bernheim Distillery or the rebuilt new Bernheim Distillery. The recipe used for Lost Prophet in fact appears to match what’s believed to be the Buffalo Trace’s #2 mash recipe.

Lost Prophet was aged at least for the later part of its time in barrels at Diageo’s Stitzel-Weller warehouses. It was bottled at the company’s bottling plant in Tullahoma, TN.
The marketing on Orphan Barrel products is that these were long-forgotten barrels sitting in their warehouses. It seems a stretch to suggest they were literally forgotten (they do pay taxes on them, after all), but for whatever reason, perhaps due to corporate acquisitions and trading of brands, the barrels never made it into a bottle or sold to someone else to bottle up. The result is consumers get a chance to drink something, not only uniquely old, but born of the days of whiskey inventory gluts.


22-years-old. Bottled at 45.05%. Mash of 75% corn, 7-10% barley and 15% rye. MSRP is $120, this is a sample provided by Orphan Barrel.


Lots going on here. Cinnamon, caramel, cloves, toasted oak, nutty like walnuts. Rich and buttery. Kind of earthy with dusty old leather. Digging deeper, little fruitiness with solvents and hint of latex paint.


Thin with some sweetness. Baking spices that I can’t quite single out. Earthy, stale coffee. Sherry flavors. Nuts. Light mint. Oaky but not overly assertive for its age. Tannins are moderate and don’t come up until the finish. Finish is also a touch acrid.


Drinking Lost Prophet I’m thinking of a one room office with old furniture and stale air. Scuffed up hardwood floors and fading sunlight making long shadows and catching dust in the air. Maybe something out of a film noir. Vintage is a good word to describe Lost Prophet.
Older Bourbons aren’t my favorite thing, so this isn’t the type of bottle I’d pull down on a regular basis. Thankfully my tastes prefer the much more accessible younger Bourbons. Like the other Orphan Barrel releases, for me this would be something to savor to share with others or pour to ponder life in general. Mostly though, Lost Prophet is an exercise in what time does to Bourbon.
For its age, there nothing really offensive. In my sampling I think I like it as much if not better than the other old Orphan Barrel releases I’ve reviewed. It’s a soft drinking whiskey albeit with some roughness in the edges. But it also brings a lot of old, vintage character. As this release rolls out, I’ll be looking to buy a bottle. If I find one, I’ll be sure to give it a formal rating.


This was a sample provided by Orphan Barrel. I only offer recommendations and ratings based on whiskey I’ve purchased. Stay tuned for my full review.


Rhetoric 20 Year Bourbon – Review #44

Rhetoric 20 Background

Rhetoric 20 BottleDiageo’s Orphan Barrel is back with its third bottling in a 20-year-old Bourbon called Rhetoric. I previously looked at Barterhouse, which was also a 20 year old Bourbon, and the third was Old Blowhard.

Rhetoric 20 is a straight Kentucky Bourbon pulled from the famous Stizel-Weller warehouses. It was distilled at both the old and new Bernheim distilleries between 1990 and 1993. Barterhouse was distilled at the new Bernheim and also aged at Stizel-Weller. Rhetoric 20 apparently has some older barrels distilled at the old Bernheim, which might be why it’s $10 more than Barterhouse. Also Rhetoric 20 has a real cork while Barterhouse had synthetic, so I guess there’s also that.

Rhetoric will be released in progressive ages. So this year we have a 20-year-old bottle and next year will be a 21-year release. The plan is to have six releases, so that will be interesting to see a 25-year bottle of this in 2019. It’s probably safe to assume that each release will be more expense than the last.

The bottle matches the previous Orphan Barrel designs and here we have a pretty nice looking label. With each future release, the bottle will retain the same design, but the background will get darker in reference to the older age.


20 Years old. Bottled at 45%. Mash bill of 86% corn, 6% rye, and 8% barley. Bottle # 346. Paid $85.


Rich toasted oak and sawdust. Deep caramel and rich vanilla. Fruity, sticky sweet smelling with cherries. Spearmint.


Maple, smokey. Sweetness. Caramel and vanilla. Rich. Nice woody oak. Cinnamon. Fruity apples and cherries. Coffee. Soft finish that’s mildly minty and that fades into firm drying astringency.


Rhetoric 20 is a nice little treat. With anything 20 years old, it’s not going to be for everyone, but there’s nice complexity here with sweet caramel and nice a nice smokey maple. That’s followed up by fruity cinnamon, and then some rye presence and finally the oak fills in the gaps. Yeah, it lacks life of a Bourbon half its age, but it’s nice to mix thing up once in a while and this is a pretty nice option.

I poured a second glass of Barterhouse for comparison and I like Rhetoric 20 better. Barterhouse has a little more heat, I think, which gives it some character, but Rhetoric 20 seems a little better put together. I had no real complaints with Barterhouse and gave it a buy a bottle rating. I think Barterhouse was worth picking up just for the experience, at least at list price, and Rhetoric 20 is something I might be more interested in keeping around.

It will be interesting to see how this Rhetoric 20 progresses year to year. I’d be a little concerned at adding a lot more oak to it, but today for $85, this is a nice pour. It certainly goes down easy. If I find another bottle near this price, I’ll probably pick up a spare.


Buy Again – 4.0/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

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Barterhouse 20-Year-Old Bourbon – Review #15

Barterhouse Background

Barterhouse 20 BottleOrphan Barrel Whiskey Distillery Company is a new venture by booze giant Diageo. Its first two releases are Barterhouse and Old Blowhard and a third is on the way in Rhetoric. Barterhouse is a 20-year-old Bourbon and Old Blowhard is a 26-year-old. Rhetoric will also be a 20-year-old Bourbon. The concept behind Orphan Barrel is these are barrels that were in warehouses that have no scheduled release and for whatever reason haven’t been sold off for others to bottle. Presumably these barrels lost there destined bottle brand or maybe never had a destination, and have just sat aging. The Barterhouse bottle claims these barrels were “lost” but since someone was paying taxes on these things, they weren’t really lost or forgotten. The plan is Diageo will offer one-time (or so) releases of these barrels from their empire of warehouses.

There are all sorts of shenanigans surrounding these bottles, from where they were distilled to what is really a “limited” release. I don’t have the energy or go that far into the weeds. Whiskey nerds can be peculiarly skeptical and cynical over anything new in Bourbon, but at the same time drawn like moths to flame over rare, new, and special releases. Feel free to explore the mythology around these bottles, if you’re so curious. There are links at the bottom of the review for your entertainment.

For this review, we’ll try to stick to the whiskey and whether it’s a good buy. What we have in Barterhouse is Kentucky Bourbon with a 20-year age statement. It was bottled at the Dickel plant in Tullahoma, TN and was aged at Stitzel-Weller. Orphan Barrel Whiskey infers this was distilled at Stitzel-Weller, but Barterhouse was actually distilled at the current Bernheim plant.


20 Year age statement. Bottled at 45.1%. 86% Corn, 6% rye and 8% barley. Bottle # 3173. Paid $75 (state minimum)


Sweet. Caramel. Dark fruits. Oak. Cinnamon. Trace of musty


Sweet and oak. Medium to high astringency. Fruity, citrus. Some hot cinnamon spice builds in the finish. Astringency drys out the finish. Easy drinking, tasty.


Shenanigans aside, Barterhouse is a nice bottle. The oak is pretty forward on this, but not overpowering. I find this pretty sweet, but that oaky astringency balances things out. Tastes like old whiskey and goes down pretty smooth.

This Orphan Barrel series of releases probably aren’t for me. My mentality is if I can’t buy it again, I might as well not buy it at all. I figure I’m just torturing myself because if I like it, then I’ll either make myself bunker a bunch of bottles or nurse my one bottle forever wishing I had bought a case. Ignorance is bliss.

With that said, I see Barterhouse as an opportunity for some well aged bourbon at a reasonable price. If you’re usually buying the typical 8-12 year good stuff, this is a chance to try a bottle of something really aged without hurting your budget too much. Thankfully Barterhouse isn’t really my thing. Too much wood and I think I prefer by Bourbons a little more lively, but it is nice pour and the price seems good. I’m glad I got a bottle for the experience, but one is enough.

Barterhouse Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3.0/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

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