A while ago I was in our local province run government monopoly and while their undertrained workers were working around me and the management were watching me like a hawk because they think I’m an alcoholic master thief, I happened upon Barterhouse 20 Orphan Barrel.
Given my provinces founding by groups of Scotsman who feel that spirits (note: not wine or beer) were the Devil, I was happily surprised to see a decent price on a 20-year-old Bourbon. Not something you usually see, Not to mention one with a George Clooney character on the front (I’m being told that’s false but I find it funny so let’s stick with it.)
Barterhouse 20 Orphan Barrel is part of Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series. If memory serves it was one of the first. Originally distilled at the New Bernheim Distillery, then moved and stored at Stizel-Weller distillery, and then bottled at George Dickel in Tennessee.
I was looking around my whisky shelf and noticed a fox staring back at me. Luckily it was both not a hallucination and not a fox who somehow got into my whisky and run amock like she was in a hen house. I pulled forth the bottle, and decided if I was reviewing other bourbons, why not one more?
So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: No longer available
Cask Type: Charred American White Oak Barrels
Colour: 10YR 7/10
Nose: Simple syrup, corn, caramel, oak heavy, grape (light)
Initially, this comes off as really, really sweet. You get that golden syrup (for my UK future diabetics out there) and corn aspect. However, time allows more caramel to come out. It’s a slow boomer, like me (didn’t drink until I was of legal age).
Eventually, you even start getting this light, odd grape element. Nice surprise.
Taste: Caramel, banana, vanilla, grassy, ginger
Ah, here we go. Starts off with caramel, and follows that up with that wonderful banana flavour that only the criminally insane don’t enjoy.
Some nice vanilla and grassy elements come out. Missing some of that floral element that I’d like here. But I think grassiness does it different enough and works with the ginger (like Thai food).
Finish: Banana, lime zest, daisies, rosemary, sugar
More banana. Love it. Nice lime zest and floral now. Some drier, herbal elements to balance it all out, and not be too sweet.
Conclusion: It’s a nice sipping bourbon, but doesn’t taste like a 20-year-old whiskey. So there are two things to consider when discussing that.
On the one hand, it’s a 20-year-old whiskey. Ignoring everything else it’s nice to sip on, and unique, but otherwise isn’t going to blow your mind. The lower alcohol has a big effect on this. The banana takes over, the sugar is evident, etcetera. It’s not boring to drink, but you get a sense there was more going on.
On the other hand, for the price, which typically never has any effect on my reviews, this is a no brainer. It’s doing different things. At this price point a lot of bourbons in my neck of the woods are sticking to the plan, with distillery profiles being the major difference between them. This is different enough to have fun with.
None the less, I do pour this for fans of bourbon. It’s a nice step out of the norm, and fun to sip on. Like that one friend who parties really hard once a month. The right amount of crazy.
Bourbon review #234, Kentucky review #151, Whiskey Network review #1548
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