So apparently some mysterious barrels were found aging in the back of an old Stitzel Weller rick house.
Stitzel-Weller was closed in 1991 for distilling, but the rick houses are still used to age barrels of bourbon that are used in bottles of Bulleit or Old Fitzgerald. Some of those barrels are never used, and instead just sit there aging…and aging…and aging. Dusty and forgotten, these barrels become “orphans.”
Diageo – parent company of Bulleit Bourbon – comes along and (eureka!) finds these barrels, bottles them, and puts out ‘limited releases’ of these old orphan barrels. Thus, the Orphan Barrel project is born.
I grabbed a bottle (at $75) for this tasting, but before I got around to doing some research, I noticed some funky discrepancies.
Discrepancy #1 ‘Limited Release’
One of my primary reasons for running out to grab Barterhouse was it being touted as a limited release. To date, more than 60,000 bottles have hit bar and store shelves nation-wide. Could someone define limited release for me? For a comparison, last year’s Four Roses Limited Single Barrel Release was only 5,000 bottles.
Discrepancy #2 ‘Location’
Where the hell was this stuff really made? The bourbon inside the orphan barrel was distilled for United Spirits (under Guinness) sometime before 1997. In 1997, Guinness and another company named Grand Metropolitan merged to create what we know today as Diageo. So these whiskey in Barterhouse came from the same parent, albeit a merged version of its previous company. Orphan Barrel Whiskey infers this was distilled at Stitzel-Weller, but Barterhouse was actually distilled at the current Bernheim plant.
The side of the bottle says something about Tennessee – apparently the bourbon was bottled at a special facility that Diageo owns close to Dickel. Then the front of the label says its Kentucky bourbon whiskey.
So from our deduction, this stuff was made at United, aged at Stitzel-Weller, and bottled in Tennessee.
Are you confused yet? I am. And that is the third demerit in our evaluation of Barterhouse Orphan Barrel Bourbon.
There seems to be more ‘mysterious’ this and ‘orphan’ that than there is truth coming out of Diageo. I want good bourbon, not marketing hype. I want good bourbon, not bastard bourbon. (Well, on second thought. I will take bastard bourbon. As long as its good)
Enough of the hype. Is this bourbon ‘mysterious’ enough to pay $20 a pour or $75 a bottle for? Lets find out!