Sometime around 2013, Diageo, who had already been buying North American distilleries and shuttered warehouses of old distillers, launched their “Orphan Barrel” lineup of old aged whiskies. Initially, the public lapped them up because of the allure of finding a high-aged hidden treasure on top of using mashbills and yeast strains that no longer existed in the bourbon world.
Eventually, these were exposed as not really that “orphaned” as the laws of alcohol taxes meant that all of these barrels were known and accounted for throughout all of the whiskey world, but nobody really wanted them. But the project still had its fans because of the intrigue of such old age statements compared to what was available on the shelves (Orphan Barrel releases usually were 15 years and older).
Barterhouse, arguably the most famous of the Orphan Barrel line, was launched in 2014 and showed the bourbon community that 20 year old bourbon could be surprisingly good (if the right barrels were blended). Following on its heels was Forged Oak, a 15 year old bourbon bottled in 2015 that was initially a somewhat reasonable $60 MSRP. I own a Barterhouse and really enjoy it, so I scooped up a Forged Oak recently and decided to see if it could live up to its brother’s legacy. For this review, I sampled it neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: Kellogs Corn Pops Cereal. Surprisingly, I’m detecting a bright, fruity and floral profile for such an old whiskey. There’s maple syrup, cherry strudel, warm caramel sauce and macadamia nuts (?!). Overall, it’s an extremely pleasant nose with no trace of harshness.
Palate: A very thin mouthfeel that carries the sweetness of confectionaries sugar, corn cakes slathered in a light maple syrup, a bit of cherry cough syrup and a hint of fresh squeezed orange juice.
Finish: A bit of toasted nuts comes through, reminiscent of the macadamia nuts on the nose. Then there’s grilled corn on the cob, menthol and some tobacco leaf and drying oak that’s not too terribly distracting. Honestly, I was expecting more.
Forged Oak 15 Year Old Bourbon Score: 6.6/10
6.6 is somewhat of a low score, but I must admit that I really enjoyed this. The nose was wonderful for such a proofed down whiskey and the flavors were recognizable without having to really search. There were no big dominant flavors or scents getting in the way that is sometimes a hallmark of bourbon.
Really, the extreme aging just mellowed the whole thing dram out and made for a relaxing sipping session. Although I don’t think I’d seek out another bottle of Forged Oak 15 Year Old Bourbon, it does make me curious as to what the other barrels of the Orphan Barrel line would have in store. For under $100, this feels like it’s a nice whiskey to have on hand to show friends that are new into bourbon what a high age statement can do without having a lot of heat and spice that could turn them off.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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