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The Wizard of Whiskey: Barterhouse

Proof: 90.2
Color: medium-dark amber
Nose: sugar, vanilla, biscuit
Taste: cloves, brown sugar, vanilla, roasted walnuts
Finish: long, sweet, warm & smooth
Value: Oh shut up and buy it.

I’ve been actively boycotting writing about Orphan Barrel’s offerings.

Not because I hate them.  Nor for some strange political nor ideological reasons…

I’ve been boycotting writing about Orphan Barrel’s bourbons for one simple fact: When they’re gone, they’re GONE.

See, Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co. scouts around Old Bourbon country in Kentucky looking for, literally, orphaned barrels of bourbon. When they find one, they snap it up, distill it, prep it, bottle it, and ship it.  But once that barrel is used up, it’s gone.  Gone forever.  No more bourbon like it shall ever be produced again.  And damn, that is a sad, sad thing.

I don’t like the idea of promoting something that we’ll never be able to enjoy again.

So why would I break my boycott and write about Barterhouse?  The reasons are threefold:

  1. I love bourbon
  2. I love Barterhouse
  3. I seek to share this love

As of the 16th of December, 2014, Orphan Barrel has released three bourbons into the world:  Old Blowhard, Barterhouse, and Rhetoric.  I’ve tried all three, and I have to say…

Well, hold on.  Let’s go through my regular review process, shall we?

No more bourbon like it shall ever be produced again.  And damn, that is a sad, sad thing.

I once posed the following question:

“When the American Pioneers of the 1700s started making corn-based whiskey in charred oak barrels, what did they have in mind for a flavor profile?”

If they did have a “perfect” bourbon in mind, I expect that Barterhouse would exceed that expectation.

First, the appearance.  Barterhouse has a deep amber hue that would make even the staunchest Canadian maple syrup lover blush.

The nose.  Oh, that perfume. Sugary sweet, vanilla, and fresh biscuits reach up from the glass and caress your senses like a warm velvet blanket.

The taste. Beautiful brown sugar takes toasted nuts by the hand, and the pair waltzes to Ray LaMontagne  through a field of citrus and vanilla.

Mouth feel & finish.  The “whiskey burn” you’d expect from a bourbon over 80 proof barely materializes.  Smooth as warm syrup in butter, light as orange flower water, the mouth feel is mellow.  The finish is a long, hot, sweet ride down memory lane.

Slyly simple, yet deceptively complex, Barterhouse is a bourbon to be sipped and savored.

Now then, Barterhouse is a 20 year-old bourbon, aged in traditional toasted oak barrels. All the flavor and complexity comes from the original mash, the barrel (and how it was toasted), and the aging environment.  And if you were wondering, rumor has it that Barterhouse is a rescued barrel of Pappy Van Winkle.

Oh, at the start, I was going to say, of Orphan Barrel’s three offerings to date, Barterhouse is my clear favorite.

I’m just going to leave this here; feel free to quote me:

Orphan Barrel’s Barterhouse is one of the Best Bourbons ever crafted by human hands.


Final Rating: 95 out of 100