The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company is a unique endeavor created to rescue long-forgotten (and sometimes misplaced) barrels of whiskey with the goal of sharing them with discerning enthusiasts.
Run by Diageo, the venture is headquartered in Tullahoma, Tennessee. “However, we like to think the project is founded in dark, quiet corners of rick houses around the world where whiskeys lie forgotten, just waiting to be discovered,” muses Ewan Morgan, Orphan Barrel Master of Whiskey.
To date, the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co. has released four variants – Barterhouse, Old Blowhard, Rhetoric and most recently, Lost Prophet. “As new and interesting whiskeys are discovered,” explains Morgan, “they will be added to the family to provide adult consumers a great selection of rare whiskeys.”
What is the definition of an orphan barrel?
Morgan likens blending whiskey to the craftsmanship involved in assembling an intricate puzzle. You might be good at finding pieces to fill in around the borders, but the challenge comes with finishing it. The same goes for blending whiskey. Each piece joins with the others to create an exacting balance and consistency.
“As Diageo processes so many barrels of whiskey annually for its existing brands, there are inevitably a few here and there that go unused,” notes Morgan. “These are left to continue aging for future projects.”
Over the years, certain casks are moved to the back of rick houses where they become the subject of debate and legend among distillery workers who wish to see the aging barrels bottled. “With the advent of the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company, we plan to find these ‘orphan’ barrels a loving home and share some incredible whiskey with adult consumers,” enthuses Morgan.
How many orphan barrels does the company have?
Morgan says that it’s almost impossible to estimate how much whiskey they have at their disposal because, in his words, “so much of what we do is a process of constant discovery.” Some are in very small quantities from runs produced more than twenty years ago. Some are larger.
The company doesn’t release exact quantities of its products; these are rare whiskeys with limited distribution. “Some variants, like Barterhouse, will have future releases,” Morgan clarifies, “while others, like Old Blowhard and Lost Prophet, are one-time releases.”
Their newest release is Lost Prophet (90.1 proof / 45.05% ABV), a 22-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. “Lost Prophet stocks were found in the Stitzel-Weller warehouses in Louisville, Kentucky and distilled in 1991 in Frankfort, Kentucky,” recalls Morgan. “Beginning with a nose hinting of honey, dried fruit, apricot and clove, Lost Prophet has a silky, full bodied taste of spice cake, vanilla and leather, with a sweet, smoky finish.” (Lost Prophet is currently available for a suggested retail price of $120.)
Morgan has deep respect for the work done by long-gone distillers of decades prior. Morgan’s advice to those who choose to imbibe these special bottling is succinct:
“These whiskeys have been waiting many years to be found, so we ask our adult consumers lucky enough to get their hands on a bottle to sip slowly and responsibly.”