By Father John Rayls
Being somewhat cynical, leads me to wonder about these “rare” Orphan Barrel offerings. I purchased bottle number 40824… Orphan Barrel Barterhouse 20 Year Old certainly isn’t rare, but it seems pretty popular and a “one and done” bottling and, as a result, fairly difficult to track down. Of course in whiskey lingo, any 20 year old bourbon is going to create a stir. I have tons of questions. To begin with: 1) it’s listed as a Kentucky Bourbon (the word “Straight” is missing, 2) It’s bottled in Tennessee, 3) were there actually 60,000 bottles? 4) was this just another creative marketing windfall? 5) why were these barrels rejected earlier in their career? 6) This 20 year old was originally released in 2014 – has this bourbon been in the bottle for 3 years? Diageo is the owner and has access to whiskeys worldwide and they definitely know how to market effectively. Please don’t get me wrong. This is an enjoyable bourbon. However, there were always “pre-embargo” Cuban cigars mysteriously showing up from time to time as well. Now, we don’t have to worry about “pre-embargo” cigars and apparently we don’t need to worry about Barterhouse 20 Year Old Bourbon. The cliche of the day might be applicable: It is what it is.
The Barterhouse 20 Year Old Bourbon is found in antique-looking bottles with an “old-time” label. It’s very attractive and immediately grabs your attention. The bourbon is a medium brown with copper highlights in the glass. It appears darker in the clear bottle. The legs are long and persistent. The nose is of medium intensity and does give off some slight alcohol burn even though it’s bottled at only 90.2 proof. The oak makes its presence known, but it isn’t overwhelming. You may also notice leather, caramel, cinnamon with some very distant raisin. It’s a very enticing combination of aromas.
The mouthfeel is lightly creamy with all of the main action occurring at the back of the mouth. You get caramel and cinnamon on the palate along with a predominate oak. It’s not too much oak, but just enough to balance the sweetness. However, it is a dry tasting experience and the mouth is left feeling like you’ve spent an afternoon boarding on the sand dunes. The finish is long and spicey. It begins with cinnamon and all-spice and quickly transforms into an Atomic Fireball (hard candy) experience. It drinks a little hot anyway and then the finish kicks in. I love Atomic Fireballs and I love this finish. How can you say “no” to any 20 year old whiskey without trying it? It’s a part of history and you’re getting to taste a small portion. It’s an opportunity to step back in time.
The suggested retail is in the neighborhood of $75.00. However, limited supplies and demand will drive the price on mainline markets to an easy $150.00. You can only imagine secondary market pricing. If you can find it at $75.00 (as I did), you may want to give it a try simply out of curiosity. I wouldn’t be interested in buying any higher priced bottles.