I will admit to you all, I am a tad partial to Orphan Barrel products. It was in the basement-level bar of a local brewery in a dark and crowded space that I tasted Orphan Barrel Barterhouse. This was my first taste of a “higher-end” (for me at the time anyways) bourbon. It was with the first successful hunt for a bottle with a close friend of mine that my love for bourbon really kicked-off. As such, I have successfully completed my mission to taste each of these Orphan Barrel products. So, without further delay, my review of Forged Oak for your entertainment.
Distillery: ORPHAN BARREL Whiskey Distilling Co
Spirit: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: 15 Years
Purchase Price: $79.99
True to the name, you immediately get a strong oaken scent. So strong in fact, you have to search for others. If you do though, you’ll find vanilla bean, caramel, and molasses intertwined.
The sip starts with a spicy kick of charred oak, dried berries, and fades into dried vanilla bean and maple. It’s a rather straightforward flavor that wood-punches your taste-buds.
Again, a rather straightforward flavor of orange-blossom honey plays on the tongue while a very slight woody burn sits in the back of the throat.
If you like woody bourbons, this one is one for your cabinet. It isn’t the easiest to find, but worth a pick-up if you’re into that sort of thing. I will admit the price is a tad high for such an on-the-nose bourbon when it comes to flavor, but with a name like “forged oak” you more or less know what you’re getting yourself into when you swipe your credit card.
A while back I was fortunate enough to score a bottle of Dave Phinney’s “Slaughterhouse” Whiskey. Dave Phinney as you may or may not know is the famed vintner who created “The Prisoner” an Über California wine blend. He then sold the company and now makes acclaimed wines from virtually all the major wine producing countries in the world under his Orin Swift label. Last year he decided to turn his taste for wine into sourced whiskeys. Straight Edge was Dave’s first leap into the whiskey world and his skill in crafting wine doesn’t miss a beat when putting together these whiskeys. Straight Edge is hard to come by and I was lucky to grab a bottle for this review.
Straight Edge much like all of Phinney’s creations catches the eye with creative labeling. Straight Edge as the name implies sports an old style straight edge razor. The red background in the lettering matches the color of the whiskey itself. In the bottle the whiskey has an attractive almost sherry color to it. Straight Edge is a blend of 5, 7 and 8 year old Bourbon from Kentucky and Tennessee. It’s finished at Phinney’s facility in Napa Valley using Mercury Head Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. Mercury Head is Orin Swift’s high end expensive Cabernet. I have a bottle of the ’01 Mercury Head and you can see in the picture below the Whiskey and the wine it was barrel finished in.
Here is my review:
Spirit details: Proof 84
Description: Sherry color in bottle, straight razor on label.
Nose: The nose screams vanilla and wood.
Palate: Upfront lots of vanilla, butterscotch and toasty oak. Midway spice with orange and honey that coats the mouth.
Finish: Real toasty on the finish with vanilla, caramel and a wonderful touch of rye that rounds out the profile.
Conclusion: An extremely well balanced whiskey. While I don’t feel the body was as “weighty” as the Slaughterhouse this whiskey was more nuanced in it’s primary flavors. I attribute this to the aging in Cabernet barrels rather than Bordeaux barrels with Slaughterhouse. Orin Swift Cellars has diversified their profile with both American Whiskeys. Straight Edge delivers sharp flavors of vanilla, oak and spice which is what a quality American Whiskey is all about. If you can find a bottle I would grab it as I wish I had more myself. Below is a link to my review of Slaughterhouse if you’d like to compared the two. Enjoy!
Like many whiskey enthusiasts, I am always in search for the perfect value bourbon. My standby, for years now, has been Evan Williams 1783 — and it still is. But last week I dropped by Astor Wines on 4th st and happened upon McAfee’s Old No. 8. For $9, it’s about $11 below what I’m used to paying for 1783, so I figured I’d give it a try.
Type: Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Can’t say it’s the most interesting nose: fairly typical bourbon notes of caramel, vanilla, and some ethanol.
This is where this $9 whiskey is really special. Here’s why: a decent medium bodied texture, remarkably low ethanol burn, and some decent, if mild flavors. Caramel, breadiness, some rye spiciness, and mild fruitiness. The most notable quality about this whiskey is what it lacks: harshness and unenjoyable flavors.
Fairly short finish here. Some vanilla and light spices. Not much to report.
This is easily one of the best $9 whiskies I’ve ever had. What I love about how this whiskey is put together is how it doesn’t make the mistake that so many others make of getting ambitious and trying to introduce too many flavors without the maturation to back it up. This is not the most interesting whiskey in the world. But for $9, this is a pretty great deal and deserves a shot and for me, a spot on my (admittedly bloated) liquor shelf.
My Bourbon Journey continues with Rowan’s Creek Bourbon. I was looking for an aggressive bourbon at a great price point, and this bottle of Rowan’s Creek was my gamble. What a good gamble it was. At 100.1 proof, this bourbon packs a punch, but at just $38 in New York City, this is easily one of my top 5 bourbons. I picked this whiskey up at my new favorite local liquor store in Crown Heights: Liquor Warehouse, on Bergen St. and Washington Ave. Now for the review…
In order of prominence: Caramel, vanilla, honey, rye spice, and cinnamon.
Plenty of spice present in this whiskey. Spicy upfront that quickly transforms into a thick flavor profile that coats the palate, with notes of caramel, slight butteriness, oak, and honey. Very good. A couple of drops of water bring the spice down and really help the caramel and vanilla to come through quite a bit more. A complex but accessible whiskey.
Medium length finish, with caramel and vanilla. I also notice some confectionery notes as well that quickly disappear.
I really enjoy this bourbon. I’ve found it pretty difficult to find a bourbon that pairs well with a powerful cigar at a reasonable price. Rowan’s Creek bourbon absolutely hits the mark here, and at just $38 a bottle I’ll be back for more.
During one of our cold and dreary winters here in New York I invited some close friends to my house for a grueling task. I wasn’t asking them to move furniture or paint rooms which are the archetypal favors you may rope a friend into. No, this was a “chore” most mates would jump at the chance to aid in. The call I placed was to ask if they would assist me in rating a vertical of Pappy Van Winkle 15, 20, and 23yr. old bourbon. Needless to say both friends didn’t seem to mind lending a hand or their taste buds. However in order to gather sufficient and comprehensive results I had to put a few key methods into place.
First I chose these two friends for particular reasons. Although I had many people offer to “help” out with my study I felt I needed some specific tasters. One of them has tasted many a fine bourbon yet still considers his tasting acumen as” budding” and continuing to develop. Also this individual doesn’t covet any booze or cigar and price and/or hype never sways him. I can always count on him for an honest assessment and he is one friend who even keeps me grounded at times. The other person has never tried bourbon but is a big fan of wine with a developing palate enhanced by his extensive Sommelier certification coursework. He is an asset to the study as he has the ability to recognize taste but no preconceived notions on what bourbon should be.
Second we had to do this study blind. In order to score without bias we needed to NOT be aware of what we were drinking. Each bourbon was covered up by someone not participating in the study and each bottle labeled simply 1, 2 & 3. We were poured each one in number order and utilized the UC Davis College Wine Score Card which applies to spirits as well. This card has a point system broken up into 3 categories with a scoring system for each category. The categories were Appearance, Odor, and Taste. Each category was noted and then given a score. The scores were then added up for a final scoring on that particular spirit. The highest total score that can be achieved is 25 points on the UC Davis College Wine Score Card respectively. The results and ratings below are listed highest to lowest scored with tasting notes as well as the year of the bourbon. The results were quite surprising. Enjoy!
1. Pappy Van Winkle 20yr. Old Bourbon- 20 Points. We found that this bourbon was the sweet spot in terms of the time Pappy should be aged in barrel. The color was a wonderful golden amber with a honeyed hue and a touch of rose’. The first nose gave off alcohol aromas some vanilla and slight spice. Initial tastings had vanilla, baking spice and oak with medium intensity. The mid palate was smooth and refined with oak vanilla and earthy characteristics. The finish was long, rich and continued with an interplay of spices, toasted oak and vanilla. An extremely balanced bourbon with a length that beats many I’ve tasted.
2. Pappy Van Winkle 15yr. Old Bourbon- 18 Points. The color in the glass was that of caramel and toasted almond. Nosing gave off aromas of cinnamon, citrus and spice. This bourbon had a weighty mouth feel with earth and vanilla dominating. Midway caramel, butterscotch and a bit of toasted oak came through. Some “bourbon heat” kicked in for a moment before finishing with a long caramel/toffee aftertaste. This was a medium intensity bourbon and we all felt it was a fine sipping spirit.
3. Pappy Van Winkle 23yr. Old Bourbon- 17 Points. The color on this bourbon was medium with an amber hue. There was a more intense burn on the nose with some vanilla coming through on the second impression. There wasn’t much more on the front of this offering. First sip yielded baking spice, wood and coconut. Midway gave a lot of earthiness along with baking spices and some more vanilla and caramel. There was a lot of heat present and the finish took on a long earthy and spicy character. This bourbon came on with intense spice, heat and wood no doubt due to its aging however we did not feel the extended time benefited it.
The lineup and copious note taking
So after a long hard afternoon which trickled into evening we concluded our findings. Having drunk these bourbons for years I wasn’t surprised to see the 20 yr. old the best in taste, flavor and finish as it has always been my personal favorite. We were all surprised to find that the 23yr. old scored the lowest in our tasting. This wasn’t a bad bourbon at all in fact it is of extremely high quality. The additional aging however seemed to overpower some flavors which seemingly hurt its scoring. What makes blind tastings so interesting is that you remove your preconceived notions and are forced to focus on the sight, smell and taste of the product alone. I would recommend getting some friends together and try a blind tasting. It can be done with any spirit and you may be surprised at what you THINK you like. I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding friends to lend a hand in this endeavor,I sure didn’t.