There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the latest release from The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co. (Diageo), The Gifted Horse American Whiskey. Was it really a mistake as the distillers claim? How many bottles were actually released in this “limited run”? Is it rip off at its $50 price point?
And, of course, is it any good?
Some time ago at the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Ky., a batch of beautiful 17-year-old Kentucky bourbon was accidentally mixed with barrels of much younger whiskey. This error turned out better than anyone could have expected as the older bourbon wasn’t marred, but was transformed into something surprisingly special. Realizing this unique liquid deserved a home, The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co. today announced the seventh addition to its portfolio, The Gifted Horse American Whiskey.
The Gifted Horse (115 proof/57.5% ABV) is comprised of 38.5% 17-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon, distilled at the Bernheim Distillery historically located at 17th and Breckinridge in Louisville, Ky., while operated by United Distillers. It also contains 51% four-year-old bourbon and 10.5% four-year-old corn whiskey, both produced at a high-quality distillery in Indiana. Initially, these individual whiskeys were stored at their original distilleries before being moved to Stitzel-Weller, where the mingling error occurred.
Nose: Hinting at apple skin, almond, toffee, raisins and slight milk chocolate. This unusual blend’s fruity notes become more apparent with a splash of water.
Tasting: Creamy caramel, Bosc pear and fruit cake.
Tasting Grade: B-
Don’t panic if you don’t get a bottle of this very limited production run. You’re not missing out on a whole lot. It’s good, but not great. It’s definitely got that untamed heat characteristic of a younger bourbon. It turns into an almost cinnamon, hot tamale finish. It’s a bit off balanced. It’s spicy, and it lacks that “creamy caramel” that they mentioned in their tasting notes.
Value Grade: C
At the $50 MSRP, it’s actually not a horrible buy. But the problem is, I think, no one is charging just $50 for it because of the lack of supply. I picked up my bottle for $70, after taxes. Yikes! That’s a lot of money for a bourbon of this unremarkable caliber.
Overall Grade: B-
Putting the price aside, it’s an interesting bourbon. I’d suggest you try before you buy.
How does it stack up against the other Orphan barrels? Well, I’ve only had Forged Oak and Barterhouse, and I’d say that taste-wise I prefer those two over this expression. On a side note, I’d like to see Orphan Barrel Co. release another higher-proof bourbon.