85 Boring

It’s certainly not a bad bourbon, in that it isn't littered with acrid or bad flavors, but it’s not as balanced as I would like for a bourbon of its age and price, and it's not very complex in the least.

Quick Stats:Barterhouse Orphan Barrel Neck

  • Age: 20 Years
  • Producer: Orphan Barrel Distilling Co. (Diageo)
  • Distiller: New Bernheim Distillery, Louisville, KY
  • Aging Location: Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Shively, KY
  • Product: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Mash Bill: 86% Corn, 6% Rye, 8% Malted Barley
  • ABV: 45.1% ABV (90.2 Proof)
  • Availability: Somewhat available
  • Price Paid: $90


 This review was originally posted in our recap of a preview dinner at Stitzel-Weller.  The full post can be found here.

What it is:

Photo courtesy of Taylor Strategies/Diageo

Photo courtesy of Taylor Strategies/Diageo

Barterhouse was the first Orphan Barrel release.  It is a 90 proof whiskey distilled at the New Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, KY.  The Mash Bill is 86% Corn, 8% barley, and 6% Rye, making this an extremely corn-heavy recipe similar to the original Ancient Age mash bill, which was made in the same facility.  The Master Distiller on hand for this project was the legendary Ed Foote, who previously worked at Stitzel-Weller, and is perhaps best known as the man behind the famed Pappy Van Winkle bourbons.


The Orphan barrel Releases are packaged in heavy square bottles with natural corks.  The labels are prominent and on all four sides, including the neck. I’ve read complaints about the names, or fanciful stories on the labels, but pay them no mind.  These are very attractive retro-style bottles.


Light golden wheat in color, it certainly does not look its age.


There is a definite sweetness on the nose, resembling a dry bubblegum or cotton candy, but it is juxtaposed by a dose of nutmeg and aged oak with vanilla and honey.  It hints slightly at some light fruits, but that never really fully develops.


Some cinnamon and clove on the tip of the tongue, this drinks like a light and smooth bourbon, not really like I might expect a 20 year old whiskey to taste.  There is definitely some tannins, but it’s not a particularly strong oaky flavor.  In fact, it left me wanting a little more oak on the palate.  The sweetness I was expecting based upon the nose never developed either.  In fact, the whole experience came off thin and lacking.


Barterhouse on the left, Lost Prophet on the right

Barterhouse on the left, Lost Prophet on the right

Barterhouse finishes long and with some faint spicy notes, but again, it’s lacking some sweetness and barrel flavors that might make it really pop.


It’s certainly not a bad bourbon, in that it isn’t littered with acrid or bad flavors, but it’s not as balanced as I would like for a bourbon of its age and price, and it’s not very complex in the least.  A pretty large number of Barterhouse bottles seem to have hit shelves over the past year, and I’ve seen them priced anywhere from $68 to $100.  Unlike the other Orphan Barrel releases, this can sometimes still be found on liquor store shelves. score: 85 out of 100 points

The scoring system is a standard 100 point system based on 4 categories, taken in order.

  1. Appearance: 15 points
  2. Nose: 25 Points
  3. Palate/Taste: 35 Points
  4. Finish: 25 points
  • 95+        Epic
  • 90-94     Excellent, Good representative of its style
  • 85-89     Solid sipper
  • 80-84     Drinkable, but potentially flawed.
  • 75-79     Low quality, flawed, use as a mixer only
  • <75        Rot Gut, avoid



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About Author

Bill is the Co-Founder, Editor-in Chief, and official Bourbon-o-Phile for, and Founder and Chief Blending Officer for Four Gate Whiskey Company. He is a native of Louisville, KY in the heart of Bourbon Country. He attended the University of Kentucky in the mid to late 1990s. He has also been published on He has conducted various bourbon and whiskey tastings in cities across the country, and consulted for multiple national labels. He is married with two daughters, and lives in east Louisville. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BillStraub and email him at


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