Review: Orphan Barrel Gifted Horse

For the unfamiliar, Orphan Barrel is a line of “unique”, usually well-aged bourbons from Diageo. The story goes, the world’s largest producer of spirits was clearing out an old warehouse and stumbled across some aged stock. These barrels were the foundation of the Orphan Barrel line. There’s now six different brands under the Orphan barrel monicker. Several of them have started to release older bottles (i.e.Rhetoric 20 & 21).

Gifted Horse is the sixth brand in the Orphan Barrel line. Here are the details about this release:

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.

Most know that it’s pretty common practice to add some older barrels to a younger batch. Older barrels add oak and other more mature notes the batch may be missing. However, if you follow bourbon you also know a story helps sell a bourbon. Apparently, a “mistake” backstory can take a bourbon even farther. I’ll withhold my opinion until after the review portion

Orphan Barrel Gifted Horse Reviewed

The nose is sweet, oak and cherry. It’s pretty nice. There is some medicinal like cherry and leathery notes. The first sip…. I’m pretty sure someone mistakenly dropped cherry cough drops in Rhetoric. There’s no mingling of flavors. It’s like a middle school dance with sweet, bright cherry notes on one side while the oak and leathery taste of an older bourbon is on the other. Never to meet in the middle. Even after I let the bottle for a couple weeks it still just tastes unbalanced. It’s improved a little and isn’t undrinkable but it’s not a pour I enjoy.

Gifted Horse Review

I paid $70 for this bottle and as I stated in my last post we can’t just let bad bourbon slide. This isn’t good. I can’t recommend that you buy it. While others have hated just about everything Diageo has put out I’m actually a fan several Orphan Barrel brands. You can read my post defending the Orphan Barrel. It’s probably a good thing that I wrote that before tasting Gifted Horse.

While Diageo continues to pump out tens of thousands of bottles under the Orphan line I’ve been told they have even more sitting around. Expect to see several NDP’s popping up with 15-year+ releases. Or, even more new brands in the Orphan line.


    Could not agree more. I also like some of the Orphan Barrel bourbons but after purchasing and tasting Gifted Horse, I was very disappointed. I just wish I would have waited for this review prior to purchasing.

    Spot-on review !
    While I really enjoy Forged Oak and Lost Prophet, Gifted Horse tasted like cough syrup mixed (with oak) to me.
    When our local liquor stor called to let us know it had arrived, I had originally planned on buying two bottles. Thanks to the generosity of Charles Russell, who opened a bottle in the store to taste (our tradition with new bourbons) with myself and the store employee, –
    I put one back and only bought one bottle

    It’s not bourbon
    It’s not good

    Barterhouse was a very good bourbon, but the lie was even better , oh I just found these barrels, it started off being offered at 99 almost everywhere, now its 125 or more. I wont be part of another pappy myth. I will not buy Diageo products. The Viking Bourbon club will recommend anything from Diageo distillery’s.

    this is Rick Nelson , that last sentence should read The Viking Bourbon club will NOT recommend anything from Diageo distillery’s. Lesson here do not type and drink bourbon .. LOL

    It was bit early, but the club got something called blood oath and I just wanted a sip.. not a normal thing really , why doesn’t anyone believe me ..

    Is it too far fetched to believe that none of these are so called “lost” barrels and it’s simply nothing more than a batch of something often in the 15yr plus range that due to placement in the warehouse or some other unknown factors, just didn’t meet the flavor profile of what they were supposed to be and simply auctioned off to a NDP for blending and bottling?

    Very well described, you put into words what I experienced. Love the cherry cough drop in Rhetoric analogy. What a big disappointment!

    I very much agree on the observation that there is no mingling of the barrels. I can totally taste the 17 year old barrels as well as the young corn whiskey. I hate the “Oops” lie. I’m sure they did find some old forgotten barrels that aged too long. There was no mistake though. This was a calculated plan to make some money and save that product. It didn’t work.

    As to price, I paid $42 at Costco. It was worth the gamble. I’d be mighty upset if I paid $70.

    I agree as well. I love Barterhouse and Rhetoric 21 and have yet to open my Rhetoric 20 or Forged Oak, but I am besting myself up for buying 2 bottles of this trash. The booze has changed a little since I first opened and tasted, but not enough to keep a bottle bunkered. If you haven’t purchased Gifted Horse, dont bother. You’re missing nothing.

    Thanks for the review, will enjoy another Blanton’s or two instead. Agree on the Forged Oak and Lost Prophet, wasn’t a fan of Barterhouse.

    First tried Lost Prophet with the late, great John Hughes ( at The Party Source in Bellevue, KY (outside of Cincinnati). He felt the Lost Prophet was a pour that nearly matched the elusive mouth feel of the Pappy line, but without the depth of flavor – and I concur.

    Was recently at Heaven Hill, quickly discovered that the best way to gain a re-direct from tour guides and other employees is to bring up anything Orphan Barrel – pretty amusing. I did pick up a bottle of the Heaven Hill Select Stock, which is finished in cognac barrels. It’s a good novelty or change-of-pace pour, but leaves quite a dent in the wallet.

    This is good to know. I passed on a bottle of Lost Prophet last year because I did not know anything about it. Found out it was excellent and then could not find it! I was kicking myself for not buying it and have been buying Orphan Barrel products as soon as I see them. So this tells me to avoid the new release.

    Oh, by the way, I sampled Lost Prophet at a bourbon bar in Columbia, SC ($45 pour) and loved it. Still could not find it until I was able to locate a bottle with the help of Blake’s website! I am a happy camper!

    Agreed, this stuff is over hyped and over priced! It does taste better on ice and with 57.5 percent (if I remember correctly), it’s won’t go to waste, but I wouldn’t buy it again!

    I totally agree with this review. It was on shelves near me for only $50 something, but I still did not buy after sampling my buddy’s bottle. The aged part of this mix promises something good that the young majority of it just can’t deliver. First OB that I don’t like.

    I’m new to Bourbonr and am glad I read this post. Like many others have mentioned I have enjoyed some of the others from the Orphan Barrel line such as Lost Prophet and Rhetoric and have bought several bottles. Needless to say I will not be purchasing this, however I will try it when it comes to my local whiskey establishment. I never like to judge just based on others opinions, but I do take them into consideration. 😉

    Blake, where did you find the info on the percentages in the blend? They don’t match any other info that I’ve read on it.

    Bought my first bottle of Orphan Barrel this past weekend. Never heard of it before (I really need get out more). Purchased Rhetoric at a cost of $100. In my opinion, well worth it. I agree with several earlier posts referencing the “lost” factor. But I really do not care as long as they continue to bring out good bourbon. With the exception of Gifted Horse.
    Thanks for the warning, maybe they should rename it Ol’ Sway Back

    Wow, this is a huge flop, I’ve never seen so many negative reviews. The cough drop flavour profile is one of my least favourite, one that I experienced with Woodford’s Sonoma-Cutrer (good thing it dissipated once the bottle breathed after a few weeks). I’ll make a note to avoid this one. And the “oops” story on the back of the bottle is gag worthy. I’m so over these stupid stories, just tell me the facts about the product, I don’t need an essay.

    Thanks to previous commenters! I bought GH for $50 and typically drink Woodford. I had two glasses of WR then tried the GH and enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t care for it as much when I tried it without having the WR first.

    I bought prior Orphaned Barrel whiskey, including Lost Prophet and Rhetoric. I like them, so when I saw Gifted Horse yesterday, I picked it up for $65. I didn’t stop to read the bottle at the store, but when I got home I found that it was a “mistake”? A mix of young corn whiskey with 17 yr whiskey. Really!? I really dislike the “baby” bourbons coming out, like Hudson Baby. It’s basically moonshine!

    If it truly was a mistake that these got mixed, I hope whatever buffoon that mixed them got fired. However, well done to the marketing team that took a mistake and made into into a high priced new label! Sold me on it.

    I’ll be trying Gifted Horse tonight. Fingers crossed!

    Couldn’t wake til tonight, so tried it. It’s not great, and it’s not the worst. And, by worst, I mean Hudson Baby. GH definitely need some ice, or at least some water to dull it down a bit. It’s over powering in the first sip. After about 3 minutes on ice, it is palatable. I definitely prefer Lost Prophet, Forged Oak, and Rhetoric over GH.

    I’m a fan of High West Rendezvous, and Beulleit Rye when making dinner, just to give you an idea of taste. To each their own though.

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