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Orphan Barrel Scarlet Shade 14 Year Straight Rye Whiskey Review

Orphan Barrel Scarlet Shade 14 Year Straight Rye Whiskey Review

This 2023 release has been a strong surprise to some. I've never been one to go after the Orphan Barrel line - in fact this is the first one I've ever bothered spending my own money on. A 14 year rye in today's market is not unheard of, but it's certainly becoming more of a rarity. I picked one of these up right at MSRP about when it first released. I've tried this once prior to make sure my experience today aligns well to my previous tasting. Orphan Barrel describes this release on the side label saying:

Coming across a 14-year-old Rye is rare, giving our Master Blenders pause when presented with such a uniquely bold liquid. A born traveler, this whiskey was distilled in Indiana and then journeyed across state lines into Kentucky, aged to perfection at the infamous Stitzel-Weller Distillery.
A full-bodied aroma of sweet vanilla butter cream and lightly toasted oak is accented with banana bread and just a hint of berries. Upon taste, a collection of baking spices and rye toast complement a medley of orchard fruits, and finishes with sweet notes of orange marmalade and a light warmth which fades into lingering dark chocolate.

Orphan Barrel Scarlet Shade 14 Year Straight Rye Whiskey Amongst the Whiskey Review

Let's see how our notes compare, shall we? Time to dive into this whiskey the only way I know how: slow, methodically, and with far too many details. Come along for the ride!


Company on Label: Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co

Whiskey Type: Straight Rye Whiskey

Mash Bill Percentages: 95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley

Proof: 90°

Age: 14 years

Further identification: This Indiana rye is presumably sourced from MGP, aged at the Stitzel-Weller distillery in Kentucky, and finally bottled by Orphan Barrel in Tullahoma, TN; this is the latest (2023) release from the brand


Nose: Soft berries jump out of the glass first with an undertone of earthy clay. Dusty barrel funk is well subdued by the addition of what I would assume is a significant portion of water to take this whiskey down to 90 proof. Mmm. Fruity, floral tones proliferate on long inhales. Bright red raspberries come to mind most prominently, though cranberry and evergreen shrub aromas set a really interesting backdrop. Medicinal cherry notes give this is a vintage feel. This glass displays lovely balance on the nose without sacrificing aroma volume; the sweet notes are all rising to the surface as most of the 14 years of oak influence fade in the back. Soft puffs of red licorice, strawberry tart and creamy vanilla bean ice cream creates wonderful depth. As the glass weathers on I find the profile settling into a comfortable bed of oak that finally shows through. Let's dive in on a sip.

Coming back to the nose I find the creamier tones have proliferated; your classic barrel influence of caramel and vanilla are here in spades. Ginger ale can be found late in the glass reminding me of some of my earliest whiskey "cocktails". The now empty glass smells of orange marmalade, leather and cherry Kool-Aid powder.

Palate: From the moment this whiskey hits your tongue the flavors are popping off like fireworks. Strawberry cereal, a lot of that earthy clay from the nose and expressive Spring florals all proliferate across every portion of the tongue. Another sip is a delicate dance of classic rye spice and lemon peel before settling into a comfortable buttered dinner roll finish. Yum. The evolution of flavors here is slow, undulating, comfortable and of exceptional quality. Working through more of the glass I continue to find those dusty citrus characteristics that harken back to whiskey made in decades past. The finish is exquisite with lemon biscotti and cinnamon raisin bread that falls off just soon enough for me to want to chase after it. My last sip is tantalizing & sweet with juicy pear, raisin, blackberry, and nutmeg producing a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish.

TL;DR: Fruity, balanced rye with plenty of flavor


Rating: 4/5

Orphan Barrel dared to make the 95/5 rye mash bill approachable and it works so damn well. With a keen eye towards honoring traditional rye, this 90 proof release manages to drink well above its weight-class & delivers a remarkably deep, balanced and flavorful ultra-aged whiskey for today's whiskey enthusiast looking for a cut above the norm. While I have traditionally stayed away from this brand, as I thought the high prices, low proofs, and fanciful backstories were most of the cover story, I'm pleased to admit that this release was well worth my price of admission.



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