Forged Oak is the latest release from Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series. The youngest bourbon of the group, Forged Oak is 15 years old and 90.5 proof. Forged Oak is also the cheapest in the series. A bottle should run you about $65. It was distilled at the new Bernheim distillery in Louisville between 1997-1998 and aged at the Stitzel-Weller warehouses. It’s mash bill is 86% corn, 8% barley and 6% rye. Looks like a really low percentage of rye. How does it fare in a glass?
(Diageo sent a small review sample.) Forged Oak’s title doesn’t lie – there’s oak here, but not as much in the nose as I thought there’d be. I also get aromas of candy corn, vanilla, caramel and ginger. The oak really shows itself on the palate and finish. There’s an oak presence, but not an overbearing one. In addition to oak, I get some light caramel, berries (think raspberry), vanilla and a little mint. Orphan Barrel’s tasting notes say “long, dry finish of black pepper.” Add some lingering oak and those tasting notes stand correct.
I expected this to fall somewhere between an Elijah Craig 12 year and an Elijah Craig 21 year. It’s neither. The taste profile is different. There’s less caramel sweetness here and more fruit-based (berry) sweetness compared to the two aforementioned whiskies. The finish is also drier here. The common thought among whiskey enthusiasts and some distillers is the sweet spot for aging bourbon is 10-12 years. Overwhelming oak can become an issue for bourbon aged longer. Oak is a most definitely a primary player in all the Orphan Barrel bourbons, to differing degrees.
I like this whiskey. So much in fact that I bought a bottle after tasting the sample I was sent. That being said, if you’re not a fan of older oakier bourbons, you probably won’t like Forged Oak. It falls in line with the rest of the series.