Whoop & Holler American Whiskey Review

Photo courtesy of Diageo.

Photo courtesy of Diageo.

There seems to be a trend in American whiskey nowadays that favors old age statements.  The thinking that “older is better” still floods the minds of many whiskey drinkers.  Diageo reacted to this demand for old American whiskey by creating the Orphan Barrel brand.  All of its releases, except the Gifted Horse, have been at LEAST 15 years of age.  Their oldest, Old Blowhard, was a staggering 26 years old.  The thing to know about Orphan Barrel releases is that oak is going to be a major player.  If you’re okay with lots of oak in your whiskey, chances are you’re a fan of Orphan Barrel.

The brand’s oldest release to date, and the oldest American whiskey I’ve ever heard of, is Whoop & Holler, a 28-year-old American whiskey distilled at the George Dickel distillery.  It most certainly underwent Dickel’s charcoal filtering prior to barreling.  So why isn’t this a Tennessee whisky?  My best guess is it was at least partially aged in Kentucky at Diageo’s Stitzel-Weller warehouses.  Once it leaves Tennessee for maturation, it can’t be called Tennessee whisky.  Whoop & Holler is a one-time release, priced around $175 a bottle.

So, 28 years, huh?  The general consensus among whiskey distillers is that American whiskey hits its sweet spot between 8 and 12 years old.  That age range means there is balance between the spirit and the barrel.  The barrel begins taking over the spirit in the flavor department after that.  Sure, there are exceptions to every rule.  Refer to Elijah Craig 21, Pappy Van Winkle 20, Sazerac 18 and most George T. Stagg releases.  Even in the Orphan Barrel camp, their excellent 22-year-old Lost Prophet is a deliciously enjoyable bourbon.  So… how does a 28-year-old American whiskey taste?

I can best describe the nose as dominantly old oak and cedar.  That second part reminds me of an old leather coat hanging inside of a wooden closet.  Dark fruit, apricot marmalade and burnt orange peel play around in the background.  On the palate there is an initial sweet blast of bittersweet fruit and black cherry cola, soon developing into leather, tobacco, and burnt caramel.  Oak tannins quickly take over, providing an astringency alongside spicy black peppercorns and dusty oak.  The finish is short, dry and dominated by oak and some spice.  The whiskey has a somewhat thin mouthfeel due mostly to its low 42% abv.

For all intents and purposes, Whoop & Holler is a 28-year-old George Dickel.  I think Dickel’s 9- and 14-year-old expressions are wonderful.  The latter just begins to flirt with the oaky side of the line, but in an elegant way.  The recently released 17-year-old George Dickel was fine enough, and though it handled its age well for the most part, it was not as balanced as I’d like.  With Whoop & Holler, the barrel influence is just too overpowering.  My first tasting found nothing more than oak, oak, and more oak.  When I tasted the whiskey a day later to jot down notes for this review, the tiny bit of airtime worked wonders in slightly taming its oaky nature.  One thing of note is its low proof.  I think it’s low for a simple reason.  Any higher, and the oak dominance would be too much.

If you’re into really oaky whiskies, then Whoop & Holler is your dream whiskey taken up a notch.  Me?  A third taste didn’t improve upon my listed tasting notes.  There’s just too much oak here for my taste.  Orphan Barrel’s 26-year-old Old Blowhard was full of oak, but had some redeeming qualities that made it interesting to drink.  Whoop & Holler’s spirit, however, lost its battle with the barrel long ago.  

6/10

Thanks to Diageo for the sample!  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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