Editor’s note: A small sample of this whiskey was sent to this author for review. While appreciative of this, the author maintains independent editorial control over this article.
Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series of super-limited whiskey releases were created to provide old and rare stock from the company’s vast stocks of aging booze. Some (according to my palate) have been quite good, such as Barterhouse, Lost Prophet and Rhetoric, while others weren’t my faves but OK, such as Old Blowhard and Gifted Horse.
This latest release, Whoop & Holler, its oldest (28 years) and lowest proof (84) is so unappealing to me that I’m surprised Diageo released it. This is not just underwhelming whiskey compared its Orphan siblings and Diageo’s well-known Bulleit Bourbon, it tastes truly awful. Knowing that its suggested retail price is $175 just sharpens my distaste for it.
W&H was distilled and barreled at George Dickel in Tullahoma, Tenn., meaning it’s a Lincoln County Process whiskey, which is fine with me. Plenty of good whiskeys made that way, including the industry giant Jack Daniel’s. But this whiskey bears none of the softness and grain-rounded flavors found in LCP whiskeys—and likely because it’s 28 years old.
Many who disliked Old Blowhard said its flavor was all wood and no fruit or grain, and blamed those shortcomings on its 26-year rest in the barrel. At 28 years, I’m surprised there was any liquid in the barrels to bottle, much less good liquid. Yet Diageo found some and gave us this.
Whoop & Holler, released 2016
Vitals: 28 years old, 84 proof. Suggested retail price $175 for 750ml.
Appearance: Straw to light gold, like a reposado tequila.
Nose: Slightly floral, hard candy, hints of cherry, some caramel and marshmallow, a whiff of toasted bread, overall sweet and without complexity or depth.
Palate: The first sip is an immediate and sharp assault across the palate, bringing astringency, acid and varnish. Let it linger on the palate and it worsens; burning and bitter. The finish is desert dry and sharp, wholly unpleasant. What minimal aftertaste lingers brings a bit of sour mash, Kool-Aid-like sweetness, notes of barn wood and tobacco.
Adding water should be out of the question given its low proof, but I did anyway in hopes new flavors would be released. It only sharpened the acid and the coarse textures of this thin-bodied whiskey.
Final comments: There is nothing to whoop and holler about when it comes to this whiskey. If I paid $175 for this, I’d be screaming and stomping. I’ve tasted it multiple times over four weeks, hoping I was missing something or that it might, with a bit of bottle air, soften up a bit. That never happened.
It only leaves me wondering why Diageo believed this was an appealing product. Could my sample somehow been tainted in transit? I doubt it, and the bottle’s plastic seal wasn’t broken. (If Diageo suspects that’s the case, please send me another bottle and I’ll re-review.) I just keep wondering what went wrong this this … and then it becomes clear: high proof distillate sat in a wood barrel for 28 years surrounded by extreme air temperatures that worked it into and out of oak fibers. Some of that’s good, and some of that’s too much. There is whiskey that’s old, too old and beyond redemption, which is the case here. It totally skips the basics of caramel, vanilla, tobacco, good oak and citrus. All I get is harshness that leaves me looking for a water rinse.