Whisky Review: Orphan Barrel Forager’s Keep

, | September 4, 2019

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Diageo. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co. brand has been bottling rare, old whiskey since 2014. Living under Diageo’s large umbrella, their marketing and distribution is far from lacking and you can usually find one of their bottles at most good whiskey bars. However, with only 14 releases of whiskey at limited stock, usually once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.

And that is exactly why it works. The promise of depletion, that you may never get to try it again, is the biggest appeal to what Orphan Barrel does. They also tend to use very old bourbon and American whiskies, something that is often hard to come by. American whiskey is often over loaded from oak if left too long in a brand new barrel. Sometimes, however, barrels are forgotten or intentionally left in certain conditions so that a 20 year bourbon comes out rather spectacular.

Until now, everything Orphan Barrel had done came from the States. Exactly how Orphan Barrel operates would be very interesting to hear about, but in general they find old barrels of whiskey and bottle it for us. It’s really a treat to get to try these – this would typically be the stuff that a master distiller brings out at the end of your private tasting to share with you if you’re in the know. I think we would all like to know more about what it is we’re drinking, but if we allow ourselves to fantasize, the sips become more special.

Forager’s Keep is the first single malt Scotch under the Orphan Barrel name and it heralds from the Pittyvaich distillery, which ran for only a short time. The youngest at its time of operation, it was also the shortest to produce. This is where Forager’s Keep found its life, but the age of this single malt is actually older than the distillery was at its deconstruction.

That’s definitely interesting, and gives you a since of nostalgia. Without Forager’s Keep, I’m rather sure I would never have had the pleasure of drinking scotch from the Pittyvaich distillery. Also, because I believe in the little things in life, I believe I’m better off for it. You should take advantage of this sip of history, just to say you did.

Remember, when its gone, it’s gone forever.

Orphan Barrel Forager’s Keep

Orphan Barrel Forager’s Keep (image via Diageo)

Tasting Notes: Orphan Barrel Forager’s Keep

Vital Stats: 100% malted barley, 26 years old, distilled at the former Pittyvaich Distillery, 96 proof, $400 for a 750mL.

Appearance: Light straw, appealingly light to swirl, quick legs.

Nose: banana and clove, green peach, pleasant turpentine and golden plums.

Palate: Sweet honey suckle and golden raisins, relatively light given the age but turns into a mouth coating experience after a few sips. Oily, with tropical fruit and light spice such as cinnamon. A bit of vanilla and baked apple is present as well. Warm, fruity and very welcoming.

The Takeaway


It’s a bit like the Christmas in the South. Warm and welcoming, like drinking spiced tea near a wood burning stove. It’s a very friendly whisky, as it has had plenty of time to mellow in the barrel. Complexity is there, and it is carried very well at the ABV. It really is a different bottling than the other Orphan Barrels, and I like that.

The price is ridiculously high without knowing the production output, but that is what Orphan Barrel does (for better or for worse.) Long story short, worth trying if you can afford it.

User Review
3.69 (16 votes)


Cameron Holck

After graduating with an engineering degree in Colorado, Cameron Holck discovered his passion for hospitality. He followed his love of the outdoors into the Pacific Northwest where he continues his dedication to bartending, and as a sales representative for Four Roses Bourbon. He warmly welcomes the fact that a night...