Orphan Barrel Indigo's Hour 18-Year Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

There are backstories, and then there are backstories.


“The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co. was started to share barrels of delicious and rare whiskey, hidden away and nearly forgotten in the back of rickhouses and distilleries. Stories of these lost whiskeys have become the stuff of legend.”The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co.


The truth is that DIAGEO, who owns The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co., acquires what it considers special barrels from various distilleries. That’s no different from other non-distilling producers (NDPs), some of whom do a fantastic job sourcing. In contrast, others get whiskeys they should be ashamed of.


Orphan Barrel has a track record of being the former.


Its newest release, Indigo’s Hour, is a Bourbon sourced from an undisclosed Indiana distillery (cough, cough, MGP, cough, cough), aged in Kentucky, and bottled in Tennessee. At 18 years old, it approaches “ancient” territory for Bourbon, and only a handful of them are allowed to sleep that long.


But wait, some Scotches go for 30, 40, or even 50 years! Why can’t Bourbon?


The difference is two-fold. The first is climate. Scotland tends to be damp, cold, and windy. That’s different from much of the United States. The second, which is critical, is the cooperage used. Scotch can be aged in either new or used barrels, most of which are the latter. Bourbon must always be new, charred oak barrels. Because of that, there is only so much time that whiskey can interact with the wood until the whiskey becomes overoaked. At that point, only a select few people would find it enjoyable.


Indigo’s Hour gets its name from the Pipevine Swallowtail, a butterfly native to the eastern and southern portions of the United States. They are large and brilliant in color, with iridescent blue or blue-green wings and seven orange spots underneath.

Photo courtesy of wisconsinbutterflies.org
Photo courtesy of Wisconsinbutterflies.org

The Bourbon is distilled from a mash of 68% corn, 28% rye, and 4% malted barley. Packaged in a 750ml bottle at 45% ABV (90°), Indigo’s Hour has a suggested price of $225.00.


"Indigo's Hour is perfect for those who appreciate the complex flavors and craft behind American bourbon making. Its liquid and bottle label symbolizes how the Orphan Barrel collection continues to evolve from its predecessors, making it a true collectible for those who appreciate fine spirits and rare whiskies."Andrew Mackay, Master Blender of DIAGEO


Is Indigo’s Hour a true gem, or is it one that has spent too much time in oak? The only way to answer that is to #DrinkCurious. First, however, I must thank DIAGEO for providing me with a sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: This Bourbon possessed the color of caramel when I poured it neat into my Glencairn glass. The liquid formed a medium rim, which generated thick, syrupy tears.


Nose: Even before I managed to get the glass to my nose, I smelled orange zest. Deeper exploration provided brown sugar, butterscotch, and oak. I got a mouthful of vanilla and oak when I drew the air through my lips.


Palate: Indigo’s Hour had a marvelously creamy texture. The front of my palate encountered torched orange peel, caramel, and raw honey. I tasted cherries, vanilla, and nutmeg when it moved to the middle. The back featured bold oak, bitter chocolate, and a heaping helping of rye spice.


Finish: The warm finish included flavors of more rye spice, dark chocolate, cherries, orange peel, nutmeg, and dry oak tannins. It held on for a medium-long duration.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If you’re like me, $225.00 seems like a lot of money for Bourbon. Yet, when you consider that Elijah Craig, Dickel, and Heaven Hill Collection also have 18-year-old Bourbons with harder hits on the wallet, that brings things into perspective.


And, again, if you’re like me, you recognize there is a time and a place for high-proofed whiskeys. Indigo’s Hour is bottled at 90°, and likely the ceiling of what most Bourbon drinkers would accept. Anything higher would have the heavy oak notes ruin it. Compared to Elijah Craig 18, which is similarly proofed and lacks any woodiness, I found that Indigo’s Hour differentiates itself positively.


I enjoyed Indigo’s Hour. I believe Orphan Barrel hit the nail on the head with it, and I’m tossing my Bottle rating at it. Cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.