Orphan Barrel Lost Prophet Straight Bourbon Whiskey 22 yrs Copper & Black Label


SPIRIT: Bourbon

VOLUME: 750 ml

ABV/PROOF: 45/90

AGE: 22 years

Released in December 2014, Lost Prophet was the fourth expression in Diageo’s enigmatic and sometimes controversial Orphan Barrel series. Its predecessors had all been distilled at the Bernheim plant in Louisville; Lost Prophet, a 22-year-old bourbon, was distilled at George T. Stagg in Frankfort (now Buffalo Trace). How the whiskey came to be is a curious combination of reconstruction, mergers, and fungus.

The Bernheim Distillery was demolished and rebuilt between 1991 and 1992. As a result, whiskey produced at the Bernheim facility prior to its reconstruction became known as “Old Bernheim,” while whiskey produced at the new distillery became known as “New Bernheim.” Of the first three Orphan Barrel releases, Old Blowhard was distilled at Old Bernheim, while Barterhouse and Rhetoric were distilled at New Bernheim. As for the bourbon that would eventually become Lost Prophet, it was distilled in the early 1990s by George T. Stagg under contract for United Distillers, the owner of the New Bernheim facility and a corporate predecessor of Diageo. It was then aged at George T. Stagg for a short time.

In 1997, United Distillers’ parent company, Guinness, merged with another spirits company, Grand Metropolitan, to form Diageo. The new company sold New Bernheim Distillery to Heaven Hill in 1999, three years after a catastrophic fire at Heaven Hill’s distillery in Bardstown left it in need of a new home. Though Diageo now lacked a Kentucky distillery of its own, it retained numerous barrels in storage at one of its aging facilities, the Stitzel-Weller warehouses in Shively, a suburb of Louisville. These so-called “orphan barrels” were bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee – site of Cascade Hollow, another Diageo distillery – as various expressions in the Orphan Barrel series.

Diageo made a big deal about the “orphan” status of these barrels, claiming they had been all but forgotten, only to be fortuitously discovered right at a time when extra-aged bourbon was all the rage. Critics scoffed at the idea that a company as tightly run as Diageo would simply lose track of thousands of barrels, and accused the company of trying to foster a new generation of whiskey myths. But tall tales aside, 22-year-old bourbon is hard to come by, making Lost Prophet an instant collectible. 

But why Tullahoma? Aside from Diageo’s ownership of Cascade Hollow, a large facility home to the George Dickel brand, there was a greater, far more urgent motivation: With the increase of bourbon’s popularity and production in the late 2000s and early 2010s came an increase in Baudoinia compniacensis, or whiskey fungus.

While generally considered harmless to humans, the ethanol-loving Baudoinia stains virtually any structure in close proximity to spirits maturation warehouses. In 2012, the Louisville Air Pollution Control District cited the fungus as a public nuisance, pointing a finger at Stitzel-Weller and threatening Diageo with $10,000-per-day fines for its role in the unsightly growth. Diageo, determined to avoid penalties and potential litigation, moved 185,000 barrels from Shively to Tullahoma. One year later, the Orphan Barrel series was formally announced, and the rest is history.

Release: Orphan Barrel – Lost Prophet

Spirit: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Misc.: Bottled by Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co., Tullahoma, TN.

Collectors’ tips: Each bottle of Lost Prophet bears a unique bottle number on the side label. While the total release count remains undisclosed, the totals exceed 16,000. Whether or not these numbers are congruent with Lost Prophet’s actual bottle count is unknown. The side label reads: 

Lost Prophet speaks softly but carries a big stick. Eloquent and gentle, this Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was unearthed after spending 22 long years resting in charred American white oak barrels, tucked away in a corner of the historic Stitzel-Weller rickhouses in Shively, Kentucky.

Lost Prophet is a soft spoken whiskey, with aromas of honey, apricot and clove that reveal a silky, full-bodied taste with notes of spiced vanilla and a touch of leather, culminating in a sweet smoky finish.

*Source: Cowdery, Chuck. “Baudoinia: The Fungus that Moved 185,000 Barrels.” The Chuck Cowdery Blog. March 22, 2023.

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