Orphan Barrel Entrapment Review (with Crown Royal XR and JP Wiser 18 Bonus)

Orphan Barrel Entrapment

Offered without comment is the following dictionary definition of “entrapment:”

“The action of tricking someone into committing a crime in order to secure their prosecution.”

We have previously written about Diego’s “Orphan Barrel” story.  Recall that Diageo advertises this series as barrels “hidden away and nearly forgotten in the back of rickhouses and distilleries.” Some of Orphan Barrel’s previous releases would better be described as “discarded” rather than “hidden away” – in 2013, Diageo and a township nearby a set of Diageo’s warehouses reached an agreement related to mold problems emanating from those aging warehouses, and Diageo moved 185,000 barrels in the process, many of which would become Orphan Barrel products.

None of us know when the supply of whiskey from the 185,000 barrels will be exhausted. We know Orphan Barrel will release 24 and 25 year old Rhetorics in 2018 and 2019. But “the search for undiscovered casks of rare and extraordinary whiskeys is ongoing.” 

Enter Diageo’s crown jewel of Canadian whisky: Crown Royal.

We have never reviewed a Crown Royal product here at Flight Club, save Jim Murray’s 2016 World Whiskey of the Year, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye.  Why? Well… we don’t really like it. I don’t want to be coy about that fact. If I polled our membership, collectively we would likely agree that we find Crown Royal and most other Canadian Whisky to be underproofed and lacking in character. Yes, “subtle,” “mellow,” “soft” and maybe “light fruit” are descriptors for why Crown is the #1 Canandian Whisky in the United States. But that isn’t our palate.

So when Diageo announced that its latest release in the Orphan Barrel line would be a product called “Entrapment,” a 25-year old Canadian Whisky sourced from Crown Royal, we were less than excited. Jokes ensued about the name. With that said, we wanted to set our biases aside and give it a shot. Member Chris Crow recently picked up a bottle for a pretty decent price (MSRP on this one is around $150, but we have seen it significantly higher).

[Editor’s note: Part of what may have sparked Chris’s interest was that when he was at the George Dickel Distillery back in September, he had conversations with workers that confirmed that they were right then bottling an Orphan Barrel and it was a Canadian Whisky. He knew before a public announcement.]

What do we know about this bottle? We know its age (25 Years), its mash bill (97% Corn, 3% Malted Barley), its proof (82 Proof), and that it is Canadian Whisky from Crown Royal in Gimli, Canada. According to Diageo, “These barrels aren’t necessarily forgotten, but instead not chosen for another blend becoming almost hidden treasures. The whisky is distilled and aged at the Crown Royal distillery in Gimli, Canada and hand-bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee.” 

Last week, Chris Crow, Jay Cary and I sat down to give this latest Orphan Barrel a taste.

Orphan Barrel Entrapment

Orphan Barrel Entrapment (82 Proof) (25 Years):

Nose: Buttered toffee; maple syrup; vanilla; light rye spice; subtle hints of earthiness and cedar. (3.5/5)

Palate: Medicinal cough syrup, not quite cherry yet not quite codeine, but characteristics of both; syrupy in flavor and mouthfeel; some oak but overshadowed by the sweet syrupiness. (2.5/5)

Finish: Short; begins creamy but finishes dry, almost metallic-like; flavors of chardonnay grape without the sweetness. (2/5)

Overall: Well, better than we thought, but also much different. The Entrapment is clearly Canadian, with front-and-center sweetness and syrupy mouthfeel. It is mellow, and not hard to sip on. But the age really seems to do nothing to improve this. Even compared to standard Crown Royal (yes, we did that), the age has merely altered, but not necessarily improved, its character. (2.5/5)

Value: We nearly scored this a 1. Take away the collectability of this bottle in conjunction with many of the other Orphan Barrel products and the known 25 years of time in this product (albeit not really noticeable), and we would probably be very disappointed. But, all things considered, we give this a value score just under the bottom. (1.5/5)

“The Entrapment is clearly Canadian, with front-and-center sweetness and syrupy mouthfeel. It is mellow, and not hard to sip on. But the age really seems to do nothing to improve this.”

Acknowledging our groups lack of experience with Canadian Whisky (and Flight Club’s tradition of creating tasting “flights”), we thought we should provide some side-by-side comparisons. We grabbed a bottle of Crown Royal’s top shelf XR whisky (a non-age stated blend containing whiskies from the shuttered LaSalle Distillery) and the J.P. Wiser’s 18 Years Old Canadian Whisky.

Crown Royal XR

Crown Royal XR (80 Proof) (Non-Age Stated):

Nose: Light. Immediate ethanol that is a surprise given the low proof and high price-point; toasted almond; light baking spice; backyard earthiness. (2/5)

Palate: Soft. Baking spice; artificial flavored vanilla and almond syrups; some youthful corniness. (3/5)

Finish: Thin. Sharp and slightly bitter sherry fruit sweetness; a chalky sweetness like the candy stick in a pack of Fun Dip. (2.5/5)

Overall: I think we all expected more on this. There are components of this Crown Royal XR that are rather pleasing, but at every step there is some quality that causes us to pull back. (2.5/5)

Value: This retails for around $115. We have made worse decisions in our lives. (1.5/5)

“There are components of this Crown Royal XR that are rather pleasing, but at every step there is some quality that causes us to pull back.”

JP Wiser's 18

J.P. Wiser’s 18 Years Old (80 Proof) (18 Years):

Nose: Alcohol forward; Elmer’s paste glue; fresh/clean earthiness with wet oak and wet grass; maple syrup; musty rock. (2.5/5)

Palate: Almond slivers; caramel; light green fruit; raw chili pepper. (2.5/5)

Finish: Short. There is no transition or distinction from the palate to the finish. (2.5/5)

Overall: While different from the other two, this bottle was just as pleasing. In fact, while not quite to our palate, we each indicated that this might be the easiest of the bunch to sip on. (2.5/5)

Value: This retails for less than half of either of the other two sampled. While none of us are in the market for it, I don’t think any of us would have buyer’s remorse. (3/5)

“I don’t think any of us would have buyer’s remorse.”

Scott Hill

Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.

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