Lost Prophet Kentucky Straight Bourbon Review

Diageo's Orphan Barrel series capitalizes on a central tenet of whiskey culture: the story of a bottle is as enticing as its flavor. Lost Prophet, the fourth whiskey in the series, boasts an origin steeped in bourbon history. And according to the source, when these bottles run out, they run out for good. There's some speculation about how many barrels they still have. Lost Prophet has been on the shelves for seven years—indeed its days are numbered.

Its finality is part of its allure. There are only so many Orphan Barrels hidden away in the warehouses that Diageo has acquired over the years. The nature of the series doesn't allow for indefinite production. But that's the charm that makes the project so exciting.

The Origins of Lost Prophet

The Garden and Club At Stitzel Weller Distillery

The origins of Lost Prophet are tied to the history of Kentucky bourbon and remind us of the legendary days of the early masters. It was first distilled in 1991 at the famous George T. Stagg distillery, now Buffalo Trace. Then, the spirit lay in the Stitzel-Weller rickhouses for 22 years before finding its way into a bottle. Most bourbons rest for a quarter of that time. So why was the cleverly named spirit "lost" for over two decades? It's a long story, which is precisely what you want as you sip on this delicious, nutty bourbon.

Almost every great whiskey conversation begins with four words: during the Second World War. Here’s an example. During the Second World War, American distillers were ordered to produce industrial alcohol for the war efforts. Whiskey production slammed to a halt. What that means is that when the war was over and the soldiers came home to toast their victory, there were frightfully few spirits available. A decade later, liquor magnate Lewis Rosenstiel feared the Korean War would boil into World War Three. He had his distilleries (including George T. Stagg) over-produce bourbon while they could. However, this time, the United States Government never issued the stop order on distillation. Rosenstiel found himself with warehouses packed to the rafters with bourbon barrels.

That one decision would lead to a disastrous, but fascinating, era of modern whiskey drinking.

Cultural tastes shifted in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Young professionals flavored vodkas, particularly vodka martinis. Due in part to its abundance, and its association with the older generation, bourbon prices dropped. Lower prices gave whiskey the reputation of being cheap, the choice of drunkards and old folks. In short, the whiskey economy crashed.

Does Lost Prophet’s mash bill come from Buffalo Trace’s early recipe?

In the ‘80s, there was a befuddling series of acquisitions and mergers. In the end, this left the fate of Kentucky bourbon in the hands of a few distillers operating out of ancient stills. The exact details are kept tantalizingly obscure. But most experts tend to agree that Lost Prophet's mash bill comes from an early recipe of Buffalo Trace.

Lost Prophet Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

This delicious bourbon was distilled at the dawn of the new bourbon era at a beloved old distillery. Remember the Stitzel-Weller rickhouses where this spirit lounged for two decades? It has recently been renovated and reopened to the public as part of the Bulleit Family of warehouses. Lost Prophet is a very old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It blends the history of mid-century style with modern decadence.

In the glass, this decades-long history is given a stunning new chapter.

Whiskey Glass

Bottled at 45.05 percent

A mash of 75 percent corn, 7-10 percent barley, and 15 percent rye


Lost Prophet boasts a medium caramel color that demands an equally stunning tasting glass to fully appreciate its beauty. It's a bit lighter than you'd expect from a 22-year-old barrel. But some of the younger, darker stuff on shelves has been mixed with a coloring agent. So one suspects that this is the Lost Prophet's natural color.


Like a genie awoken from a long slumber, this bourbon has a lot to say immediately. It's recommended to let the spirit open up in a quality decanter. Right off the bat, you'll be struck by the rich, earthy aromas of clove, walnut, and toasted oak. A bold vanilla note will be familiar to connoisseurs of Buffalo Trace. The age of the spirit can be appreciated in the seeming smokiness of an unsmoked whiskey. Two decades of comfortable repose have drawn out the deep qualities of the oak: musty, herbal, and leathery.Taste: Feel

Lost Prophet hits the tongue with a buttery calm, neither too heavy nor too light. Not only is this spirit accessible, but it's also delightfully drinkable with just a hint of heat. In the wide field of aged whiskeys, Lost Prophet offers a unique expression of a bourbon mash bill given an exceptionally long time to mature. While not as delicate as Scotch whisky, fans of Kentucky bourbon will delight in the gentle roll and blush of Lost Prophet.

Taste: Flavor

An unexpected flash of red pepper spice kicks off the Lost Prophet profile, followed quickly by cinnamon and nutmeg. A hint of herbs, specifically rosemary, and a light sizzle of sesame dance across the palate. Layered onto the more earthy flavors you'll notice a surprising sweetness of fried banana and fig jam. The more you sip, the more complexity you'll uncover. White raisins, tobacco, and dried cherries announce themselves. A blend of bitter rhubarb and worn leather round out the primary flavors. But there's more to find in this mysterious bourbon. A touch of caramel syrup and fresh ground cornmeal elevate the mustiness.


What Lost Prophet boasts in aroma and flavor, it lacks in the finish. The bold, sweet, almost-smoky feast of flavors dissipates too readily. A perfect whiskey, like a perfect sunset, lingers. And so, sadly, Lost Prophet is not an ideal whiskey. Long before the common drinker would be reaching for a second sip, the notes of caramel and oak vanish off the tongue. What remains is all too bitter. The dried fruit and caramel notes reduce into cough syrup. The sweet vanilla tobacco becomes white ash. Each dram enlivens your palate, but as you seek out the robust profile you experienced on your first taste, the dull finale can't be ignored.


The elusive art of distillation has drowned a legion of almost-great spirits in its wake. Diageo claims to have found these orphaned barrels tucked away in a half-forgotten rickhouse. One wonders if they weren't well-known to the master distillers who hoped that a few decades of maturation would gift what their art could not grant.

It's impossible to discard such a full-bodied, complex bourbon. And the spectacular provenance certainly adds to the appeal. The first crack of the cork unleashes an intoxicating ambiance. Think attic libraries, football games in tall grass, an old wooden pier flushed with autumn storms. As you pour the spirit into your favorite glass, you’ll marvel at the shimmering, crystalline caramel in your hands. It's easy to be transported back to a time when the days rolled ever-so-slowly into the night. On your tongue, tart cherry and honeyed oak play together. You can savor the swelling notes of cinnamon, chocolate, and butterscotch—but only for so long.

The Orphan Barrel series promises great stories to go with their whiskeys. The stories are indeed great, and worth telling. If you don't scoff at the price tag—about $1500 or more—you’ll cherish the bottle long after the last dram's been sipped. But this fascinating whiskey becomes a tug-of-war between the dazzling taste and its dim encore.