We Tried The Limited-Edition Indigo's Hour Bourbon Whiskey From Orphan Barrel

Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co. prides itself on giving true whiskey lovers a rite of passage to coveted, collector-worthy bottles. On its website, the brand claims these iterations are made from rare whiskeys "nearly forgotten in the back of rickhouses and distilleries" and said to be salvaged for public consumption. With its newest limited-edition release, Indigo's Hour 18-year-old Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Orphan Barrel indeed seems to be offering something unique. And like all of the Orphan Barrel spirits that have come before it, the supply is finite.

At an intimate launch event held in New York City in April 2024, where I was able to try this bourbon whiskey, Diageo's brand ambassador Jeff Parrott spoke about Indigo's Hour as an example of a spirit that apparently starts as something simple — an unaged, new make spirit — and suggested that once it goes through the distilling and aging process, something distinctive emerges. It's seemingly meant to be shared, then, with those who genuinely appreciate a whiskey with a history that can actually be followed and pinpointed on a map. 

Like the dazzling butterfly that graces the label, wings akimbo, Indigo's Hour is portrayed as a desired spirit, assuming you can catch it. But how does this bourbon whiskey hold up to Orphan Barrel's mission?

What is Indigo's Hour 18-year-old Straight Bourbon Whiskey?

Like so many of the spirits that come from Orphan Barrel, Indigo's Hour appears to mark yet another inspired find. The spirit was first created and distilled in Indiana, then aged 18 years in new charred white oak barrels in Kentucky, and finally bottled at 90 proof at the Cascade Hollow Distilling Company in Tullahoma, Tennessee. It combines 68% corn, 28% rye, and 4% malted barley, resulting in a complex buttery and sweet flavor profile with just a touch of spice.

The bottle and label on Indigo's Hour also share the background of this traveled spirit, starting with the pipevine swallowtail, a black butterfly with iridescent hindwings native to the forests in Indiana. The Witches' Tree grows behind and above the butterfly, representing the legendary maple found in Louisville, Kentucky. Finally, the landscape of rivers and green marshlands in the background portrays the area surrounding that same Tullahoma distillery.

The price and availability of Indigo's Hour

The word "rare" doesn't appear to be used hyperbolically when describing Indigo's Hour 18-year-old Straight Bourbon Whiskey: There is limited availability, as previously mentioned, and once every bottle produced is sold, there won't be another release of this particular spirit. With that in mind, the $225 price point puts this bottle undoubtedly into the luxury spirits category, but perhaps for good reason. A spirit like Indigo's Hour is seemingly designed with true whiskey connoisseurs in mind. While it may deter those who don't care to move into the three-digit price category when it comes to purchasing alcohol, those who are ready and willing to invest will most likely be delighted with the product.

Because of Indigo's Hour's rarity, its exact availability and distribution are unfortunately kept secret. So if you consider yourself a whiskey enthusiast and happen to see Indigo's Hour on a store shelf, you might not want to miss out on it.

Indigo's Hour's tasting notes

Typically, a spirit with this much barrel aging behind it can come off as heavy, with the wood flavor overpowering everything else. However, that is not the case with Indigo's Hour. After aging 18 years in charred white oak barrels, the nose is full-bodied but not overly aggressive, with soft aromas of buttery popcorn and pepper. Additionally, despite the use of charred oak barrels, there isn't a heavy smoky aroma, making for a pleasant nose before that first sip.

Indigo's Hour has a light butterscotch color in the glass, and you can taste every bit of those 18 years in the barrel on the palate. Powerful notes of caramel, honey, and vanilla are immediately followed by sweet fruit and warm baking spices from the rye. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, with only a wisp of oak and wood flavor and a delightfully warm finish. If you're enjoying it as a neat pour — which we insist you do — give the whiskey a few swirls in the glass to fully appreciate the light, sweet fruit-forward and cereal-like aroma. 

At 90 proof, this whiskey is surprisingly smooth and complex — but it's certainly not for the faint of heart. For someone who craves whiskey with a hearty, complete flavor profile, this luxury spirit is an indulgence, ideal for sipping slowly for maximum enjoyment.

How to best enjoy Indigo's Hour bourbon whiskey

In our opinion, whiskeys are like snowflakes: Each one is different and unique and, as such, can be enjoyed in any variety of ways. While one whiskey might be the ideal base for a Manhattan or an old fashioned, another may be best suited for a few ice cubes and a spritz of ginger ale. Indigo's Hour, however, does not fall into any of these categories. This is a bottle of bourbon whiskey that is perhaps better off being savored based on its time spent aging and solid flavor profile. So as much as we love and respect the various kinds of bourbon cocktail, Indigo's Hour is not designed to play with others. It is a lone reed, a standalone spirit that can and should be enjoyed in a glass, and that's that. 

If you do feel the need to tone things down, a meager splash of water will do the job just fine. Even adding a whole ice cube would dilute it too much, diminishing the warm, well-balanced quality that comes with each sip. Additionally, at $225 a bottle, we feel that mixing Indigo's Hour with anything else would essentially be a waste of a spirit that won't come stick around for long.

Indigo's Hour vs. Elijah Craig 18-year Single Barrel

An expression like Indigo's Hour 18-year-old Straight Bourbon Whiskey can be difficult to compare to anything else. That said, to best understand a specialty bottle such as this, it can be helpful to liken it with another top-shelf bourbon with a similar aging time and luxury price point. To do so, we went with Elijah Craig 18-year Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Starting from the outside and working inward, the aesthetics of these two bottles differ significantly. Whereas Elijah Craig presents as a classic bourbon whiskey, Indigo's Hour is a more artistic representation of the spirit's origins, making for a more engaging, eye-catching bottle. Despite both being bottled at 90 proof, the flavor profiles differ significantly. Indigo's Hour is a bourbon with a sweeter, more caramel- and vanilla-forward taste. In contrast, Elijah Craig has a more traditional flavor, with more common notes of roasted nuts, toasted oak, char, and subtle hints of honey and vanilla.

Regarding the cost, Elijah Craig — which is sometimes credited as the world's oldest bourbon — is at a lower but still luxury price point at $150. For those who want a high-end whiskey but cannot get a bottle of Indigo's Hour — or who may simply find its $225 price a little too indulgent — Elijah Craig is a great alternative.

Is Indigo's Hour bourbon whiskey from Orphan Barrel worth it?

Indigo's Hour is a multi-faceted spirit. In addition to having a story that covers hundreds of miles across the United States, the exclusive nature of this Orphan Barrel bourbon whiskey itself makes this quality product something that can truly stand out and be appreciated in the marketplace. 

That said, $225 is no small investment for anything, let alone a bottle of whiskey. If you are a collector of rare bourbon bottles, a whiskey afficionado, or perhaps just a thoughtful gift giver, you might find that Indigo's Hour 18-year-old Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a worthwhile bottle to purchase if you can get your hands on one. But when it comes to a smooth, enjoyable sip, there are plenty of other highly ranked American bourbon whiskeys to choose from that could go head-to-head with Indigo's Hour without emptying your wallet. So if that price tag is simply too much, I fully endorse those options.