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Friday, February 24, 2017

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Rhetoric 22 year old bourbon

To refresh your memory, and mine, here's a list of the Orphan Barrels I've reviewed:

Forged Oak 15 year old
Lost Prophet 22 year old
Barterhouse 20 year old
and now Rhetoric 22 year old

Like Barterhouse and Forged Oak, Rhetoric was distilled at the old Bernheim distillery and then spent some portion of its maturation in the former Stitzel-Weller warehouse. Again, just to be clear, no matter how many times the marketeers reference S-W, these whiskies were not distilled at the S-W distillery. But they are hella old. And oaky AF.

Rhetoric is a little different than the others, as it is actually its own series. In 2014, a 20yo Rhetoric was released. Then a 21yo in 2015 and this 22yo in 2016. Diageo intends to keep this going until 2019 with a 25 year old. As much as I pick on the Orphan Barrel brand, this Rhetoric experiment is really interesting. Hopefully once the experiment is complete, something can be divined other than "the 25 year old is oakier than the 20 year old".

Owner: Diageo
Brand: Orphan Barrel
Orphan: Rhetoric
Distillery: Old Bernheim
Type: Bourbon Whiskey
Mashbill: 86% corn, 8% barley, 6% rye
Age: minimum 22 years
Alcohol by Volume: 45.2%
(Thanks to Vik for the sample!)

The nose starts off with almond extract and confectioner's sugar. Actually, that's almond croissants. Then apricot jam, amaretto liqueur and brown sugar. There's a solid vanilla bean note, yet there's a happy lack of generic oak going on. Hints of pistachios show up here and there. The palate is a bit sharp as the oak blasts to the fore. There's glue, vanilla and almond extract. A moderate sweetness. Molasses, ginger powder and tangy lemons. A rye rumble in the background. There's plenty of wood spice and cardboard, but no woody bitterness. It has a long peppery tangy finish that never gets too sweet. Plenty of wood spice, barrel char and floral vanilla.

With its fabulous nose and not-terrible palate, this Rhetoric is the best Orphan Barrel bourbon I've tried so far. If not for the glue and cardboard notes in the whiskey's mouth, I'd have recommended this to fans of oak juice. But as this percolated within a first use American oak barrel for 22 years of Kentucky climate, some difficult wood compounds were bound to show up. I did find it less oaky than the Forged Oak 15yo, and the nose is utterly charming.

Other reviews: The Whiskey Jug liked this bourbon a lot. Breaking Bourbon wasn't a fan, though he did enjoy the nose. Drinkhacker loved it.

Availability - A few dozen US retailers appear to have it in stock
Pricing - $120-$200
Rating - 81