...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 23 year old bourbon

After posting a combined total of zero BARD Fridays from December 2017 to February 2023, I've been true to my word bringing Bourbon and Rye Day back with 11 of these posts in the past nine months. Though none are scheduled for the rest of this year, I do have a slew of American whiskies open, so the BARDs will return in 2024.

I've tried several Orphan Barrel bourbons, and wouldn't particularly recommend any of them, but I found Rhetoric 22yo pretty drinkable. So how about a sip or seven of Rhetoric 23? I had a good week, so I'm feeling naively optimistic.

Owner: Diageo
Brand: Orphan Barrel
Orphan: Rhetoric
Distillery: Old Bernheim
Type: Bourbon Whiskey
Mashbill: 86% corn, 8% barley, 6% rye
Age: minimum 23 years (1990-1993 to 2017)
Alcohol by Volume: 45.3%
(from a bottle split)


The smells come in bundles. First there's pine, saline, and yuzu(!). Then cherry candy and furniture polish. Strawberry frosted cupcakes gradually turn into vanilla frosted cupcakes, with some limeade in the background. After 45 minutes, almond extract starts to take over.

There's less bitterness and sugar on the palate than I expected. It's slightly earthy. More honey than vanilla. Sweet oranges slide into tart limes. The background flavors in early sips are ginger and flowers. Later on, they're replaced by mint and root beer.

The finish gets wobbly with standard barrel char, overripe bananas, mint extract, and tannin-a-plenty.


Don't stop me if you've heard this before: The nose is the best part, by far. But the bourbon is......probably my favorite Orphan Barrel so far. Had the finish not deflated so abruptly, I'd offer some heavily-qualified raves for this Orphan. Tannin takeover is expected for a bourbon this old, in fact it often happens with bourbons half its age. That Rhetoric is still approachable at 23 years makes me wonder what these Old Bernheim barrels were like at age 15 (or 12 or 8). Possibly something like this?

Cheers! Welcome to December.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 82