Whiskey Review: Rhetoric Orphan Barrel Bourbon 20 Years Old

Category: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey

Origin: New Bernheim Distillery

Bottling: Diageo, Rhetoric

ABV: 45%

Cost: $90

Rhetoric-Orphan_Barrel-20

What they say:

20-year-old American whiskey created from stocks distilled at the New and Old Bernheim distilleries in Louisville and gathered from warehouses at the mothballed Stitzel-Weller distillery, Rhetoric will be available on limited release in the US this month.

Diageo intends to reserve some stocks of Rhetoric for further aged releases under the brand over the next few years, which will progressively age as time goes on. The next release from Rhetoric will be a 21-year-old in 2015, before a 22-year-old in 2016.

The drinks group claims the Rhetoric series allows consumers to see the effects of the maturation process through a collectable range of whiskeys.

“Ageing whiskey is a fascinating process and one that whiskey aficionados around the world love learning about,” said Ewan Morgan, Orphan Barrel master of whiskey.

“I’ve no doubt the progressive ageing and release of Rhetoric will merit some spirited debate among us whiskey geeks about which year tastes best.”

Rhetoric is said to have notes of “smoked vanilla, toasted rye and dried fruit”, and carries an RRP of US$85.

The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co. is the “craft” whisky project launched by Diageo earlier this year through which the group plans to bottle and release several “lost and forgotten” whiskies. All releases under the umbrella are bottled at the Orphan Barrel headquarters in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Also in the range are Barterhouse and Old Blowhard.

What I say:

Having previously sampled the Barterhouse expression released in this range I was intrigued to sample more until I cam across Chuck’s comments on the whole obfuscation of this range. Interestingly this bottle was found languishing on a shelf somewhere by a friend and I though well why not? Diageo have since removed any PR about this release as it is now ancient history (having been released back in 2014 with yearly updates and increases in age-statements up to a 23 year old?)

Appearance:

Dark bronze gold (12/20) medium tears and medium legs but also thick and oily

Nose:

Putty. linseed oil, almonds, Bakewell tart, almond oil/essence, toasted flaked almonds, sponge cake, sweet, icing sugar, dusty, cherry jam, toffee and marzipan

Taste:

Polished toffee, shellac, beeswax, wood polish, zingy/fizzy, cinnamon spice, maple syrup, tannic oak, marzipan, toasted almonds, vanilla, oily – quite closed on the palate – chalky/limestone minerality

Finish:

Medium-long, sweet almond Bakewell tarts persist

Overall:

Actually I really rather enjoyed this expression – it had a lovely baked feel and overriding notes of sweet almonds which I couldn’t dissociate from childhood memories of baking Bakewell Tarts and that heady mixture of almond essence and cherry jam. Overall, a shame about the obfuscation but the whiskey ain’t all that bad.

Score: 88/100

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