Rhetoric Bourbon Review


By Kurt Maitland

Rating: B+

Rhetoric whiskey

Rhetoric 20 Year Old Bourbon
(Credit: Orphan Barrel)

Rhetoric is the third release in Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series of aged, legacy Kentucky bourbons from the Stitzel-Weller warehouses, and was made at both the New and Old Bernheim distilleries with a 86% corn, 8% barley and 6% rye mashbill.

Like Orphan Barrel’s Barterhouse, Rhetoric is a 20-year-old bourbon, and that plus the common origins and mashbill have led some to croak that Barterhouse and Rhetoric are the same thing. Having tasted both, I can tell you Rhetoric is a different creature, and bottled at a higher proof besides.

In a novel step, bourbon from Rhetoric’s stock will be released once per year, progressively aging as it goes. As with the first two releases, Rhetoric is hand-bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee, seat of Diageo’s George Dickel. It should begin appearing on shelves across the country in June of this year.

The Bourbon
ABV: 45% (90 Proof)
Color: Reddish gold
Nose: Leather and cherry tobacco, with hints of vanilla, caramelized apple, and dark chocolate
Taste: Vanilla oak, a little rye, and dried fruit. The fruit that stands out in this Orphan Barrel Release is cherry and the way it interacts with the rye in this release. With water, the whiskey receives a big boost in the sweetness. It gains more vanilla in the front, with a muted cherry in the finish. The mouthfeel is smooth, but dry. A few drops of water shifts a lot of the dryness out.
Finish: Dry, with a slow, slightly bitter rye burn that brings out the cherry element.

Like the Rhetoric’s predecessors, this will be a limited release. However, as mentioned above, it is planned to be a yearly release we will be able to taste the changes that occur as the Rhetoric ages. I like this release for its potential. I almost think of it like I do the releases from new, younger distillers, where you are on a journey of discovery and where will this taste will go down the road.

The suggested retail price for this release is $85.00.

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