Rhetoric is the third release in Diageo’s Orphan Barrel lineup of whiskies. The first two releases, 26 year Old Blowhard and 20 year Barterhouse, were nice whiskies albeit a bit on the expensive side. Rhetoric is also a 20 year old straight bourbon whiskey. It was most probably distilled at the new Bernheim distillery, and aged at a Stizel-Weller warehouse. It seems to be the same mashbill as Barterhouse, but aged in a different part of the warehouse. What differentiates Rhetoric from its siblings is Diageo will continue to age the bourbon, releasing it once a year until it reaches a 25 year maturation point. So, this year we have a 20 year old bourbon. Next year we’ll have a 21 year old bourbon. This continues until we get a 25 year old Rhetoric bourbon in 2019.
(Disclaimer: I received a small sample of Rhetoric from Diageo.) I find the nose on Rhetoric similar to Barterhouse. Some oak, which is expected given its age. There was also some dried fruit (think light fruit cake) and a little bit of caramel. Taste-wise, I found this a bit creamier…more viscous than Barterhouse. The oak is there, but it’s not as in your face. There’s a bit of caramel too. The finish is quick, dry, and slightly bittersweet.
Overall, this is my favorite of the three bourbons in the Orphan Barrel series. Rhetoric is 90 proof and will run you about $100. It’s $15 more expensive than Barterhouse, yet both are 20 year old bourbons. I liked Barterhouse enough to buy myself a bottle after I reviewed it. Part of me wishes I would have waited to try Rhetoric first. To me, the difference in taste is worth the extra $15… that’s considering you don’t mind paying a C-Note for a bottle of bourbon. It holds its flavors together better than Barterhouse. Also, progressively aging and releasing this bourbon makes for an interesting experiment.