This 21-year-old bourbon is the second release of Rhetoric. Part of the Orphan Barrel series, Rhetoric is an experiment in aging. The first release was a 20-year-old whiskey. The same juice continues to age. Each year, a small portion of the juice is released, letting the whiskey-loving public taste the differences between it and previous (and younger) releases.
In the video below provided by Diageo, Diageo’s Master of Whiskey Ewan Morgan and Technical Specialist Blake Layfield talk about the Rhetoric series as well as additional background information on the whiskey.
The nose is sweet, with burnt caramel, old oak, and pencil shavings. There’s a slight fruit scent here too. The palate starts off with toasted oak, then develops into caramel apple, spice, black pepper and leather. After 21 years in a barrel, this whiskey really shows off its age in the finish. It is semi-sweet, dry and oaky.
The 20-year-old version of this whiskey seemed a bit creamier. Here, it’s a little thinner despite being bottled at the same proof. I think the oak here starts becoming a bit dominating, providing those black pepper and leather notes, but at the same time killing the liveliness of the spirit. I still think Diageo is providing a great opportunity for whiskey enthusiasts to directly compare the effect aging has on these whiskies, and for that I applaud them. That said, I still lean towards the 20-year-old version of Rhetoric. This one’s just a tad too unbalanced.