One of the more interesting things happening under the Orphan Barrel umbrella is the Rhetoric line of whiskies. The label calls it “an evolving exploration in bourbon maturation.” Rhetoric’s first release was a 20-year-old bourbon. That same batch was allowed to mature for another year giving us the 21-year-old bourbon. And the same for last year’s 22-year-old release. Now, Rhetoric’s fourth release is 23 years old.
The whiskey here was distilled between 1990 and 1993 at the Bernheim Distillery, now owned by Heaven Hill. The mashbill is 86% corn, 8% barley, and 6% rye, so we’re definitely not looking at a spicy bourbon. This 23-year-old edition of Rhetoric is bottled at a touch higher proof of 90.6 instead of the 90.4 proof previous editions were bottled at.
The nose carries hints of dark caramel, black cherry, vanilla and coffee & chicory. There’s a touch of baking spice on entry, followed by big notes of oak, dark fruits, burnt sugar, and dark chocolate. The oak sort of tapers out. It is much sweeter than I thought it would be. Some wood spice, leather, and old oak begins to develop going into the finish, which is long with hints of dark chocolate-covered caramel.
I poured a little Rhetoric 21 and 22 to compare. First, the whiskies aren’t miles apart from each other in terms of flavor. However, little differences do exist. The 21-year is a little drier. The 22-year feels thinner but has a touch more spice. The dark caramel is more prominent on the 23-year expression, surprisingly. The Rhetoric whiskies seem to get a little sweeter and richer with age. They are all oak-forward, but I think the 23-year expression presents itself better than the others. 8/10 $120
Thanks to Diageo for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.