The flavors are bold and carry well from start to finish. Age has not over oaked this bourbon, but has lent in a well rounded, inviting, and mature flavor profile.
The purple fruit/grape note comes through a bit artificial on the nose, and the palate has a slight plastic note to it that some may find off putting.
The “Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co” is a relatively new producer that is not actually a distillery or distilling operation at all. Rather, it is a Diageo-created and owned brand releases old whiskeys from casks that have some way or another ended up in Diageo’s possession. In other words, they’re a pretty run-of-the-mill non-distilling producer (NDP) who is releasing some seriously old American whiskey at some seriously affordable prices compared to other American whiskeys of similar age (kudos to them!)
The Rhetoric series is a progression of age stated Kentucky straight bourbon whiskeys starting at 21 years old and set to culminate with a final 25 year release. The Rhetoric releases all come from the same batch of barrels “discovered” in the old Stitzel-Weller rickhouses in Louisville that have been in Diageo’s possession since long before it was Diageo following the sale of Stitzel-Weller in the 1970’s. The barrels for the Rhetoric releases all house bourbon that was distilled at either the old or new Bernheim distilleries by Heaven Hill. The barrels were batched and bottled by Diageo, er, Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co, at
the Cascade Hollow (George Dickel) site a Tullahoma, Tennessee bottling site.
- Distilled by Heaven Hill, matured at the Stitzel-Weller rickhouses in Louisville, and bottled by Orphan Barrel in Tullahoma
- Mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye. 12% malted barley
- 22 year age stated
- Bottled at 45.2% ABV (90.4 proof)
Nose: Deep classic bourbon scents of caramel, oak and vanilla that are permeated by a slight amount of grape – both natural and artificial in smell. There is a waxiness to the aroma that carries the deep fruity and creamy flavors.
Palate: The arrival is packed with oak, but not what I would call overoaked. Great caramel and vanilla notes develop with a slightly grape-y flavor. You could call it dark plum or blackberry even. The waxiness of the drink plays in and there is almost a new plastic toy taste (not intended to be off putting as it is pleasantly done, like the smell of opening something brand new). There is a good creamy side to it that p lays great with the fruit and vanilla in an almost wine/congac type of way. There is a slight finished wood aspect to the drink that helps lend the oak some sweetness.
Finish: Heavy notes of brown sugar, vanilla, molasses and oak. The brown sugar is strong and plays with the fruity aspect of the drink. The fruit fades to more of a deep black berry Brandy type of flavor and finishes like a finished wood. The oak is great; over oaked does not apply to this. Sweet honey and fruit fill out the last of the finish before it ends with a slight sweet corny caramel note.
Buying Recommendation: Worth buying a pour. I feel the flavors meshed well and the oak backbone makes up for what I consider a low proof. The age shines brightly and helps to create a very smooth and inviting sip. The flavors are bold even at this proof, and are carried all the way through the dram from start to finish.
A bottle costs around $120 if you can find it, and a bar might ask a price of $15-30, but this is your chance to see what significantly old bourbon tastes like. Other 20 year bourbons can cost multiple times more than this one, making this your best bet to taste an older bourbon without breaking the bank.