The final release of Rhetoric Bourbon, Diageo’s finest Orphan Barrel series, will be released this season at 25 years of age.
Rhetoric 25 is the sixth and final installment of a series that has been around longer than some distilleries. It started in 2013 with the release of Rhetoric 20, with what parent company Diageo alleges is old stock from the Bernheim Distillery that was actually found in old Stitzel-Weller Warehouses. Needless to say, it’s a complex pedigree. But the whiskey, which was distilled between 1990 and 1993, ended up in their hands, and with a limited number of these gems at their disposal, they elected to release portions of it each year, each time with a higher age statement.
It’s been a complicated exercise in whiskey academics, to say the least. Bourbon whiskey is arguably approaching the end of its peak around 20, and though some whiskeys can and do go older, most barrels don’t fall within the rare qualifications to be aged beyond that point.
Rhetoric has demonstrated—if only accidentally—that whiskey can have some pretty serious peaks and valleys, and though everyone’s tastes are different, there have been some up years and down years.
Last year’s release of 24-year-old whiskey would, by our palates anyway, appear to have been the last viable one, as the tannins began to overtake the rest of the whiskey’s character and assert their reign.
But of course, who knows what Diageo has had lying in wait in its collection of Orphan Barrel whiskeys. Perhaps this year’s barrels were all rare, slow-aging unicorns. It’s certainly possible, given the outcomes we’ve seen, that the whiskey released this year will be as good if not better than past years.
Here are some facts: The final Orphan Barrel Rhetoric release is being bottles at 91 proof, in 750 ml. bottles. Diageo has made it known that the mashbill on these barrels broke down to 86 percent corn, 8 percent barley, and 6 percent rye, which is a low rye bourbon if we’ve ever heard of one.
The product will ship this month, which means if you want a bottle you’d better start nagging your liquor store connections now. It’s suggested to retail around $140, but given that so many people will be attempting to complete a set, the secondary question might be different this year.
Diageo says the whiskey’s palate is oak-forward (ya think?) with “notes of nutmeg, caramel, and cocoa with a slightly spicy finish.” Look for our tasting notes coming soon.