Diageo Orphan Barrel Rhetoric Bourbon Turns 21

Diageo Orphan Barrel Rhetoric Bourbon Turns 21

Diageo Rhetoric 21 year old bourbonNot too long ago we were one of the first to bring you word of the progressive 21 year old bottling of Diageo’s Orphan Barrel bourbon called Rhetoric, which had begun to surface at retail. The spirits giant is now out with official news of this release.

Described as “an experiment in maturation,” according to Diageo, Rhetoric is being

re-released annually to explore the flavor characteristics imparted by each additional year the bourbon spends in wood, allowing for side-by-side comparisons. Aged in charred American oak barrels for one year longer than last year’s 20-Year-Old release, this rich, complex bourbon represents an exciting evolution in the progressively aged Rhetoric series. Throughout the process, the base Rhetoric liquid remains unchanged, with progressive aging expected to continue through the release of Rhetoric 25-Year-Old in 2019.

The bourbon stocks for the Diageo Orphan Barrel Rhetoric line reportedly “were found at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Ky. The bourbon was distilled in 1993 at the Bernheim Distillery historically located at 17th and Breckenridge in Louisville, Ky., while owned and operated by United Distillers.”

“The progressive aging experiment we’re employing with the Rhetoric series is incredibly unique,” said Ewan Morgan, Master of Whiskey for Diageo, in a statement. “We’re going to be able to compare a line of bourbons side-by-side to see how aspects of the liquid – color, aroma, flavors and mouthfeel – are impacted by extra time spent in the barrel. Like many others, I’m looking forward to tasting what one extra year in the barrel does to these bourbons over the coming years.”

Official tasting notes from this newer release find the 21 year old Rhetoric to be “richer and more complex” than younger expression. It has a slightly higher proof and has “aromas of cherry, sweet tobacco, honey and leather” that “build upon the oak, fruit, vanilla and caramel” of last year’s bottling. To this one further adds on the palate “sweet tobacco, dark chocolate, baking spices and honey” alongside “charred wood, caramel, vanilla and black pepper spice” from last year.

The observant who compare the two bourbon bottles side by side will see the background on the label is slightly darker for the newer bottling. This is to reflect, according to Diageo, the slightly longer maturation of the 21 year old. Each progressive release will see this darkening trend continue.

About the author

Nino Marchetti

Nino Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and provided tasting input on many whiskeys at competitions. He also maintains a large private collection of whiskey from which he continually educates his palate on this brown spirit type.