Review: Diageo Orphan Barrel Project Rhetoric Bourbon 23 Years Old

Diageo’s Rhetoric brand, part of the Orphan Barrel Project, is now on its fourth of six total expressions. The 20 year old arrived in 2014, followed by annual updates in the form of the 21 year old and 22 year old versions. Today we look at #4, Rhetoric 23 Years Old.

As a refresher, as the story goes, Rhetoric stocks were found in the old Stitzel-Weller warehouses in Louisville. It was distilled between 1990 and 1993 at the Bernheim Distillery while owned and operated by United Distillers., from a mash of 86% corn, 8% barley and 6% rye. Bottling is done in Tennessee.

All told, the 23 is showing similar characteristics to the 22 year old, perhaps with a slightly more woody edge to it. That aside, on the nose it still carries ample fruit — oranges, cherries, and a solid slug of chocolate. The palate carries a heavy wood and barrel char profile, but it’s tempered with butterscotch, bergamot, and some tropical notes, particularly coconut. The finish is quite tannic, almost bitter at time and showing lots of grip, slightly smoky and with hints of black pepper.

All told, Rhetoric is still holding its own, though at this point the wood is beginning to dominate the other elements. We’ll see how the next two expressions fare on that regard.

90.6 proof.

A- / $120 / diageo.com

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