By Father John Rayls
Opinions are like…well…everyone has one. There are lovers and there are haters and nothing brings them out like The Orphan Barrel series. Some consumers chalk it up to a marketing gimmick. Others love to get a chance (a shot?) at a lower cost (relatively speaking) ancient bourbon. The fourth release of Rhetoric, now a 23 year old, bourbon whiskey is sure to bring them all out loving and hating. This is another bourbon from their progressive releases. What is left remains in the barrel for a new release each year (one year older) until it’s gone. Diageo certainly has used its marketing prowess to move these “orphaned” barrels to market. The back story involves barrels that the company simply forgot and asks us to believe they didn’t realize they were there. Of course, they were paying taxes on all these barrels. However, the issue isn’t about good, bad or inappropriate marketing or whether they were actually lost or forgotten barrels . It’s about the bourbon tasting experience. Do you enjoy it enough to pay the price… This release is from the Stitzel-Weller Warehouses in Louisville, Kentucky and bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee at 90.6 proof. It has a mash bill that’s 86% corn, 8% barley and 6% rye. For more information, take a look at http://whiskeyreviewer.com/2017/05/orphan-barrel-comes-out-with-rhetoric-23-year-old-051617.
It has a beautiful bottle with an equally stunning label of light brown with gold/copper lettering. Unfortunately, the label is difficult to read, but does include the requisite humming bird. The label announces it as a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey of “finest quality” and “evolving exploration”. The whiskey color is medium brown with gold and copper highlights. The legs are long, thick and persistent. They are literally everywhere on the glass. The nose is surprisingly moderate and hints at oak, vanilla/caramel and leather. There is no alcohol burn even when inhaling deeply.
There is a very soft, creamy mouthfeel with flavors of oak, caramel and cinnamon. It’s mostly a back of the mouth experience. It drinks slightly hot, but not overly so. The experience on the palate is soft and almost lulls you to sleep with a slightly sweet presence of faint dried cherries. However, the finish announces itself with some authority. It comes on boldly after delaying its appearance until you think it’s not going to happen. You have to wait for it. It’s a little hot with strong cinnamon and builds gradually in the background until it finally involves the whole mouth up to the tip of the tongue. The finish is long and very satisfying.
If you enjoy cigars, I might suggest a low cost Nub Habano alongside this interesting bourbon. It matches well with the flavors of the bourbon and doesn’t break the bank. The cost of this bourbon is outside my normal purchase range, but provided an interesting opportunity. The suggested retail is in the $120.00 area. I found it for $114.00. (Thanks Daniel!) It is another opportunity to experience history that will soon be lost. I am glad I bought it once, but might not purchase another one at the same price.