Recently, and thanks to some bourbon scouting friends, we opened a bottle of Diageo's 2018 Orphan Barrel series "Rhetoric," which was produced by Ed Foote at the Bernheim Distillery in 1993 and aged for 24 years in Shively, Ky. at Stitzel-Weller.
Rhetoric made its debut in 2014 as a 20-year-old bourbon. Each subsequent spring, Diageo released an older version (i.e. 21, 22, 23 year olds). In 2019, Diaego will release "Rhetoric 25," which is thought to be the final offering under this label.
At $130 MSRP, Rhetoric 24 is comparably priced, and probably less expensive, than other super mature bourbons. When you think about how much money consumers spend on bottles of Hirsch 25, Pappy 23, Michter's 25, Jefferson's Presidential Select 25, Willett Family Estate 23, Elijah Craig 23, etc., Rhetoric is a deal at $130 or even $200. Of course, Diageo has released other super mature whiskeys in the recent past (e.g. Barterhouse 21, Lost Prophet 22, Entrapment 25, Old Blowhard 26) that are also relatively affordable. But, I haven't loved them all. I almost spit Old Blowhard back into the glass when I tried it at "Bourbon" in Columbia, SC.
How'd Rhetoric 24 compare? I am pleasantly surprised.
Color: Dark, oaky brown.
Nose: Ethyl acetate from so much time in oak jumps out of the glass initially. It's an incredible and unique nose- a balance of nail polish remover and sweet banana Laffy Taffy. With time, very pleasant notes emerge. I get cotton candy, leather, and burnt brown sugar.
Tasting Notes: Wintertime spices feature prominently on the sip...clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and subtle pepper. Mid-palate, nuts and fruit show up- pear and apple- followed by a tannic, bitter end. The finish is dry and herbal. I like it.
Overall: A. Rhetoric 24 is a pleasant surprise with a wonderful history. If you find it at MSRP, I think you're getting a good deal and an experience to share with family and friends.