Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Tasting: Orphan Barrel. Rhetoric 22 Years

“The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co. was started to share barrels of delicious and rare whiskey, hidden away and nearly forgotten in the back of rickhouses and distilleries.
Stories of these lost whiskeys have become the stuff of legend. Our goal is to bottle these rare, small offerings for the world to try and for you to add to your whiskey collection.
Every Orphan Barrel whiskey is hand bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee, to ensure that these rare whiskeys are treated with the care they deserve – because some of them will only be available once. And once they're gone, they're gone forever…..”

Please allow me to start this review off with a small family anecdote. When our family was gathered, and my father’s uncle has had a couple, he always started telling these spellbinding stories to us kids, and every single time, one of the other adults would look at him, saying out loud “Damn old man, you are lying through your teeth” to witch my father’s uncle would reply “So what? It doesn’t make the story less interesting, does it?”

Same rule seems to apply for The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co. “Sure we are lying through our teeth, but the stories are great, right?” And the truly are, and I might add, very effective as well. Because, even though bourbon fans are gathering from all parts of the world, to take a swing at spirit giant Diageo’s Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co, The Orphan Barrel expressions are gone almost as soon as they hit the shelves, and are being collected, flipped and discussed like “almost” no other whiskey-brands releases out there. Apparently, bad publicity is better than none, and all the hype, fuss and buzz make you even more curious, doesn’t it?

If we for a minute turns the other cheek to Diageo’s marketing spin, though admittedly it is pretty hard to do, the age statements alone, defiantly makes for an interesting tasting, but I have never had the opportunity to taste any of the Orphan Barrel releases because they aren’t available here in Denmark. But recently a whiskey buddy of mine, kindly send me a sample of this 22 years old Rhetoric.

The Rhetoric is said to have been “discovered” in warehouses at the Stitzel-Weller facility in Louisville, Ky, and distilled in both the New and Old Bernheim distilleries in Louisville.

The 22 Years Old Rhetoric was released in 2016 as the third bottle in the Rhetoric series, which started with the 20 years old back in 2014, and are going to end in 2019, with a 25 years old edition.

Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 22 Years

Bottler: Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co.
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye & 12% Barley
Cask: New Charred Oak
Age: 22 Years
ABV: 45.2%
Price: $120USD
Release: Limited 2016 release

Points: 89/100

Deep notes of dark caramel and brown sugar are dominating the nose with toasted oak, vanilla and leather in the background. It’s sweet and fruity, though I can’t put my finger on any of the specific fruit notes.

To tell you the truth, I had absolutely no exportations what so ever in regard to this whiskey, except that it probably would be overly oaky, but I actually find the oak to be very well integrated and pretty balanced, all things considered.

Oily and chewy! More oak, cream caramel with vanilla ice cream and lemon. Nutmeg and clove are leading you towards the finish.  

Long. The oaky taste is now more present in the finish with mint and peanuts.

Overall impression:
Admittedly I’m pleasant surprised and glad that I had the opportunity to taste this whiskey. Would I buy a bottle at retail price if the opportunity was granted to me? Well…Actually… Yes, I would. But, for our American readers, please notice that the $120USD this bottle was priced at retail is the same amount of money we pay for e.g. Baker’s 7 years old here in Denmark, and since the Rhetoric 22 isn’t available here, it’s really a poor comparison. But since “the buy/don’t buy, is it worth the money” question always comes up when talking about Orphan Barrel, I kind of felt compelled to answer it. 

Review By: Hasse Berg
Photo By: Linus Johansson