The clock is winding down on the era of Rhetoric bourbon, one of the Orphan Barrel program’s most prestigious lines of whiskey. And the new Rhetoric 24 whiskey is finally hitting shelves over the next few weeks, and, yes, we think you should get your hands on a bottle.
Rhetoric started four years ago with a 20-year-old release of the same whiskey. According to the brand, the story goes that these barrels were “found in the old Stitzel-Weller Warehouses in Louisville, KY. The whiskey was distilled (between 1990-1993) at the Bernheim Distillery historically located at 17th and Breckenridge in Louisville, KY., while owned and operated by United Distillers. The whiskey is hand-bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee.”
These barrels have ties to a bunch of prestigious pedigrees. (Stitzel used to produce Van Winkle.) But it’s important to note this every time an Orphan Barrel release hits the market: Not all of them are magical. Gifted Horse wanted to be Wild Turkey Forgiven but lacked the complexity. Entrapment wanted to change the way the world looked at corn whiskey, but it didn’t. This is only to say that when we received this year’s release, we were skeptical that it would be as good as it had been in past years. But while it’s different, it’s still delicious.
With the $130 Rhetoric 24, the grainy, sweet hints of corn we tasted in the Rhetoric 23 bottle are gone at this point. You could still detect it just at the observable edges of Rhetoric 23, but now the 24’s predominant sweetness is of more thoroughly burnt sugar. The tannins are strong, and a year later, the vanilla notes have hardened like the frozen top layer of a wedding cake. The 24’s still an exciting whiskey, if only because it showcases the end days of a profoundly good group of barrels. It’s the final glass of champagne from a bottle resting in a fully melted ice bucket. Rhetoric still has one more scheduled release of 25-year to be delivered in about a year. In the meantime, we’ll be gladly sipping this Kentucky bourbon.