Orphan Barrel – ‘Rhetoric’ bourbon whiskey 20yo

You might have heard about the Orphan Barrel series of whiskeys released in recent months by Diageo, as they were quite the discussion topic among bourbon and whiskey lovers. The name is allegedly chosen because the barrels for these releases were “forgotten”, in the Diageo warehouses, or so. I am quite skeptical about them being really forgotten, more likely been stashed to be sold at a later time for more money, or for a special release, but anyways, forgotten gems sound sexier than “some old barrels we’re been keeping for later use or so”. Right?

Anyways, this one has was distilled in the Berenheim distillery and  been aged for 20 years in  (yes, 20) which is rather a lot of time for a whiskey, and is sold for $85 in the US, which is quite a lot of money for a whiskey, but since it’s old and rare it is not that silly… Wait until it comes over to the UK and EU, it should costs double that amount or more. Luckily a friend of mine was visiting the USA , and was kind enough to offer a bottle share of a few interesting American whiskeys, and this was the first of which I tried the other day. I have not had many whiskeys from the Berenheim distillery, so I am not sure I am able to compare this to younger offering from the distillery, but anyways, let’s try that, shall we?

Orphan Barrel – Rhetoric bourbon whiskey 20yo , 45% , $87orphan1

Nose: The nose is big and bold, it packs a lot of interesting notes, and speaks for itself :  Lots of oak going on which isn’t very surprising given its age, The corn is very dominant : Sweet corn syrup which then gives way to Balsamic vinegar, Acetone and black  tea. It is  quite sour and fragrant with cloves and nutmeg too , and event a hint of anise. A lovely nose indeed.

Palate: The palate is dry. Very dry. quite a lot of tannins, maybe a tad too much. There is also a fruity hint of blood oranges, then some clove. Quite bitter ,with the tea leaves present here as well, with maybe a touch of tobacco leaves, pepper, and chilly.

Finish :Long, with oak, tea leaves, and tobacco, some earth and bitter oak. a hint of bitter cocoa.


I quite liked this whiskey, to be honest. It may be a bit too oaky and bitter for some, but the nose and the palate are rather complex, with a wide spectrum of sensations, and there’s a lot going on waiting to be explored. The wood is rather intensive here, I loved the nose, while the palate is a bit to dry for me at times, but it does not lack character, which is often the case with whiskey (for me, at least). It does stand out, and that is a big plus. almost $90 is not cheap, but it’s not a total rip-off considering the whiskey has been aged for a long period. I am glad I got to try it, but my 100 ml are enough for me at this point.

Score: 85/100

Many thanks to Shai for the lovely bottle share

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