Rhetoric Bourbon

Rhetoric Rare Release Bourbon & Willet 2 Year Rye!

Greetings bourbon lovers,

Rhetoric, the third in the Orphan Barrel release from Diageo, landed recently at the store and is flying out the door! Diageo’s Orphan Barrel Project is a series of old and rare limited edition spirits gathered from operating or mothballed/demolished distilleries. Diageo, apart from having its hands in the Irish and Scotch whisky business, also dabbles in the American whiskey scene. The company owns the George Dickel Distillery in Tennessee and previously owned the old Bernheim Distillery, along with the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Kentucky (home of Pappy Van Winkle), where much of their older bourbon stock now ages.

Rhetoric 20 Year Old Kentucky Bourbon 90 Proof – ($89.99) – Rhetoric comes hot on the heels of the first two Orphan Barrel releases, Barterhouse and Old Blowhard. This 20 year old bourbon is a marriage of barrels that were sourced from both the new and the old Bernheim distilleries, which Diageo previously owned. The mashbill is made up of 86% corn, 6% rye and 8% barley, which remains the standard recipe at Bernheim. Rhetoric’s barrels were sourced from the lower levels of the rickhouses, where the temperature is not subject to the fluctuations that the upper floors receive. The result is a whiskey that is more fruit forward with less oak showing. I have not had the opportunity to sample Rhetoric yet but if it is anything like the Barterhouse 20 year old then I don’t expect it to last long. However, this is not a one-off release (though stocks of each year’s release are strictly limited); Rhetoric will be released at the same time next year as a 21 year old bourbon and every year after that right up until the year 2019, with every new release increasing in age by one year. Therefore if you wish to compare this year’s release against future releases of Rhetoric then it might be a good idea to invest in more than one bottle today.

Willett Family Estate Small Batch 2 Year Old 109.4 Proof Rye – ($38.99) – The Willett family of bourbons and ryes need no introduction to Vine & Table customers, but this particular bottle certainly requires your attention, as this 2 year old barrel proof rye is the first release from Willett’s actual stills. On January 18, 2012, the Kulsveen family, owners of the Willett Distillery in Bardstown Kentucky fired up their column still and their new copper pot still and re-introduced distilling back to this historic site. When the staff of Vine & Table visited the Willett Distillery last year to handpick a barrel of bourbon we also had the opportunity to try the new make bourbon spirit as it ran from the still and it was fabulous. Now here is the finished product rye after spending two years in new charred white oak barrels and the result is, delicious. I sent my colleague Zach home with a sample bottle a few nights ago (he’s a big rye fan) and he wrote the following about it.

“Opens with heat on the front which you would expect at 54.7%, but with notes of honeyed pears and subdue vanilla. The first sip brings more heat, but quickly opens into a rich, caramel sweetness with a lingering, rich finish that you’ll repeat with every sip. The next drink finds more of the sweetness, with darker notes of cocoa and maybe just a touch of coffee mixing it up with lots of young-wood barrel character. The complexity here belies the youth of the spirit, which is always hiding behind the layers of sweetness, woodiness and a pleasant burn. A single ice cube enhances the richness by adding a thicker, creamy feeling while leaving the wonderful finish unaffected.”

Both whiskies will not be around long so grab a couple today!

Slainte, Denis

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 Vine & Table #301