Diageo collects orphaned bourbon barrels like Yahoo collects small tech companies. This is basically the story with their Orphan Barrels Whiskey Distilling Company created in 2014. At least they are straight up with the story. Over the years, Diageo has purchased many distilleries, some of them are thriving and will continue to see their brand supported while others are not doing well or at times have ceased operation. Along with those purchases they sometimes find bourbon quietly maturing in dark, dusty rack houses. Rather than trying to support too many brands with a short supply, Diageo invented Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company to sell these lost barrels often at premium prices.
As bourbon continues to boom, whiskey enthusiasts are clamoring for unique tasting experiences worthy of discussion and debate. To satisfy these drinkers and collectors, the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company has released Rhetoric 21-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Rhetoric stocks were found at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Ky. The bourbon was distilled in 1993 at the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, Ky., while owned and operated by United Distillers. It will be available nationwide in allocated quantities for a suggested retail price of $100 for a 750 mL bottle.
An experiment in maturation, Rhetoric is re-released annually to explore the flavor characteristics imparted by each additional year the bourbon spends in wood, allowing for side-by-side comparisons. Aged in charred American oak barrels for one year longer than last year’s 20-Year-Old release, this rich, complex bourbon represents an exciting evolution in the progressively aged Rhetoric series. Throughout the process, the base Rhetoric liquid remains unchanged, with progressive aging expected to continue through the release of Rhetoric 25-Year-Old in 2019. This is some pretty straight forward math here.
Rhetoric 21-Year-Old follows five previous Orphan Barrel bourbons: Barterhouse (20-Year-Old), Old Blowhard (26-Year-Old), Rhetoric (20-Year-Old), Lost Prophet (22-Year-Old) and Forged Oak (15-Year-Old).
“The progressive aging experiment we’re employing with the Rhetoric series is incredibly unique,” said Ewan Morgan, Master of Whiskey for DIAGEO. “We’re going to be able to compare a line of bourbons side-by-side to see how aspects of the liquid – color, aroma, flavors and mouthfeel – are impacted by extra time spent in the barrel. Like many others, I’m looking forward to tasting what one extra year in the barrel does to these bourbons over the coming years.”
According to a story by FastCompany, Diageo didn’t necessarily “discover” the small batch of whiskey at Stitzel-Weller that became Old Blowhard, Barterhouse and Rhetoric. At any one time, Diageo has around 13 million barrels of aging whiskey in storage. It is has enough experience managing inventory that it doesn’t exactly “forget” what it owns, but sometimes, the whiskey aging in rack houses it acquires doesn’t immediately fit into its products. This is often the case with the whiskey that makes it way to the Orphan Barrel brand.