Welcome back to “Rhetoric Week” at Paste Drink, in which we’re re-tasting every single entry in Diageo’s Orphan Barrel Rhetoric Bourbon line of whiskeys, all the way from the original Rhetoric 20-Year-Old to this year’s newly released (and final) offering of Rhetoric 25-Year-Old. You can see the full slate of tastings published so far by clicking right here.
Today, we’re tackling the third entry in the Rhetoric family, the Rhetoric 22-Year-Old, which was first released in 2016. I tasted this sample side by side with Rhetoric 23-Year-Old, the tasting notes for which will appear in tomorrow’s Rhetoric Week post. As with all the other Rhetoric releases, this one is made from a mash bill of 86 percent corn, 8 percent barley and just 6 percent rye, and is bottled at an ever-so-slightly higher strength of 45.2 percent ABV.
The nose on Rhetoric 22-Year-Old immediately strikes me as particularly leathery, with a combination of spice, citrus and slightly earthy quality present in its oakiness. There’s a lot more expressive orange peel in this particular expression’s nose, as well as a big pop of cinnamon spice.
On the palate, this Rhetoric is certainly the spiciest of the drams I’d had in the series up to this point. It’s a bit overly hot for the proof, and the alcohol burn sort of enhances those spice qualities—each sip coats the palate with this long-evolving aftertaste of baking spices, especially cinnamon, allspice and anise. At the same time, there’s a ton of oak, although it’s more of the acidic, almost “wet” oak character that I don’t particularly love. And once again, I get plenty of orange citrus as well.
Rhetoric 22-Year-Old is a case where I genuinely like the profile of the bourbon, but its volume seems a tad out of whack. You’d almost say it’s a bit straightforward, with too great a focus on its spice and wood character, rather than the better all-around balance found in 21 (and tomorrow’s 23). I still like it more than I enjoyed Rhetoric 20 overall, but it feels like 22 appeals more to fans of a very specific profile than anything else.
Check back to Paste Drink tomorrow for the tasting notes on both Rhetoric 23 and Rhetoric 24, before we publish our review of the final release, Rhetoric 25, on Friday.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.