Best of the Best 2016: Leisure | Spirits: Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 21-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

  • Photo by Cordero studios/corderostudios.com; Styling: Alicia Buszczak
    Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 21-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Photo by Cordero studios/corderostudios.com; Styling: Alicia Buszczak

A tale of long-forgotten barrels discovered in the shadowy corners of an old brick warehouse adds a note of intrigue to any spirit, including this 21-year-old Kentucky bourbon. It was distilled in 1993 at the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, then shipped to the nearby Stitzel-Weller Distillery, where the barrels languished for more than two decades. The hand-bottled result is Rhetoric, a superb sipping bourbon full of sweet tobacco, leather, honey, cedar, and a touch of mystery. 

  • The original Bernheim mash bill from which this bourbon was distilled was 86 percent corn, 8 percent malt, and 6 percent rye. 
  • Additional barrels of this whiskey still lurk, so watch for older variations in the future, including a 25-year-old.
  • The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company is the name used by Diageo, the largest spirits company in the world, for some of its older whiskeys.

Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company, orphanbarrel.com ($100)

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