It all began years ago—twenty to be exact—but no one knew they would turn out to be orphans, forgotten, although still with rick housing—that is, until Uncle Diageo came and rescued them. Uncle Diageo is a caring and generous soul, sharing the orphans with bourbon lovers across the globe.
Uncle Diageo is a caring and generous soul, sharing the orphans with bourbon lovers across the globe.
I’m talking about Diageo’s orphan barrel program, and in particular, their orphan bourbon program. A couple of months ago I wrote about Barterhouse and Old Blowhard, 20- and 26-year, respectively. You can still find those little loveys at many a bar and liquor store, although the bottles do show ample patronage. (That’s my way of telling you if you want to try it, you might want to head down to your favorite whiskey bar.)
Now, as promised a couple of months ago, I’m going to tell you about Rhetoric. A 20-year bourbon that apparently was sent to finishing school. Wow! Wow! Wow! You’re going to love this bourbon. It is smooth, full of amazing flavors, and probably one of the most enjoyable bourbons I have had the pleasure of sipping. It has an amazing nose of smoke and a hint of apples, there is definitely some cherry going on here too, and the finish is long. It is not in need of water and certainly no ice cube is required—just pour into your favorite glass, sit on your patio, ponder the world, and enjoy this bourbon. I can’t go on enough about how smooth this is; you don’t get the bite that you do with Old Blowhard or even Barterhouse’s slight kick. Which is great, because sometimes you want a bourbon that will stand up and sometimes you want a bourbon that is elegant. Rhetoric is elegant. (Just look at the bottle compared to the other two—there is definitely a statement there.)
Just pour into your favorite glass, sit on your patio, ponder the world, and enjoy this bourbon.
I got to sit down with Ryan Conklin, bar manager at Argyll Whiskey Beer on 17th in Denver. Ryan is also a cicerone (certified beer expert) and no stranger to whiskey.
If he wasn’t a whiskey expert before he became bar manager at Argyll, he certainly was after. Argyll boasts between 200 and 300 whiskeys at any one time and he tasted over 650 of them to choose the ones for the bar. (Here’s a little detour from bourbon: Ryan let me taste the Dalmore King Alexander III, a scotch aged in six different casks, one of which is bourbon, the other five wine derivatives. Holy cow! If you think you know scotch, better think again! Hear that, Buz Dabkowski?)
“What is it that you like about Rhetoric so much?” I asked as we sat at the bar.
“It’s a whiskey that shows a lot of age. Sometimes, when whiskey ages that long, it can lose some characteristics.” Not Rhetoric; it stands up to aging that long. And it will be interesting to see how it stands up to another five years, as Diageo is releasing Rhetoric for the next five years, so stand in line now to get your hands on those releases.
It’s a whiskey that shows a lot of age.
Ryan said that the people coming in ordering Rhetoric are typically ones who know about it; not as many people will order it directly off the menu. There are seemingly a lot of people who know about it because the bottle they have is showing its popularity. I should mention Rhetoric is HIGHLY allocated, so if you want to try it at your favorite bar, Argyll included, I would call first and if they’re out, with that many whiskeys, I’m sure the very educated staff there can steer you in the right direction. If you see it in a liquor store, you should buy it—wait, buy two bottles: one for drinking now and one for storing so you can do a vertical tasting. (A vertical tasting is tasting the same product, bourbon in this case, of different years.) Call your favorite store and see if they have it. It should be right around $85, give or take some Lincolns.
I attended a whiskey dinner at Brook’s Steakhouse a couple of weeks ago and the surprise at the end was a tasting of Rhetoric. The dinner was sold out, and for good reason: I’d go back just for the ribs with the George Dickel. Whiskey. In general, whiskey is becoming increasingly popular, bourbon in particular. So much so, Argyll has a Women & Whiskey night every Thursday from 6 to 7 pm, no reservations required.
There is no recipe this month, other than some advice: Open a bottle of Rhetoric, pour into a beautiful glass, and enjoy a healthy three-finger pour.
Argyll is located at 1035 E. 17th Avenue in Denver.