Orphan Barrel: Rhetoric 22-Year-Old Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank Taylor Strategy for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. 

I did a little research this weekend. Well, I assume I did. The sample I received of Rhetoric 22 year old stated that it was "for research only." If this is research, I've done enough research in the last five years that I should be well on my way to a Ph.D. 

This particular set of research was on one of two samples I received last week. Diageo will soon be releasing the 23-year-old Rhetoric, and when they sent out the samples, they were kind enough to include a sample of the 22-year-old that I could use as a comparison. But guess what? I've never reviewed the 22 (or any of the Orphan Barrel series), so I decided to give it its own post. 

The Orphan Barrel series is predominantly made up of old whiskey that was supposedly "found" just lying there in the warehouse. And in that sentence are the two reasons why I hadn't reviewed any of them previously. First, I prefer my whiskey a bit younger than these releases have been. If I had to give a general range, I'd say that I tend to prefer my whiskey to be six to twelve years old with some wiggle room on each side and room for exceptions. So the idea of a 20-plus-year-old whiskey gives me pause. And second, I'm allergic to BS marketing stories. The thought that the tax man hasn't had Diageo reporting what is in each and every barrel is a bit ludicrous.

So with a price that hovers right around my Personal Price Ceiling™, I decided to take a pass whenever I saw it on a shelf. I figured I'd let the Whiskey Bros spend their money on that. And I'd grab a bottle of a bourbon that I'd like more since I don't buy whiskey to prove the size of my wallet or my nether regions.

That said, when the PR firm sent me an offer of a free taste, well, it was hard to say no. The price is right, and if I didn't like it it would probably be a small sample anyway.

Orphan Barrel: Rhetoric 22-Year-Old Bourbon

Purchase Info: This 100mL sample was generously proved by Taylor Strategy. I've seen it for sale online between $129 and $180.

Details: 22 years old. 45.2% ABV

Nose: Leather, citrus, vanilla a hint of chocolate and lots of oak.

Mouth: Nice and spicy with cinnamon candies to go along with the vanilla and oak. So much oak!

Finish: Warm and of medium length. Oak flavors linger along with leather, chocolate, vanilla, and nougat.


Thoughts: I don't really like super old bourbons most of the time. They tend to be oak extract with little in the way of other flavors. But this one I like. Would I personally run out and buy it? Nope. $120-plus is a little outside the budget for me these days. But the flavors are rich and sweet. There is a nice spice to it. And overall, it is a really nice bourbon. 

So if dropping a Benjamin and a half on a single bottle of bourbon doesn't faze you, I'd recommend grabbing one should you see it. If you'd rather use that money for other things, I can't fault you there either. accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support, visit Thanks!

Barrel Aged in a Bottle Oak Infusion Spiral

Posted on by Eric Burke

It really is amazing what you find when you clean your office. A little over a week ago, I got fed up with the disorganized mess that used to be my office. When I realized that I had started to record my monthly (ish) Patreon video in another room, I decided that the time had come to bring it back to a less stressful level of disorder. 

As I was cleaning, I found something that I received on a visit to a local craft distiller that I took with a couple of friends. It's an Oak Infusion Spiral created by The Barrel Mill here in Minnesota. He was talking about some failed experiments that he had tried and held one up. Since he wasn't using it, he asked if we wanted them. There were three of them and three of us, so we all said yes. Upon returning home, I promptly set mine on one of my desks and proceeded to let the sediment of time cover it in a pile of papers, notebooks, and folders. 

So when I found it last week, I was anxious to do something with it. While I have almost no desire to add it directly to a bottle of spirits, I did have a couple of ideas of what to do with it. I was in the process of making a batch of orange bitters and tossed half of it in there while the liquid rested. To be honest, I never thought to do a control batch on that, so I have no idea if it helped, hurt or did nothing. 

With the other half of the spiral though, I decided to get a little more ambitious. I made 750 mL of Manhattan (minus the water/ice) and poured half of it into each of two 375 mL bottles. With one, I put the spiral into and with the other, I left it out. I figured I would let them both sit for seven to ten days and then try each along with a freshly made Manhattan using the same ingredients. (I'll be setting the no spiral one aside to allow it to bottle age for three to six months. Look for that post in the future.)

The main question I wanted to answer was: does this thing do anything? The answer to that is yes. The Manhattan with the oak spiral is noticeably silkier and is better integrated than the freshly made one that I am having next to it. So that's it. The stick does the trick. 

Or does it? Oaked versus fresh doesn't really tell you if it was the time it sat or the spiral doing the work. To answer that, I tried the 10-day-old oaked one next to the 10-day-old non-oaked one. To be honest, I expected that there would be little difference between the two since there wasn't a noticeable "oakier" flavor in the bottle with the stick versus the freshly made drink. But there was a huge difference. The non-oaked version might be the worst Manhattan I've ever had. It basically tastes like I used old ingredients. 

To sum up, I can't say if this will help your whiskey should you stick it in the bottle. But it might help your cocktails. Just don't try to use it with ones that use non-spirit ingredients to minimize spoilage. accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support, visit Thanks!

What I mean when I say I like something (and more)

Posted on by Eric Burke

The germ of this article comes from one I originally posted in February of 2013. I think it's time to surface it again. I've cleaned it up a little since I think I've gotten better at writing in the last four years, but the basic idea behind my reviews haven't changed.

Everyone who writes about whiskey approaches things differently.  Some reviewers like to use numbers. Numbers make a review feel scientific because you've done some math. Some reviewers like to use stars. Stars are easy to visualize and are familiar to Amazon shoppers everywhere. I like to use various cartoon faces and hearts because I'm silly. Probably too silly for my own good. The point is that any and/or all of these are correct. They all adequately represent how much or how little a reviewer liked any given whiskey. But no matter how a writer presents it, we as readers need to remember that the rating is still just a subjective opinion.

It probably goes without saying, but I like bourbon. I enjoy it in many different ways. Sometimes I enjoy thoughtfully tasting bourbon. I pour it into a nosing glass, sit down, concentrate, and try to tease out all the little smells and tastes that are hidden inside the glass. And if it is interesting, I'll probably like it. Other times, I want to enjoy bourbon in a rocks glass while playing cards or watching tv or conversing with friends. I'm not paying a lot of attention to it, but if it tastes good and it's acting as a social lubricant, I'll probably like it. Sometimes I enjoy it in a cocktail. Even if it isn't great neat, if it makes a killer Manhattan, I'll probably like it. And if I like it, then I'll tell you I like it. And I'll put a little smiley face next to it. 

Sometimes I find a bourbon that doesn't taste good and isn't all that interesting. Needless to say, I don't like these. I've gotten pretty good at knowing what I like, and since I buy most of the whiskey reviewed on the site, the odds are that I'm not buying too many duds. But occasionally one slips through, or I buy one specifically for research purposes. When that happens, I'll tell you I dislike it and put a frowny face next to it.

Of course, some whiskeys are just...meh. There is nothing offensive about them. They don't taste bad. I don't dislike it, but I don't like it either. It's just sort of in the middle there for me. In such a case I'll just drop a neutral face on it.

Very occasionally I'll drop a heart on something. This means I love it. No ifs, ands, or buts. I'd take this whiskey over almost any other. 

So to recap:


A heart means I loved this whiskey. I'd have to pause and think (briefly) if forced to choose between it and my wife. (shhhh... don't tell her)


A smiley face means I liked the whiskey or I found it interesting while tasting it. Or I enjoyed myself while drinking it. Or I enjoyed the company I drank it with. Or I was having fun. Most bourbons and ryes will be in this category because, on at least some level, I like most bourbons and ryes I've tasted.


A neutral face means meh. I didn't particularly like this whiskey, but I didn't hate it either. It wasn't for me. But you might like it.


A frowny face means I really disliked this. I probably dumped it out or at least thought about dumping it out.

We all have different life experiences that color our perceptions. I taste JuicyFruit gum when I taste Four Roses. Other people might taste Jackfruit, but I've never had a Jackfruit, so I say JuicyFruit. Some people might taste almond in a whiskey. I'm allergic to nuts, so I only have an academic idea of what almonds taste like. If I use it as a tasting note, it will have come from my wife (we do the notes together). The point is that everyone will like different things and has had different experiences to inform their tastes. And that's pretty cool. It gives us something to talk about. accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support, visit Thanks!

George Dickel No. 8

Posted on by Eric Burke

This is extremely strange. My wife and I both insist that we have reviewed George Dickel Rye whiskey. I remember having the bottle. I remember recommending that people check it out if they liked the 95-5 MGP Rye and wanted to try a version that had been filtered before bottling (since that's all it is). But as I look back through the site, I can't find that review anywhere. I even googled my own site and can't find it.

Is it possible that I'm suffering from my own mini-Mandela Effect? Probably not. I don't know if it is a technology problem or that maybe something came up and I never posted the article, but whatever it is, I apparently have been misremembering all this time. And I guess that just means I have to do it again in the future.

And you might ask why I might need to do that. Well, I've had Dickel Single Barrel selections and reviewed them. I've had the Barrel Select and never reviewed it (as well as the rye...apparently). But until recently I've never had the Flagship No. 8 release or the slightly older No. 12. I don't think...after tonight, I really don't know anymore. And to be honest, It's about time to add them to the list of products I've reviewed. That and if I'm going to talk about the high-end products, it just makes sense to know a little more about the standard releases.

So what is George Dickel No. 8? As I said, it is the most widely distributed of the George Dickel line. George Dickel, being Diageo's answer to Jack Daniel's. Like Jack, it's dripped through a charcoal filtering process before barreling and aging to help remove some of the undesirable byproducts of distillation and help jump-start the aging process. 

But how does it taste? Let's find out.

George Dickel No. 8 Tennessee Whiskey 

Purchase Info: $17.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 40% ABV. Non-age stated. 

Nose: Honey with floral and chalky notes.

Mouth: Sweetness and spice with just a hint of mint.

Finish: Medium length with some warmth. Citrus, cinnamon, mint and chewable vitamins.


Thoughts: In a tasting glass, this is fine. Nothing offensive about it, but nothing really to recommend it either. Unless you either really like or really dislike the mineral/vitamin note. Then you might find something offensive or delicious. 

In a rocks glass or tumbler, this is better and might provide a nice bit of social lubricant as you chat with friends. It's good. It's just not great. And for $18, I'm happy with that. accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support, visit Thanks!

Winchester Straight Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

There are times, dear reader, when I go out of my way to try things just because I have a sneaking suspicion that they will be less than tasty. I consider it to be part of the job that I have assigned myself not just to try things that are amazing, but also those things that may appeal on price alone. To see which of the inexpensive bourbons are hidden gems and which are just fossilized dog turds.

Winchester Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a TerrePURE bourbon from Total Wine. TerrePURE whiskeys are whiskeys that start with whiskey of a certain age. In this case, two years old. They then subject them to a "rapid aging process" that supposedly makes them taste like an average "commodity" bourbon of a greater age. The goal is better tasting bourbon without spending the time and money to wait it out. 

I've had one TerrePURE bourbon in the past. Needless to say, Hayes Parker Reserve was not a big hit in this house. So why on Earth would I go back to that particular well again? Well, unlike the last one of these I tried, this one has "straight" on the label, meaning that it is at least two years old. And I was curious if starting with an older whiskey would help the process out. It's easy to make broad conclusions based on a single data point, but honestly, we all know it needs more than one piece of data to start to define a trend.

Winchester Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Purchase Info: $1.99 for a 50 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: "Aged a minimum of two years in new oak." 45% ABV.

Nose: Grain, bubble gum, menthol, and cinnamon.

Mouth: Cinnamon red hot candies and honey.

Finish: Medicinal menthol notes combine with cinnamon spice and bubble gum.


Thoughts: I was fully prepared to admit that I was wrong about this. That I was wrong about how not awful this was. But then I swallowed. And I felt like I was tasting oral anesthesia mixed with candy. The finish kills this one, which is too bad because the nose and mouth, though young, aren't bad for a two-year-old whiskey. I don't know if it is the whiskey they started with or the fact that it is then "uniquely ultrasonic filtered" that introduced the medicinal anesthetic flavors to the finish. Because they note how the process changes the finish, I'm willing to blame the process, but that is just a guess.

So I got a lot of blow-back the last time I reviewed a TerrePURE whiskey. Folks had purchased it because it was an attractive price and I was essentially called a snob for not liking it. So here's the thing about Winchester. At the store where I bought this, a 750 mL bottle of Winchester runs $24.99.  At that same store, I can get the same size bottle of Four Roses Yellow, Evan Williams (Black, Bonded, and Single Barrel), Elijah Craig, Old Weller Antique, Larceny, Bulleit, Woodford Reserve and Old Forester for less than this. I can get Knob Creek for the same price, and I can buy 1792, Maker's 46, Eagle Rare and Four Roses Small Batch for just a buck or two more. I can honestly find no reason to recommend trying this. If you have tried it and you love it, great! That just means more traditional bourbon for the rest of us. accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support, visit Thanks!