Barterhouse Vs Rhetoric: Only the consumer is the loser here…

Of the current five Orphan Barrels released to date, these are the last two that I have not reviewed and I figured I would do them together to finish them off.  Like pulling off a band-aid, I decided it was better just to end the pain and finish them off as quickly as possible.

The first is Barterhouse 20yr 45.1% abv which is a Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. The second is Rhetoric, the 21yr release, also 45.1% abv and is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Both are bottled in Tullahoma, TN. The last three bottles from Diageo were disappointing to me but interesting in their own way. The bar for me is low for these given how expensive they are.  Note that Rhetoric initially released a 20yr the year before, but I was unable to obtain it.  They say it is the same barrel selections, and that they have enough to release a 22yr next year and maybe we’ll even see a 23 and 24yr?

Both have a medium dark amber color.

Barterhouse has a nice candied orange nose, with some maple charcoal, leather saddle and wet bark. It’s an inviting nose but not overwhelming. Rhetoric has similar notes but more of a mushroomy forest floor undertones and less sweet citrus and maple; there exists hints of ash and smoke lurking deep in the glass. With the low abv, and this much age, it’s not surprising that neither have too much heat on the nose.

Barterhouse is definitely sweet on the tongue. The citrus comes through but there is a spicy pepper on the back that comes through on the palate that I missed on the nose. The spice and a touch of heat continues for a while extending the finish. This isn’t overly woody, a curse other Orphans suffered from. Rhetoric is much more woody and tannic than Barterhouse, equally spicy, but lacks some of the sweetness. The finish is equally long, but has much more wood. Both of these Bourbons are big with impressive finishes.

These are both enjoyable but only one of them is remotely worth the price. The Barterhouse wins. Whatever they did with this one, it retains a nice sweetness, while the Rhetoric shows like it was kept in wood just a few years too long. Both are expensive which hurt their scores.   Either way, neither are must owns, but they do look nice on the shelf.  It is important to mention that when Rhetoric comes out next year with a 23yr, it is best to steer clear of it as my guess is it will continue to get worse as the wood takes over.
Barterhouse 89/100
Rhetoric 21 83/100

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