When the topic of sourcing whiskey is brought up, three companies instantly spring to my mind: MGP, George Dickel, and Barton 1792. A little time and research are all you need understand how ubiquitous these three are. In the case of Barton 1792, brands like Sam Houston, Calumet Farm, and Thomas S. Moore offer a mere impression of just how far this particular Sazerac company reaches.
Then there’s the key in-house brand, 1792. While expressions like the Sweet Wheat, 12-Year, and Port Finish are often subject to allocation, the entry-level Small Batch is easy to find and often affordable. One of the more curious aspects about the Small Batch is the word choice used on the bottle, claiming it’s “incomparably brash and bold, yet smooth and balanced.” Can’t say I’d think to use those words together to describe a bourbon, but let’s see if the drinking experience proves to be enlightening.
Nose: Caramel, pepper, oak, cherry, and rye spice. Orange peel and brown sugar. Peppery wood is ample and nicely integrated. Hints of banana, toffee roasted peanuts, and vanilla. Treads on candy-like territory. Gets fruiter after sipping, with some cinnamon coming out.
Palate: Lightly silky. Caramel, vanilla, and pepper upfront soon followed by banana and cinnamon. Standard brown sugar sweetness pairs with the rye and pepper to give this a sweet and spicy personality, but definitely leans more into sweet. The gentlest grazing of oak tannins.
Finish: Medium. Balanced oak. Vaguely fruity vanilla with the black pepper mellowed out, More caramel and some toasted sugars followed by rye spice and maybe some actual peppers (chili or red pepper flakes).
Some bourbons manage to check most (if not all) of the necessary boxes. For me, 1792 Small Batch is one of those. Pricing and availability are of no concern since almost all stores carry this, and the $25-$30 price tag positions it in a highly competitive bracket. The drinking experience combines candy sweetness with a tangible but not overwhelming pepper and spice personality that’s right in my wheelhouse. That combination also lends itself for use in cocktails, which may explain why many of the above-average bars I’ve been to will use this in their featured Old Fashioneds.
What this ultimatley comes down to is 1792 Small Batch being a jack of all trades. That may carry the “master of none” designation with it, but the accessibility and versatility are so high that the lack of being masterful is hardly of concern. It’s a personal favorite and top contender for my overall go-to.