Barton 1792 might be one of the most difficult distilleries for me to come to a final verdict on. The readily available 1792 Small Batch has long been one of my personal favorites, and the Barton-sourced Calumet Farm 10-Year I tried over a year ago was one of the most simply (but thoroughly) enjoyable pours I’ve had. Not to mention it was the first distillery I got to tour while in Kentucky, and the smell of the rickhouse they took us into left an understandably strong impression on me. On the other hand, the one bottle of 1792 Full Proof I’ve had thus far was something of a wild ride, and the Calumet Farm 14-Year sample I tried was anything but inspiring. Couple that with some concerning employee reviews on Indeed and I can’t help but feel conflicted about the Bardstown distillery.
Be that as it may, I’m not one to reject the opportunity to try whiskey I don’t normally have access to, and 1792 Aged Twelve Years is an expression I’d absolutely jump at the chance to drink. One of the few things I’d criticize about 1792 Small Batch after finishing my most recent bottle is that the rye notes do reveal a certain degree of youth. At the same time, I’d caution going all out with aging certain barrels of Barton distillate, since the aforementioned Calumet Farm 14-Year disappointed me largely due to its overly oaky profile. Will 12 years for Barton’s own label prove to be the right balance? Time to find out.
Nose: Rich and fruity. Brown butter, cherry, and vanilla. Reminds me of Eagle Rare with how ice cream comes to mind, but it’s richer and fruitier. Juicy red grapes and huge caramel—feels like being in a yet-to-be-dumped barrel inside a rickhouse. Age meshes nicely with the rye grain to create an extravagantly fruity dessert aroma.
Palate: Moderately viscous. Cherry and caramel upfront soon joined by rye spice. Warm Twizzlers, burnt sugars, and fruit. Like having fresh, fruity candy and caramel melt away in your mouth. Narrow flavor spectrum, but what’s there is dialed up to the nth degree. Oak and rye spice play nicely with the corn and age, giving it a tobacco-like personality. However, this power play starts to get a bit tannic over time.
Finish: Fairly lengthy. Black pepper slowly transitions to drying oak with subtle sweetness in-between. Plenty of depth but falls short in the complexity department. More cherry, tobacco, and hints of melon dessert.
This is so close to excellence that it pains me to not sing greater praise. From the first smell I felt won over, certain that I’d be in for a top-tier whiskey to add to the potential unicorn list. And as great as the whiskey is to drink, I can’t say that I’m as swooned as I was by the nose. Still, from my notes you can easily gather that I’m delighted by this whiskey, especially when I take my critic glasses off.
So the 1792 Aged Twelve Years is great, borderline top-tier for me, that leaves one key question: Do I think it’s worth paying up for? Last I checked, MSRP on these bottles is roughly $50, which is an easy sell for such a stellar bourbon. Realistically, however, these will fetch triple digit price tags, and as soon as you double the price on anything it becomes that much less enticing. As someone who generally enjoys Barton products on some level, I wouldn’t be opposed to paying a slight markup, but as soon as that $100 threshold is crossed, I’m looking elsewhere.