Background of Barton:
The Barton Distillery claims to have been established in 1879 in Bardstown, Kentucky. But like many bourbon stories, tracking down company lore is a bit problematic.
In around 1899, Tom Moore (who has a rich distillery family history) built a distillery on land adjacent to the Mattingly & Moore distillery (a company that Moore worked for, and previously had owned a stake in, but none of which seems to have any relevance to an “1879” date), then just outside Bardstown, Kentucky. The two distilleries would operate side-by-side, until around the time of prohibition, when Moore would acquire the property, incorporate the distilleries into one, and tear down the old buildings. The resulting distillery (like many) closed during Prohibition. It was reopened after Prohibition, but then sold in 1944 to Oscar Getz of Chicago. Getz renamed the distillery “Barton,” a name apparently “picked from a hat.”
Following this acquisition (and predating to the end of Prohibition), Barton Distillery would primarily produce and age whiskies to be sold to third-party bottlers. But it also produced regionally distributed bourbons under the name “Very Old Barton.” During WWII, it made neutral grain spirits for the military. It switched back to bourbons following the end of the war.
Barton was sold in 1993 to the company that would later be renamed Constellation Brands. Constellation Brands is a large beer, wine, and spirits conglomerate with more than 100 brands in its portfolio, including fairly recently (and maybe most notably for our audience) High West Distillery. In 2009, Constellation sold Barton to Sazerac, also a spirits conglomerate most noted for its ownership of Buffalo Trace. Barton has remained a Sazerac brand ever since.
In 2008, Constellation Brands returned the distillery’s name to the “Tom Moore Distillery.” However, in 2009, when Sazerac purchased the company, it changed the name back to the Barton Distillery. It is now known as the Barton 1792 Distillery.
Very Old Barton:
Barton branded bourbon doesn’t even have a website, which may be telling of Sazerac’s efforts on marketing that particular brand. Little else seems to have been written about Barton, which may be telling of historic perceptions of the product.
Today, the Very Old Barton line of bourbon comes in various varieties. Under the Very Old Barton 6 label are 86, 90 and 100 proof offerings. In around 2014, Barton dropped the 6 year age statement from the Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond, leaving an innocuous “6” on the label. Barton still lists a “6 year” 90 proof bourbon on Sazerac’s website.
Very Old Barton is sold as a bottom shelf product. Even today, the top end Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond is sold for around $12-14. The lowest end Very Old Barton 80 proof can be found for less than $10 for a 750 ml bottle.
1792 branded bourbon was first released by Barton in 2002. Its name “1792” merely refers to the year Kentucky joined the United States. Also then accompanying the “1792” name were the words “Ridgewood Reserve.” Shortly after release, Brown-Forman (owner of the Woodford Reserve brand name) sued Barton for trademark infringement. Apparently, Brown-Forman thought “Ridgewood Reserve” too closely resembled “Woodford Reserve.” In early 2004, the court agreed. Shortly thereafter, Barton renamed the product “1792 Ridgemont Reserve.”
The aforementioned first release under this line was a “Small Batch Aged 8 Years” product. In around 2013 or 2014, Barton dropped “Ridgemont Reserve” from the labels, making “Small Batch” more prominent. “1792” became the products official name. Soon thereafter, Barton extended the 1792 line to include 1792 Sweet Wheat (2015), 1792 Port Finish (2015), 1792 Single Barrel (2016), 1792 High Rye (2016) and 1792 Full Proof (2016). Each are said to be on a “limited” release basis. 1792 225thAnniversary would be released in 2017 to commemorate the 225th anniversary of Kentucky. 1792 Bottled In Bond would be announced in late 2017 and released shortly thereafter. It too is said to be a “limited” release, or possibly even an fall annual release.