Barton 1792 Distillery’s latest release – 1792 Bottled in Bond – recently hit our local market. We were quick to pick up a bottle. In typical “Flight” Club style, we decided not to review just the 1792 Bottled in Bond in isolation, but instead compare it to its closest Barton brethren: 1792 Small Batch, Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond, and Very Old Barton 80 Proof, with the Bottled in Bonds being direct compares, and the Very Old Barton 80 Proof and 1792 Small Batch being (theoretically) their lower proof versions.
Before we continue further, shout out to BreakingBourbon.com who shared much of this same approach to sampling the 1792 Bottled in Bond. Take a read of their recently released review. Spoiler alert: It looks like we were all fairly consistent on our views!
Background of Barton:
First, a bit of background on 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 225th Anniversary 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. Stay tuned for more reviews from this lineup coming soon.
Very Old Barton 80 Proof
Nose: Ethanol; roasted sweet corn; acetone; caramel; wet oak; almond. (1.5/5)
Palate: Thin. Sweet corn; caramel; some rye herb and spice; white pepper. (2/5)
Finish: Diluted and short, but with some pretty pleasing caramel, slightly drying oak, vanilla, cocoa and peppery spice. Unfortunately its a bit too watered down even on the finish. Still plenty of young corn. (2.5/5)
Overall: The Very Old Barton 80 Proof is a fun experiment on the bottom shelf. It is cheap and it is fairly easy to drink, but it probably doesn’t have much of a place on many bars. I’d prefer to sip on something with less harsh alcohol notes, and with less dilution, and mix with something more flavorful. (2/5)
Value: For $8, you can’t expect much. But this over-performs. Frankly, you can’t expect much more out of this. Its thin, light and water-down in flavor. But it’s $8 and its palatable. (4/5)
Very Old Barton BIB
Nose: Old dry oak; creamed corn; baking spice; sweet vanilla; toffee and peanut; light caramel; tropical fruit and apricot. Plenty of complexity but a bit abrasive and heavy on the creamed corn. (2.5/5)
Palate: Creamy that further thickened on the palate; sweet caramel and vanilla; baking spice; cinnamon; late arriving creamed corn; oak. (3/5)
Finish: A smooth transition from the creamy palate; dry oak; rye bread; cinnamon and pepper spice; a hint of chocolate. Medium. (3/5)
Overall: I struggle with this one. My knowledge and my senses both tell me this is of a lower quality. But, I find enjoyment despite its flaws. I teeter on “satisfied” but ultimately concluded that this could offer just a bit more to reach that level. (2.5/5)
Value: $12 for a 4 year, decent tasting bourbon? Yes. (4/5)
1792 Small Batch
Nose: Butterscotch; oak; rye spice; vanilla; creamed corn but lighter in impact than on the Very Old Barton; baking spice; toffee. (3/5)
Palate: Rye spice; developing heat and cinnamon spice; vanilla; caramel; corn; white pepper (3/5)
Finish: No surprises here as it is identical to the palate; some residual drying oak; Red Hots. (2.5/5)
Overall: There isn’t much refined about this, but there isn’t much off-putting either. The rye flavors define this from start to finish. (3/5)
Value: $24. Satisfied. (3/5)
1792 Bottled in Bond
Nose: Dry oak; butterscotch; rye bread; cinnamon spice; creamed corn; vanilla. Some ethanol burn that when combined with the oak gives the essence of dusty carpet. (2.5/5)
Palate: Initial cinnamon roll sweetness; rye spice; caramel/butterscotch. At the mid palate the texture and spiciness changes, becoming a bit thinner but a bit hotter (both cinnamon and rye spice and ethanol burn). (2.5/5)
Finish: Vanilla; caramel; sweet bread; baking spices; Red Hots. This initially tastes a bit short, but the baking spices and Red Hots develop after the initial sweet vanilla and caramel have long passed. (3/5)
Overall: If rye spice and cinnamon are your thing, then you might just love this. It has a nice balanced oakiness with sweet vanilla profile, but the spice really takes your attention. It isn’t perfect by any means, but I’m happy to sip on it regularly. (3/5)
Value: There is something to be gained by the added 6.3 proof over the Small Batch. It has slightly more concentrated flavors. But only slightly. And at nearly $40 versus $24, I’m not sure that increase is justified. I expect something a bit more for this price, especially compared to the 1792 Small Batch. (2.5/5)
Don’t buy the Very Old Barton for $8. Or do, I don’t care. Its your $8. But do buy a Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond for $12. I did score it lower than either of the 1792 products, because it lacks some refinement. But it is half or one-third the price of the closest 1792 cousins. Its worth a pickup. You might enjoy it.
For me, the Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond is hard to get – so a “just get it” isn’t always an option. It isn’t available locally. So, I’m left with choosing between the 1792 Small Batch and the 1792 Bottled in Bond. Both are satisfactory pours. But they are only slightly better than the Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond. As between the two 1792 products, I do slightly prefer the 1792 Bottled in Bond, but the scores are identical (all else considered, the 1792 Bottled in Bond leaves me wanting more slightly more than the Small Batch). But when factoring in price, 1792 Small Batch probably wins out over the 1792 Bottled in Bond.
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.