Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Sazerac Company Inc.
Distillery: Barton 1792 Distillery
Release Date: July 2019 (Released annually)
Age: 12 Years
Mashbill: Undisclosed (Marketed as “High rye,” and believed to be 15-25% rye)
Color: Rusty Gold
MSRP: $50 (2019)
1792 Small Batch is Barton’s flagship bourbon. Having undergone naming changes over the years from 1792 Ridgewood Reserve, to 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, and finally to 1792 Small Batch. The brand once featured an 8 year age statement found on the back of the bottle, but was removed in late 2013. Not long after, the bottle design was updated in conjunction with the change to 1792 Small Batch. With this change, a substantial line extension took place that included 1792 Sweet Wheat, 1792 Port Finish, 1792 Single Barrel, 1792 Full Proof, and 1792 High Rye. In July 2019, 1792’s age statement returned, now aged 12 years with an MSRP of $50. One batch of 1792 Aged Twelve Years will be released each summer. For more background, check out the company’s press release.
Traditional bourbon notes of vanilla and caramel are plentiful, with toffee and honey providing an additional layer of sweetness. Oak is also present, but gentle in its assertiveness. Overall mild in complexity and intensity, the nose is quite enjoyable, but plays it safe.
Walnut, toasted oak, and rye spice produce a bold front to the flavor profile. Much of the sweetness the nose hinted at has disappeared on the palate. Almost immediately you can feel the dryness of the bourbon hit your tongue. Without much sweetness to help balance this, the bourbon is a bit one-sided and certainly doesn’t hide its age.
Quite dry, with ample amounts of oak and bitter tannins throughout the medium length finish. Mild caramel and nutty notes come forth, but are devoid of any sweetness. It has some heat that ramps up in the finish, further amplifying its oakiness which leaves a rather dry aftertaste.
Once upon a time, 1792 Small Batch featured an 8 year age statement and we were big fans of this iteration. It offered a good balance of age and youth compounded by bold flavors and ample oak. We were sad to see it go in 2013, as the new no age statement 1792 Small Batch is much more straightforward, and as a result less interesting despite being very drinkable.
Since then, Barton has released a slew of unique variations of 1792, with Sweet Wheat and Port Finish rating highest. We’re continuously impressed by 1792 single barrel selections, some of which completely took us by surprise with their flavor profiles and extreme drinkability.
Age statements have been slowly returning (Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 7 Year, Knob Creek Small Batch 9 Year), and others remain steadfast (Henry McKenna 10 Year, Eagle Rare 10 Year), yet outside of limited releases they are, for the most part, few and far between. For Barton’s latest 1792 release, the bourbon itself may not be overly unique, but it’s the bourbon’s 12 year age statement that will draw attention. What was once common is now unique. How unique will depend on how long you’ve been around bourbon, but at this moment in time, it’s uncommon to see a 12 year age statement.
It was to be expected that after removing age statements, distilleries would return them one day, except pricing these “new” products at higher point. Barton could have easily returned 1792 Small Batch’s original age statement of 8 years and charged $50. This probably would have been met with some contention as a single digit age statement just doesn’t seem that impressive anymore, despite a world with few age statements. Yet, $50 for a 12 year old bourbon is quite acceptable in today’s marketplace and maintains 1792’s value pricing that they’ve long been known for. For its 2019 batch, the additional aging time didn’t do much to improve the base product, and in more than a few ways, probably harmed it. In fact, the product reminds me of what a lot of age stated bourbons used to taste like earlier this decade: Oaky, serviceable, and more times than not, just average. On paper, $50 in today’s marketplace is a great value for a 12 year old bourbon. I just wish this 12 year old 1792 bourbon was a little bit better to make it an even greater value.
The return of a 1792 age statement is commendable, but its lack of sweetness against heavy oak and dryness makes the product come up short.
We seem to have moved past the period of brands removing age statements and entered into a period of them returning, but at a higher price than before. At least in 1792’s case, its age statement returned not at 8 years, but 12 years. I can see how that might help justify its new higher price, but it certainly didn’t make it a better bourbon because of it. It’s a bolder bourbon, with heavy rye spice and oakiness, but its lack of sweetness makes it unbalanced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great seeing 1792 with an age statement again, but this particular brand might be better served with a slightly lower one as proven in the past. You can have a lot of fun tasting all of the variations in the 1792 portfolio, but the age old stereotype that older bourbon is better - at least in this case - is debunked here.
It’s worth keeping in mind though, the 1792 brand doesn't necessarily strive to be the best bourbon on the shelf. It’s a steadfast middle-of-the-road bourbon presented at a great value and that is once again true here. 1792 Aged Twelve Years is a curiosity, and while Barton should be commended for returning to an age stated bourbon, the product in its current state just isn’t reaching the potential I believe it has.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Sazerac / Barton 1792 Distillery. We thank them for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.