Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Sazerac Company, Inc
Distillery: Barton 1792 Distillery
Release Date: Summer 2023 (Ongoing)
Age: NAS (Aged at least 4 years per TTB regulations)
Color: Bright Bronze
MSRP: $60 (2023)
This is one of six brand extensions in the 1792 portfolio, along with 1792 Port Finish, 1792 Single Barrel, 1792 Sweet Wheat, 1792 High Rye, 1792 Bottled in Bond, and 1792 Aged 12 Years. Described by Barton as a “high rye” bourbon, the bourbon used in this bottle skipped the traditional chill filtering that Barton normally uses, and instead was only passed through a plate and frame filter. This bourbon’s name is derived from the fact that it’s been bottled at its original 125 barrel entry proof. While this isn’t a barrel proof offering (due to the fact it was watered down slightly to achieve this proof), it is the highest proof 1792 offering to date.
A strong and potent scent of seasoned oak is at the forefront of the nose. Caramel and barrel char layer in, culminating in a heavy-handed aroma. This is further emphasized by its high proof, which contributes an ethanol note. Once you get past the aroma’s sting-y-ness, far more gentle scents of vanilla, cranberry, and raspberry help round things out. Overall, the scents work quite well together, but it's the aroma’s potency that you’ll remember the most.
Like the nose, seasoned oak, caramel, and barrel char are also the stars of the palate. A thick mouthfeel helps enhance these notes by coating your tongue with its sugary-oak medley. It’s as effective as it sounds, as the palate is surprisingly potent and persistent. The flavors stay constant, almost to a fault, pushing away impeding notes of pecan, dried dates, and an ever-so-minor mix of stone fruit. Though it lacks depth, it makes up for it with potency. This palate is extremely satisfying despite its perceived simplicity. Sometimes a few good flavors and viscosity can make all the difference.
As the finish begins, a gentle transition to light clove, dark chocolate, and brown sugar begins. The flavors aren’t of the same intensity as those found in the palate, though they offer a slight reprieve from the palate’s resounding vigor. As the finish begins to fade, a slight dry oak note reveals itself and the bourbon develops a minor tannic note. With the palate leaning sweet, it's a welcomed contrast, but one to hardly get excited about. Combined with a fleeting cinnamon oak aftertaste, the finish offers just enough to elevate it from just ordinary territory.
Barton 1792’s Bourbon has never come across as overly unique - almost to a fault. In many ways, the 1792 family of bourbons represents a very classic style of bourbon. Caramel and vanilla heavy, with a good balance of sweet and spice, the bourbon feels like it was engineered to be a quintessential bourbon at its core. But with that decision, it often lacks much flair and excitement. This is exemplified in 1792 Aged 12 Years Bourbon. Even at an increase in age (about double compared to the standard release), it's not very transformative or exciting to drink. Sweet Wheat is one of the rare exceptions in the lineup offering a sweet-forward sipping experience that isn’t revolutionary in any way, but nevertheless delivers a very satisfying sip for many bourbon drinkers.
1792 Full Proof in turn has acted in a very similar, if unexciting way. Past batches doubled down on heat and spice over flavor and drinkability. The result has been a lopsided drinking experience. 1792 Full Proof has always had its fans (as most good bourbons do), but past batches left a lot to be desired, especially as its competition has gotten better over time. Perhaps by a degree of luck, or a renewed vigor to jumpstart the brand again, this year’s 1792 Full Proof batch has something to prove. Its flavors don’t reinvent the wheel in any way, but it's how they are delivered that makes the difference. Better balance with a transformative mouthfeel delivery, helps carry the intensity of its flavors precisely.
Like all other forms of bourbon, high proof bourbons have experienced a steady rise in price. With many barrel proof bourbons reaching near three figures now, you either have to accept it, or find a lower proof whiskey as an alternative. Though there are still a few value-based high proof bourbons available like Knob Creek Single Barrel and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof to name a two. 1792 Full Proof has maintained its reasonable price point for many years now, increasing a mere $15 in 7 years. When certain batches didn’t warrant a higher price tag, it was a price that was justified. Now that the 2023 batch comes out swinging, $60 feels like an almost steal for it in today’s market. That could easily change with a follow-up batch that doesn’t hit the same quality bar, but the hear-and-now in 2023, $60 for the current batch leans hard in the consumer's favor.
The 2023 batch of 1792 Full Proof is evidence that you should never count out a bourbon based on past performance.
We’ve had our reservation regarding 1792 Full Proof in the past. Past versions encapsulated and arguably doubled down on the bourbon’s classic and unexciting nature - even to its detriment. Yet, no bourbon is ever set in stone, and the latest batch of 1792 Full Proof is a perfect example of this. While still classic at heart, the palate's fullness of flavor, a thicker mouthfeel, and an overall renewed spirit have transformed the bourbon into an almost new bourbon altogether, and one - especially regarding 1792 bourbon - that’s exciting to drink. It’s a remarkable transformation and is exactly why you should never count a bourbon out and be willing to revisit bourbons over time.