Established in 1879, the Barton 1792 Distillery is the oldest fully-operating Distillery in Bardstown Kentucky boasting 28 barrel ageing warehouses on 196 acres. Amongst a vast portfolio of spirits, Barton makes bourbons such as 1792 bourbon, Very Old Barton bourbon, and Kentucky Tavern. The distillery itself was renamed to the Barton 1792 Distillery in 2009 after the operation was bought over by the Sazerac Co. who decided to capitalize on the names of the distillery’s two most popular products, 1792 bourbon, and Barton bourbon. The significance of the 1792 date in the name is that this was the year Kentucky became a state.
As I mentioned in my 1792 Small Batch review, the 1792 family of whiskies includes seven other releases, including 1792 Sweet Wheat, Port Finish, Full Proof, Single Barrel, High Rye, Bottled in Bond, and a limited 225th Anniversary release. The 1792 Full Proof was first released in 2016 and was the fourth addition to the 1792 line-up after the brand dropped their age-statement. It features a non-chill filtered bourbon that’s only passed through a plate and frame filter before being proofed down to the original barrel-entry proof of 125 proof (62.5% abv) and being bottled. This is not a barrel proof bourbon as at least some water has to be added to bring the whiskey down to this proof. However, being 125 proof, it’s probably safe to assume that most of the flavour has not been compromised by this. Along with their Small Batch and Single Barrel offerings, 1792 also allow consumers and retailers to pick single barrels for this expression. The man behind this barrel selection program at 1792, Mr. Josh Hollifield, had the following to say in Angel’s Share Magazine when talking about this particular expression:
“…It is aged slightly longer and at the very top of our warehouses. This allows the migration of the bourbon to go deeper into the wood and pick up more flavor. Combine this with the fact that is the only expression in the 1792 line up to be non-chill filtered, you are getting as close to straight out of the barrels as we have put on the market.”
Of course I also couldn’t write this review without mentioning that this expression took the prize of World’s Best Bourbon and Best Kentucky Bourbon at the 2018 World Whiskies Awards, and has to date bagged itself 10 awards from various spirits competitions.
The bottle I’ll be reviewing today is a 1792 Full Proof single barrel pick that was selected by the spirits team at Cork ‘N Bottle. Knowing that his time at Cork ‘N Bottle was coming to an end, Spirits Manager Mr.Ed Bley brought his soon-to-be replacement Mr. Eric Bollmann with him on this pick on a cold March morning where they picked their barrel in the guest shop – it was too cold to do the pick in the rick-houses. Seeing as they both have the initials EB this pick was named EB² and features a sticker with their faces superimposed over a photo of Arnold Swartznegger and Danny DeVito from the 1988 comedy classic Twins. This pick was released on the same day as Cork ‘N Bottle’s Makers Private Select batch #6, and their Weller Antique ‘Sweet Harmony’ blend and sold out in just a few hours but I was lucky enough to get a bottle through a friend that was there on the day.
Name: 1792 Full Proof
Age: NAS (older than standard 1792 Small Batch expression)
Proof: 125 proof (62.5% abv)
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Mashbill: Not Disclosed but this bourbon is marketed as a high-rye bourbon so estimates place the amount of rye at around 15-20% with the remainder consisting of malt and corn (at least 51% corn)
Producer: Barton 1792 Distillery
Nose: The nose opens with a sweet deliciously deep butterscotch that instantly has me thinking of Werther’s Originals hard caramels, earthy white pepper follows with slightly herbaceous oak and hints of dark fruits and barrel char.
Palate: The palate is thick and oily and continues from the nose with a mix of deep caramel hard candies, spicy earthy rye, and then slightly astringent charred oak notes from the back.
Finish: The finish opens with a wave of spice that fades to creamy caramel hard candies, honey roast nuts, and a spicy, tannic aftertaste that is both bitter and sweet
In the spirit of full disclosure this was my first taste of 1792’s Full Proof release, however, I did have the opportunity to compare it to a small sample of the regular (non-single barrel) Full Proof release for this review. As expected this barrel pick took all those caramel, rye, and oak flavours found in the standard release and expanded them making them creamier, earthier, and smokier, adding depth and complexity to make this a more well-balanced and robust bottling of what’s found in the regular release. With a dash of water added ( it almost killed me to do it) I got added notes of floral vanilla, dark fruits (think fresh black cherries), and the astringent oak was replaced by dark chocolate. This is a very interesting bourbon because it drinks like a high-proof bourbon, however, there’s no dominating alcohol on the nose, palate, or finish. Instead you get a bourbon made to be enjoyed one sip at a time with big bold flavours that are carried very well by the high proof. This is my favourite 1792 expression to date and, although I’m a big fan of both the Small Batch and the Port Finish, this un-filtered flavour bomb has earned its place at the top. Needless to say I’ll now be sourcing as many 1792 Full Proof store picks as I can in order to see how the quality of these vary across barrels (for drunken science!).
With every store or bourbon group pick I try I’m thinking more and more that these picks are where the true quality whiskies are. Yes limited releases are Also special but what’s more limited than a 240 bottle yield from a barrel picked by a man whose palate is second to none? Not only are you getting a quality whiskey a majority of the time (who would do a bad pick?!), but many times you’re getting it at or very close to its recommended retail price. In a world where limited releases are increasing in price it seems barrel picks are the way to go in terms of quality and keeping costs sane. Why spend $200 on that new limited release when you can get multiples of an amazing store pick for the same money?
Those with an ear on the ground would Also have already heard that on September 1st Ed Bley will be departing from Cork ‘N Bottle. Now in the world of barrel picks Ed’s picks for Cork ‘N Bottle practically speak for themselves, often selling out in mere hours and then later for multiples of their original retail price on the secondary Market. So, when news hit that Ed would be leaving to pursue the ultimate bourbon geek dream of owning his own distillery, it would be putting it lightly to say that the reactions were mixed. Everyone wishes Ed the all best in his new venture Rising Tide Spirits, but several fans of the store couldn’t help but fear for the future of barrel picks at Cork N Bottle. Foreseeing this reaction, and not being willing to sacrifice the strong reputation he has built in the past 4 years, Ed handpicked his successor to the CnB throne, Mr Eric Bollmann. Eric has been working alongside Ed since at least late March to not only expand his own barrel picking experience, but also to ensure a smooth transition when Ed’s time at Cork ‘N Bottle ends. Having already spent many years picking barrels for DEP’s Eric is no newbie to the game and, from what I’ve heard, both Ed and Eric are confident that the team at Cork and Bottle will continue to put out some of the best barrel picks in the US after he leaves on September 1st. Eric joins a team that Ed describes as having “a level of knowledge that is unparalleled right now.” Having tried several of Cork’s barrel picks at this stage I’m excited to see what Eric’s going to do with Cork ‘N Bottle.
Try or Buy?
If you like your bourbon high-rye, high-proof, and high-flavour then 1792 Full Proof is the complete package. If you can find yourself a great store pick then you would be even better off and my advice would always be to stock multiples of your favourite store picks. Buy buy buy!