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Head-to-Head-to-Head Review of Bourbon from the Barton 1792 Distillery

Posted on by Eric Burke

I am a cheap bastard. I listen to my music on Spotify (the free account) instead of buying it. I take a sandwich for lunch everyday. I don't go to the movies every month, or even every six. I drove my last car until I was spending almost as much on repairs as I would on a car payment. I drink bourbon and I like bourbon that is under $20 per liter. 

That doesn't mean I won't spend more on a good bottle. I spent $100 on one just a couple weeks ago. I'll spend money if it is deserved. I go to movies that will benefit from the big screen and big sound. When I bought a car, I bought one with all the electronics you could ask for. I buy those few albums that I know I'll be listening to in a few years. I try to buy my dinner hot and pre-made once every couple of weeks, even if it is just delivery. 

If you wanted, you could probably call me "frugal," but I tend to be a bit more plain spoken than that. And besides, cheap doesn't offend me. Cheap means something is worth more than it costs. I love cheap. Cheap is your rough-around-the-edges uncle. Frugal is that quiet chap in your office who seems just a bit stuck up. Cheap is fun. Frugal you are afraid of offending. You don't worry about cheap. Cheap can take care of itself. 

And that is why I picked two of the bourbons I did for tonight's tasting. If you were being nice, you could call them inexpensive. Or a good value. But let's not start mincing words now. These are two cheap bourbons. Even the most expensive of the two is under $25 for a 1.75 L at the Party Source. But, that said, I made a special point of searching these out the last time I was in Kentucky. Everything I read, said that they are a well kept secret in the Bluegrass State and that they are much better than the price tag suggests.

So last time I was there, I picked up a liter of 86 proof Very Old Barton and a 200 mL of the 100 proof version for comparison. Tonight, because it is made at the same distillery and because I prefer a three way double blind, I threw in a pour of my Liquor Barn Selected1792 Ridgemont Reserve as well (second series #5 according to the label). 

Each of these pours was really hot on the nose initially. Just overpowering with alcohol. So in an unusual move, I let them sit for five minutes before coming back to them.

Whiskey A

Nose: First thing I'm hit with is dried corn sitting in a silo. After a while it shows some floral and sweet scents. After a couple sips I could swear someone is baking sweet cornbread in the glass.

Mouth: This disappoints. It's all harsh alcohol on the tongue tip and stays hot as you swallow. It does sweeten some as it moves back in the mouth though.

Finish: warm and peppery. This one definately leaves a tingle that lasts for a while.

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Thoughts: This one is so hot that I'd drink it with a couple ice cubes or some water, but even then it wouldn't be my first choice. It's not bad, but not great. It's just meh.

Whiskey B

Nose: Strange as it sounds, the first thing I'm struck with is chocolate milk. But then moving into the smell of silage. Finally landing on sweet brown sugar. 

Mouth: Sweet at the tip of the tongue, but becomes a bit peppery as it moves back in the mouth. Adding a bit of water mutes the pepper and allows some of the wood to show itself.

Finish: This leaves you with all the stereotypical bourbon flavors. Caramel vanilla and oak. It's nice.

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Thoughts: This is certainly more interesting to me than A was. Whiskey A was all about the heat. This is a bit more nuanced. That said, it's still just sort of...there. It'll do in a pinch, but also wouldn't be my first choice.

Whiskey C

Nose: This starts just a bit sour. But that fades. You are left with wood and brown sugar.

Mouth: This is very gentle on entry. Sweet with a mild pepper. It's almost cooling after the other two.

Finish: Very quick finish. There is a lot of vanilla along with a hint of dryness.

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Thoughts: This is easy drinking to the point of being boring. And that's why I like it. I'd reach for this while playing cards or having an animated conversation with a close friend. Something where I don't want to think about my whiskey, I just want to drink it and enjoy what's going on around me.

So which is which? Well, I was sort of surprised to find out that I had ranked them in inverse order to their price. I liked the 86 proof Very Old Barton the most (C),  the 1792 the least (A) and the 100 proof Very Old Barton landed in the middle (B).

Keep in mind that this is not the regular release of 1792 so your milage may vary. This one may very well have been chosen for it's heat. I have tasted it side by side with the regular release and I didn't notice much of a difference, but you never know.