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Review: 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Barrel Select Bourbon

Barton Brands Distillery, owned by Sazerac (the same folks that own Buffalo Trace), has produced 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon for almost a decade or so now. This bourbon is called “barrel select”, which essentially means it is a small batch bourbon. The master distiller selects barrels that he deems “ready” for batching together with other barrels and then bottles these “batches” separately. The minimum age of each barrel in 1792 (the year KY became the 15th state) is 8 years. That’s a fair bit of age, and what some believe to be a real sweet spot for most bourbons. Of course that’s extremely subjective.

With so many fantastic American Whiskeys under the Sazerac umbrella, I am interested in seeing how this one stacks up. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and had a pour of 1792.

1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon, 46.85% abv (93.7 Proof), $25

Color: Deep Amber/Copper

Nose: Firm rye spice really elbows its way through at first with undercurrents of ripe fruit (Red Apple, Banana, Orange rind) and soft caramel eventually revealing themselves. There’s a ton of dried oak throughout. This is rye forward bourbon for sure and really shines after a good bit of air time. I find this common with many high rye mashbills (Old Grand-Dad Bottled in Bond comes to mind).

Palate: Much like the nose, the rye asserts itself immediately. It’s prickly, peppery, and very dry with mint, licorice, cinnamon and again loads of dried wood flavors. It’s certainly a bit of an oak monster with some astringency and a thin quality on the palate. Some maple sugars and faint fruit flavors (apple, dried apricot, golden raisin) take time to come through.

Finish: Bright and sharp with ample cinnamon warmth (big red chewing gum). The rye and oaky dryness again dominate. Moderate in length

Overall: There are some things to really like with this whiskey, but unfortunately some misses as well. Firstly it is not cloyingly sweet in the least, and might appeal to folks that don’t have a big sweet tooth. It also has a bracing nose backed with fruit and subtle sweetness that I felt was quite good. However, I enjoyed sniffing this one more than sipping it. That mentioned dryness overpowers and dominates the richer, sweeter undertones. Those flavors simply can’t get enough traction on the sip. With a bit of air time and a splash of water, things open up considerably, but it’s still unbalanced.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.9 (Good)

33 Comments

  1. Allen says:

    We actually had this (along with Blanton’s and Eagle Rare 10) at a tasting I hosted last Saturday, and my favorite of the bunch was the 1792. If asked before hand I would have said that the Blanton’s was head and shoulders above the other two. After tasting through them, however, the 1792 just seemed more interesting to me. For lack of a better descriptive term, I actually found a nice “sweetness” to it that the other two didn’t have. If I were to taste them all again tomorrow I might not enjoy the 1792 as much, but I think it’s certainly on my radar as a possible regular purchase. Since it is a small batch release perhaps my bottle may be in some ways quite different than yours? I guess it’s kind of a grey area between a standard expression and a single barrel.

  2. iskch1 says:

    I will have to try it again tonight. I don’t remember been an oak monster. I will report back.

  3. Alec says:

    I loved this bourbon! the batch of this i got had much more complexity than i am used to in a bourbon (in a good way). i noticed lots of ginger too. You could have gotten an off batch or just have a different take on it.

    Any chance you might review benchmark no. 8 in the future?

  4. Joe Serapilio says:

    I had this bourbon once,didn’t really care for it.Kinda flat&one dimensional.Perhaps I got a bad bottle.Been meaning to revisit this stuff.

  5. DBMaster says:

    One of the fun things about subjective things are that they are subjective. I really like 1792. Is it the best I’ve ever had? No. Is it exceptionally good for the price – to me – yes! I find it to be rich, nicely viscous, and possessed of great balance of wood and rye. The greatest thing about it is the price. And, the fact that I do not care what anyone else thinks about it. As Ralf Mitchell says, “There you have it.”

    No offense to anyone intended, BTW.

  6. C Welch says:

    This is one of my favorite pours, irrespective of price. It does seem to divide folks. I can’t help but speculate that the extra malted barley in the mashbill (I believe the highest percentage of any bourbon) might make enough difference to come through in the final product.

  7. C Welch, DBMaster, Alec, and Allen – I love the backing of 1792. It says a lot that they have struck a chord with the majority that have commented so far. It’s a great price, and well made, but just a bit one sided for me. Great cocktail whiskey because the spicy dryness would probably translate well.

    Joe – you hit it on the head for me. One dimensional. It was spicy and zippy enough so as not to come across flat, but absolutely on dimensional.

  8. DBMaster says:

    Barley? Yes, I think I may have read that somewhere. That is probably what produces that wonderful viscosity that I like in this bourbon. I was almost afraid to try it, initially, because the bottle is WAY too fancy for a whiskey at this price. I kept thinking, “What’s wrong with THIS picture.” ‘Nuff said about that, I suppose. This one has been part of my regular rotation for the past couple of years.

    One more thing I will mention before I spare you my rhetoric. The burlap “collar” on the neck is excellent for absorbing that little trickle of booze that always seem to run down the side of any bottle that uses a cork. I find that screw top bottles always pour more neatly and corked bottles always run. Have y’all noticed that as well?

  9. DBMaster, I love the burlap collar and the bottle. Great packaging indeed. I hate the bottle drip, and that little collar just soaks it right up.

    As for “viscosity”, I’m getting a WHOLE different deal than what you guys are getting. Not right or wrong, just different, and quit dry and thin.

  10. DBMaster says:

    Jason, I definitely get what you are saying. This is a bourbon that suits me when the mood is right. When I say it’s part of my regular rotation what I really mean is that I buy a bottle about four times a year.

    This would be a good time to mention that I am a fan of “dry” bourbons. That may explain why George Dickel No. 12 has been my favorite for years. It has that Tennessee character without being as sweet as its cousin.

    I love this kind of discourse. Agreeable disagreement is what used to make this country great. We do not seem to be able to express differing opinions anymore without becoming defensive and nasty.

  11. Agreed DB – healthy disagreement does us all some good. Plus with whiskey- one mans junk is another mans pleasure. If you like it it’s good. The End.

  12. DBMaster says:

    He he he he he, you said “junk.”

    Cheers, amigo.

  13. Allen says:

    If there is a greater proportion of barley in the mash bill that might explain why I find it so interesting.

  14. Rick B. says:

    Nice, I’ve been wanting to try this one, just haven’t found it yet out here in the hinterlands.

    I like some rye spice and a dry finish, so this would probably suit my taste.

    Also, speaking of sweet spots, the $25 price tag seems reasonable too. I’m usually reluctant to pay much more than that for a bourbon I’ve not already tasted.

  15. MW says:

    1792 is a cabinet staple at my house. Wonderful sipper & also makes an excellent Manhattan. For those who haven’t tried 1792 for several years, I think you will find it improved. Sazerac has put considerable money & care in to this distillery in the last couple years. The previous owners were treating this distillery as a poor cousin. I was there last fall & already, it looks better, employees seem to be happier & the whiskey is definitely getting better. Constellation brands sold it to Sazerac in 2009. I think things will only improve in the future & that’s good for all us whiskey lovers!

  16. Paul in NoVA says:

    Everyone is right! That’s the confounding thing about this bourbon to me, I really enjoyed the first pour or two, over ice (sacriledge!) and with a splash, this toned down the rye and helped bring out some of the flavors found in the nose. Then a nice straight pour left me wanting a lot more, would agree 100 percent with the “thin” comments, and a bit of a sharp, sour note on the finish, a little off-putting, at least to me, and perhaps batch-specific as some have suggested? Some merits here, enjoyed the nose immensely, very interesting, but an under-performer in taste and finish. Agree it has mixing potential, and for the price point I think that salvages my interest in this whiskey. Oh, and I love the bottle too! Finally, agree with prior comments that this discourse is great, agreeing to disagree never tasted so good. Thanks all.

  17. sku says:

    Great post! I’m not a big fan of this one and actually think it had declined over the years. Most disappointingly, this is one that really should be better. Very Old Barton 100 proof is great, and this is supposed to be the premium version, so why is it mediocre? Instead of spending time on this, they should just do a wide release of VOB.

  18. Sku, very true on the VOB – absolutely love the stuff. VOB Bottled in Bond, the 100 proof you mention, is my “house” bourbon. I find it dramatically more balanced than 1792. I am no distiller so this is only a guess based solely on taste. 1792 tastes as though they are searching the high and extreme ricks for barrels. Something a little more gently aged might be ideal.

    Now that said, I’m really surprised to see so many differences here, which also speaks to potential batch to batch variances. And actually I think that’s great if that’s the case. It’s a small batch – they should have some variance release to release. I’m going to continue to keep an eye out for these and post updates on what I find.

  19. Rick B – I think you will probably enjoy this one. Very rye forward and dry. And as you mention, it’s a great price!

  20. iskch1 says:

    Agree, Jason. Maybe the terminology B.T gives to 1792 “barrel select” they really mean it. I don’t know! The beauty is that is an affordable bourbon and we all have diferent opinions and taste.

  21. BMc says:

    Yeah, this is an awesome set of posts – it seems like 1792 is in Woodford Reserve territory for how it splits people down the middle!

  22. SteveBM says:

    It’s been awhile since I’ve sipped this one, basically because my experience with it was similar to Jason’s – dry, thin, and one dimensional. Reading some of the comments here sort of piques my interest a bit and the $25 price point can justify a “revisiting experiment”. :)

    As for the dreaded bottle drip… I simply take the cork and run it up the side of the bottle on it’s way home. Problem solved.

  23. Texas says:

    Jason, I know VOB 100 is one of your favs. Is 1792 just VOB plus 2 more years or is it a different mashbill? If it is the same mashbill why do you think 2 more years makes it go down hill?

  24. Beautiful question Texas. Here’s the thing – logic gets thrown out the window with whiskey production. Obviously – loads of science behind it and a good measure of art, but what I mean is age and what you’ll eventually end up with. On paper you are correct. 1792 is the same mashbill with a little more age, but this is where my comment comes in RE: them aging it less aggressively. 1792 tastes as though they went to the upper and extreme ricks for the barrels. The barrels have very intense wood interaction. VOB on the other hand tastes much more balanced. I do not know for sure if this is the difference but that’s the way it tastes to me – right or wrong. I think VOB is more gently aged whiskey.

    The high rick houses can bring a lot of fantastic qualities to the table (lots of reward, but a little risk too). Jim Rutledge at Four Roses ages in more single story warehouses. Less variance and more consistency. I’d argue less good drama sometimes, but the wood doesn’t overpower.

    These are just my humble thoughts.

  25. Texas says:

    Thanks, Jason. It’s answers like this that make me say that you have the best whisk(e)y blog/review site around. Thanks!

  26. iskch1 says:

    Jason, last week I went to Ft. Worth, Texas for a family wedding and during my time I stop at a Candy Store to stock some “table wines”. As soon as i walk in, I was greeted by the Candy Store owner offering me a SINGLE BARREL VERSION OF 1792 FOR SALE. He explained that they purchase one whole barrel to be bottle (similar to what others do) for them. So, you guess right… I bought one bottle. My wife and I compare both regular & single barrel yesterday and let me tell you what a difference. I think the single barrel version is more than 50+ abv. and when I sipped & tasted it will envelop your whole palate . Yes, it does have more oak on it but put a few drops of water and the bourbon opens up with loads of vanilla & cinamon. Is far smoother than the regular version. I paid $ 29.00 for a 750ml. bottle.

  27. iskch1 – sounds great, and I believe it. A single barrel vs. a small batch can be a HUGE difference.

  28. DaveG says:

    Hey Jason – You know, sometimes a whiskey or Scotch vexes me to the point that I chase down reviews AFTER buying and tasting (either to confirm or dispel my confusion). My overall impression of the 1792 exactly echoes something you wrote in your review – it is a whiskey that I enjoyed sniffing, but not so much tasting. I found myself lingering over the nose, even to the point of nosing the glass and putting it back down repeatedly without sipping. If I were blindfolded, I’d swear some prankster was switching the glass between nosing and tasting.

    Before making a final determination, however, I will give this one another try today without having tasted anything else beforehand. Sometimes in the course of tasting (for me at least), the context in which one tastes can alter the resulting impression. Going from a Speyside malt to a Rye, for example, can make the Rye seem more bitter as the subtle sweetness is lost in the lingering memory of the Speyside.

    I am working my way through the under $30 whiskies and don’t know if the Ridgemont will be a keeper for me. Tough competition with Woodford Reserve, Elijah Craig and Rittenhouse Rye out there.

  29. Keep us posted DaveG! Cheers!

  30. DBMaster says:

    I was rereading this post and comments after purchasing a new bottle. It has been at least six months since I last bought 1792 and my local liquor emporium had it on sale for $18.50 for the holidays. Funny thing is that it now does seem “thin” to me. Maybe that is because I just finished a bottle of Breckenridge bourbon that was gifted to me by my dad after his recent trip to Breckenridge. Pretty good stuff, BTW, for a young bourbon. Not at all like a Kentucky bourbon, but that is OK.

    My primary comment is related to the comparisons of 1792 to VOB BIB. We are talking about two different species here, guys. 1792, while “small batch” is still a mingling of barrels that may be from distillations of differing time periods. BIB, by definition is a mingling of barrels distilled during one “season.” I would have to assume that a season will be contained within a single year. Also, I doubt that the aging is still taking place in a bonded warehouse, but it is most likely happening in a designated area. Whether or not that encompasses multiple rickhouses or multiple levels of a single rickhouse is open to speculation. Therefore, whether you like or don’t like 1792 you can’t really compare it too closely with VOB BIB even if it is made with the same mashbill.

  31. Jim Listerman says:

    Interesting Info Regarding Barton 1792 Distillery…….

    Fermentation Tanks Are OUTSIDE !

    Not In Distillery Building !*!

    Covered Tops !*!*!

    Tour “Tastings” Include……
    1792 Ridgemont Reserve and Very Old Barton (VOB) 86 Proof Aged 6 Years

    YUM !

    Jim Listerman
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  32. colleen says:

    how much does a glass of 1792 cost?

  33. Andy says:

    Colleen $21.99 on sale is what I paid.
    My sentiments echo those that have posted most positively about it. I might add also that this bourbon does not linger too long on the tongue with floods of flavor going on long after it has passed over it. You get all that you need while its there, then subtle warm peppery cinnamon is left, but cleansed, primed and begging for another sip. There’s no hint of aftertaste to interfere with your next sip like I’ve experienced with other bourbons. Like brushing your teeth and then trying to enjoy your coffee.
    If you’ve categorized yourself as a wheated only drinker and your still searching for the one, give 1792 a try.

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  1. [...] It doesn’t spread itself too thinly, preferring to focus on just one bourbon whisky: the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Barrel Select. There’s a reason why the Kentucky Bourbon Festival used it as their official toasting drink! [...]

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