Many trains of thought run through my consideration of the subject of today’s review. If you’ll permit me a bit of free-associative meandering, I’ll address them roughly in the order in which they occur to me.

Let’s start with the distillery: Barton 1792, owned by Sazerac, parent company of Buffalo Trace. I find it interesting that – in this era during which brands are leaning into direct engagement through revamped visitors centers and other “experiences” – Barton 1792 seems to have gone the opposite direction altogether. From the distillery’s own web site:

“After careful review of our brand needs, plant capacity, safety, and practicality we have made the decision to no longer offer public tours at the distillery effective June 30, 2022. Instead, we’ll concentrate Barton 1792 Distillery on what is does best: producing the world’s best whiskey.”

This is in keeping with the industrial ethos of the place, at least. In comparison to the Disney-fied James B. Beam distilling company (just up the road in nearby Clermont), the Barton 1792 distillery in Bardstown has all the picturesque charm of a steel mill. When considering the logistical and financial challenges associated with a facelift, it seems like the Sazerac bean counters decided that Barton 1792 will serve better as a workhorse to support its own (and other) brands, rather than as a public face for the company.

I peppered Buffalo Trace P.R. manager Amy Preske with questions about Barton 1792 and this expression, particularly; they are sprinkled throughout this review:

Malt: Are there any plans to reopen Barton 1792 to visitors?
Amy: No. While we enjoyed opening the distillery for tours for about a decade, the 1792 Visitor Center outgrew its space. We believe the investment to expand it and keep up with industry trends is better utilized via reinvestment in production so we can make more award-winning bourbon.

Malt: Will the 1792 and Bartons brands have a “home” at Buffalo Trace?
Amy: No. We intend to remain focused on our brands which are produced at Buffalo Trace Distillery at Buffalo Trace Distillery, respectively.

So, there you have it. Like Willy Wonka’s factory before the fateful day of reopening, fans of Barton 1792 will be able to glimpse the origin of their preferred whiskey only through the locked gates of the facility.

As for my personal relationship with the distillery: I have previously reviewed the Full Proof, Small Batch, and Bottled-in-Bond expressions (both store retail and store pick). I awarded them scores of 6/10, 6/10, 4/10, and 3/10 respectively. I’d describe myself as neither a fan nor a hater of Barton 1792. I do not seek it out, but I am open to it when a bottle comes into view.

Speaking of bottles coming into view: I moved recently, which means that the liquor stores in my area are mostly terra incognita to me. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I walked into a new (to me) store and saw many of my favorite everyday expressions (Rare Breed, OGD 114) alongside more limited offerings (Maker’s BRT-01), all priced somewhere between “attractive” and “fair.”

Behind the counter, I noticed this bottle of 1792 Aged 12 Years. Not only had I never tried this expression, I had never even seen a bottle of it in person, to my knowledge. At $70 (compared with a SRP of $50), it was slightly marked up, but not egregiously so. I purchased it impulsively without doing any research on price; my gut feeling was that this was probably the best price I’d reasonably expect to find a bottle for, as a straight retail purchase (e.g. without having to enter a contest or buy an accompanying bottle of Wheatley vodka). This was reinforced a few days later, when I saw another bottle on a grocery store shelf for the “hard pass” price of $125.

I’ve written before about the way that 18 seems to be a number of cosmic significance for malt whisky. Translating this principle into American whiskey, it seems like 12 occupies that hallowed spot. We’ve recently featured bottlings with that age statement from Elijah Craig, Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester, Wild Turkey (in both modern and dusty incarnations) and William Heavenhill, and there are several more that spring to mind (bourbons from Van Winkle and Knob Creek, to name but two). In my experience, it’s an age that guarantees maturity but stops short of risking excessive barrel influence. Thus, it’s not surprising that so many good and great bourbons are bottled in this sweet spot.

Another sweet spot that this bourbon approaches (but does not quite meet) is in the proof department. 100 proof (50% ABV) is legally (via the Bottled in Bond act) and practically recognized as a “goldilocks” bottling strength, neither too punchy nor too lightweight. A list of expressions at this strength would tire even our most attentive readers, but suffice it to say that you don’t have to go far to find a 100 proofer. This 1792, however, comes to us at the slightly lower strength of 96.6 proof (48.3% ABV).

The non-round bottling strength caught my eye, so decided to inquire about its origin:

Malt: Is there any particular reason for the very specific 96.6 proof?
Amy: This was the proof Master Distiller Danny Kahn felt best showcased the breadth and depth of the bourbon.

Malt: Have all the 1792 Aged Twelve Years releases been at this ABV?
Amy: Yes.

The mash bill on this is another point of intrigue; at 74% corn, 18% rye, and 8% barley (estimated; the mash bill has not been officially disclosed), this is a comparatively high rye bourbon. Old Forester (18% rye) is at a similar level, while Four Roses’ E (20%) and B (35%) recipes, Old Grand-Dad/Basil Hayden’s (27%), and Bulleit (28%) are among the few that exceed this level. I’m typically a lower-rye guy myself (Heaven Hill’s 10% feels about right for me), but I’m keeping an open mind, as I’m also an “Old Fo” fan.

Let’s recap all that: neutral on the distillery and price, positive on the age statement, slightly negative (but happy to be proven wrong) on the mash bill, ambivalent on the bottling strength. I’m feeling about as even-handed as I could be going into this review. Let’s see how that works out for me.

1792 Aged Twelve Years – Review

Color: Medium-dark golden orangey brown.

On the nose: The first scent that greets the nose is a pitch perfect marriage of fruit and wood. There are tart berries and cherries in here, but also a note of baking spice-inflected vanilla cream, as well as some more serious elements such as tarragon, leather, musk, and kola nut. Aromatically, this tacks very close to fellow Sazerac stablemate Eagle Rare, as well as Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old from Wild Turkey.

In the mouth: Altogether more wood driven to start, the first kiss of tannic oak transforms gradually into a light and sweet fruitiness intertwined with some soft floral flavors. Texturally, this feels more akin to single malt whisky than bourbon whiskey at the beginning. The whiskey then begins its ascent up the tongue, with the flavors reaching an apex in the middle of the mouth, where the sweetness is married to a spicy and herbal bouquet, with just a faint brushstroke of oaky vanilla. This finishes with more floral notes, with the freshness of a spring bouquet turning into a more potent note of floral perfume. As a minor nit to pick, this has a slight bitterness on the finish which fades gradually, leaving a pleasant radiant heat that sits toward the back of the mouth.


Color me surprised by this one. It’s unlike any other whiskey I have ever had from Barton 1792, in very good ways. There are a lot of good and interesting aromas and flavors in here, but where this really shines is in the integration of those notes into a cogent whole. Sweetness plays against bitterness and spice in an elegant dance suggesting that this was bottled at optimal maturity.

In total, I feel like this is the equal of the two 10-year-old whiskeys I mentioned before… no mean feat, considering they’re my personal welterweight champions of reasonably priced bourbon. It’s perhaps a bit better on the nose, and the higher proof does add to the mouthfeel, though the flavor development seems less broad by comparison. This is also between $15 and $20 more expensive at SRP, so I’m awarding a score one notch down from where I rated those two.

Score: 6/10

This certainly tied up a lot of the mental threads that were dangling loosely when I commenced this review. More interesting, perhaps, is that this given me an improved outlook on a distillery that I was previously “meh” on. Though I’m resolved not to expend any extra energy or currency to procure the rare 1792 releases, I’ll be increasingly inclined to pick one up when it becomes available serendipitously at a good price.


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