1792 Bourbon Review: A New Favorite or Just Another Bourbon?

You are currently viewing 1792 Bourbon Review: A New Favorite or Just Another Bourbon?

Having worked in hospitality for more than a decade, I have found that certain spirit drinkers tend to be brand-loyal to a fault. Vodka drinkers are like that, and often scotch drinkers as well. I’ve seen people who won’t drink at all rather than try a vodka other than Grey Goose! Bourbon drinkers, on the other hand, tend to be as much brand-loyal as they are adventurous.

What I mean to say is that bourbon drinkers have their bourbons of choice, but they’re often very open to trying something new too. And in today’s world of whiskey – especially bourbon – there’s a lot of new products to try!

I decided to get my paws on 1792 Small Batch Bourbon, a new(ish) product from the Sazerac Company that’s creating a lot of buzz in the whiskey world. So let’s talk about where this product came from, how it’s made, what it tastes like, and if it’s worth your time!

History Lesson

Let’s start at the beginning! While the Sazerac Company owns 1792 Small Batch Bourbon right now, it was a pre-existing bourbon from a distillery that was purchased by the Sazerac Company in 2009. Sazerac bought the distillery and therefore the mash bills for each product the distillery was already producing.

Before the Sazerac Company purchased 1792 Small Batch Bourbon, it was known as Ridgemont Reserve from the Barton 1792 Distillery. Sazerac renamed their newly acquired bourbon 1792 Small Batch Bourbon, which is what we now recognize and see on liquor store shelves and bars more and more these days.

The Barton 1792 Distillery is in Bardstown, Kentucky, and was oddly enough founded in 1879. That’s right, 1879, not 1792. It is the oldest fully operational distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. 1792 is a nod to the year that Kentucky became a part of the United States of America. Right now, any 1792 product you see is a bourbon.

Fun fact: Ridgemont Reserve was originally called Ridgewood Reserve but a judge ruled in favor of Woodford Reserve in a lawsuit against the Barton 1792 Distillery over the name. They argued that the name Ridgewood Reserve was too close to Woodford Reserve and might mislead consumers to believe that the two were affiliated. After that ruling, the name of Ridgewood Reserve was changed to Ridgemont Reserve.

So while 1792 Small Batch Bourbon feels new(ish) and technically hit the whiskey scene after 2009 when the Sazerac Company purchased Barton 1792 Distillery and changed the name of Ridgemont Reserve to 1792 Small Batch, the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon mash bill has been around as long as Ridgewood Reserve came to life in the early 2000s. As Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

1792 Small Batch Bourbon Awards:

For the sake of redundancy, I’m only going back as far as 2018 for these awards. If you want to see all the awards this bourbon has received, you can check out the 1792 Small Batch portion of the 1792 Bourbon website.

  • 2021 Double Gold Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2020 Gold Medal in the World Whiskies Awards
  • 2020 Excellent/Strong Recommendation (93 points) in the Ultimate Spirits Competition
  • 2020 Gold Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2019 Gold Medal in the Los Angelas International Spirits Competition
  • 2019 Silver Medal in the Denver International Spirits Competition
  • 2019 Silver Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2018 Gold Medal in the International Spirits Challenge
  • 2018 Gold Medal in the Los Angelas International Spirits Competition
  • 2018 Silver Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2018 Great Value in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2018 Silver Medal Outstanding in the International Wine and Spirits Competition
  • 2018 Gold Medal in the Denver International Spirits Competition

Whiskey, Bourbon, and Rye

In order to continue further and discuss the nuances of the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon, I just want to clarify a few things so I don’t confuse anyone while I jump between the terms ‘whiskey’, ‘bourbon’, and ‘rye’.

Firstly, whiskey is a spirit made from fermented grain mash (hence the term ‘mash bill’ referring to the recipe). Rye and bourbon are two types of whiskies, as are scotch and Irish whiskey. I like to compare whiskies to wine. If you want a glass of wine, you don’t go up to the bar and say, “I’ll have a glass of wine please.” You need to decide on the color, the grape, the region, etc… So if you want a whiskey, you don’t just ask for “a whiskey”, you need to decide if you want a bourbon, a rye, a scotch, an Irish whiskey, or a Japanese whisky. Does that make sense? Still, if you’re sipping rye, you’re sipping a whiskey, just like if you have a glass of cabernet franc you’re still having a glass of wine.

The spelling of whiskey can also be confusing, as sometimes you will see it spelled ‘whiskey’ and sometimes you will see it spelled ‘whisky’. The Scottish spelled ‘whisky’ sans ‘e’, while the Irish spelled the word with an ‘e’. America generally followed the Irish spelling, with exceptions of course, and the rest of the world seemed to follow the Scottish spelling for the most part.

Bourbon is named for Bourbon County in Kentucky, but contrary to popular belief, a whiskey does not have to be made there to be considered a bourbon. A bourbon is categorized as a bourbon if it is 51% or more corn in its mash bill, and was aged in virgin, charred oak barrels. Bourbon cannot have anything but water added in order to lessen the proof, which cannot be less than 80 when bottled and cannot be barreled at higher than 125. While other whiskies allow flavoring and coloring to be added, bourbons do not.

Surprisingly, aging requirements for bourbons are not universal. If they are specific types of bourbon, a certain amount of time spent in the barrel is required. But we won’t get into that right now!

Rye on the other hand must have a mash bill that is 51% or more of – you guessed it – rye. Like bourbon, it also must be aged in virgin, charred oak barrels, and has the same proof requirements as bourbon both in the barrel and bottle as well. So really the only difference between bourbon and rye is the mash bill, which is a huge difference.

Ryes tend to be spicier than bourbons, while bourbons are often softer and more about caramel and vanilla-type flavors. Ryes can be soft too and have a wealth of a flavor profile. Both whiskies differ of course depending on the other 49% of their respective mash bills and their time in the barrel.

The 1792 Small Batch Bourbon Process

The 1792 Bourbon begins with the Barton 1792 Distillery’s very own High Rye mash bill. Then it is combined with a blend of aged bourbons from barrels that are hand-selected by the Master Distiller. The term ‘small batch’ actually means that the bottle is a selected blend of several barrels for the desired tasting notes.

Because you read the above section, you already know the difference between what makes a rye, a rye, and what makes a bourbon, a bourbon. The High Rye by Barton 1792 Distillery is a bourbon – yes that’s right, don’t be deceived by the name. It is a unique bourbon because its mash bill contains as much rye as possible for the whiskey to still be considered a bourbon. So the name High Rye means it is a bourbon with a high rye content, not that it’s a rye whiskey. Are you still with me?

Beginning the 1792 Bourbon process with a high rye content mash bill makes for a more interesting and complex flavor profile for the bourbon. As I said earlier, ryes tend to be spicier than bourbons. So the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon has a really awesome unique flavor profile which begins right there with the high rye content mash bill.

Photo by Thea Engst

1792 Small Batch Bourbon Specs:

  • 46.85% alc/vol
  • 93.7 proof
  • Small batch
  • Cask: new American oak
  • Aged: at least two years

1792 Small Batch Bourbon Appearance

In the glass, the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon looks like it packs a punch. What I mean is that it’s a beautiful, dark amber color. This color comes from the time spent in the barrel, there is absolutely no artificial flavoring, as per the regulations of being categorized as a bourbon.

 

To put it simply, when I poured myself a 1792 Small Batch Bourbon neat, I thought, “what a handsome drink.” And it is!

1792 Small Batch Bourbon Tasting Notes

The nose of this bourbon is green or not-quite-ripe-banana, which quickly turns to more of a caramelized banana’s foster scent. I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued by the tropical notes that hit my nose immediately. My first impulse was that I had an aged rum in front of me, not a bourbon at all. But as the whiskey opened up, I smelled the familiar notes of a bourbon as the green banana turned to more of those sweet banana’s foster flavors: caramel, vanilla, cinnamon.

The 1792 Small Batch Bourbon on the palate was very light upfront. The caramel notes I got on the nose delivered on my palate and were accompanied by tobacco flavors familiar to bourbon. Then, that heavy rye mash bill came crashing in with a surprisingly spicy finish. Surprising because this is a bourbon, not a rye, but once you realize that the mash bill begins with a high rye content, it makes a lot of sense. I also want to make sure it’s clear that this was a very good surprise.

The woodiness of the charred oak barrels is not dominant in this bourbon. The oak has served to mellow the proof, and to mellow the burn of the alcohol. It succeeds. While the finish is spicy, it does not burn. In fact, there is an effect of icy water mid-palate, which is intriguing on its own. This almost created the effect of a cube in the glass for me, it was very interesting and kept me going back for more. (Okay fine, like I needed an excuse…) For this reason though, I would not recommend a cube in the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon.

What I liked about this bourbon is that it’s unique in a world where new bourbons tend to pop up every day and tasting notes often blend together. The uniqueness, I believe, came from that high rye mash bill and the surprise of spice at the end of the tasting experience.

Furthermore, this bottle only cost me $34.99 in Rhode Island, which is a price that I wouldn’t bat an eye at spending for any whiskey. I’m a big fan of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, which usually floats around the $30 range, so $34.99 for the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon is an easy price for me to accept.

Mixing with the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon

But why stop with sipping a bourbon neat? It’s always fun to see how they mix!

I made an Old Fashioned with the 1792 Small Batch, just to see how it did mixed. I like my Old Fashioneds without fruit for a couple of reasons and one of them is because I like to taste the whiskey more than the fruit. In this case, I obviously didn’t use the fruit because I wanted to taste the 1792 Small Batch more than a cherry and orange wedge.

To say that the 1792 Small Batch did well in an Old Fashioned is an understatement. The bourbon popped and played well with the Angostura and Angostura Orange Bitters. I could drink this all day!

My specs:

1/2 barspoon sugar

1/4 ounce filtered water

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

1 dash Angostura Orange Bitters

Stir until sugar is dissolved

2 ounces 1792 Small Batch Bourbon

Add ice, stir

Express an orange peel over the drink, drop in drink for garnish

Photo by Thea Engst

The Bottle

The design of this label is minimalism at its best. In simple, Art Deco font, 1792 lights up the clear bottle in a simple display right in the upper-middle. Smaller font above “1792” says “small batch” with more Art Deco-inspired borders above and below the words.

A simple, small, and elegant design follows “1792” below and beneath that, the clerical information of what exactly is in the bottle.

The bottle shape itself takes care of standing out on the bar or shelf. Where other brands may take time with an elaborate label, 1792 Small Batch Bourbon has focused on the shape of the bottle itself. Not round, square, or rectangular, it more nearly resembles a triangle with angles that push out at the bottle and retreat inwards at the top ever so slightly. The bottle is flatter too, so while it has the same amount of liquid as any other 750ml bottle, it appears slightly bigger. On a bar, this stands out not because of bright fonts or colors or elaborate labels, but because the bottle demands more shelving space. It’s a brilliant marketing tactic.

The cork is topped with a simple, gold knob. The bottle overall feels hearty, strong, and layered with tradition. For a bourbon that has existed for less than twenty years, the design looks as though it’s been closer to one hundred years. The Art Deco elements make me think of the Empire State Building. Surely this is a whiskey that was meant to be sipped up there!

Finally, there’s the color of the sticker wrapping around the neck of the bottle. The color differs depending on which style of 1792 Bourbon you have. The Small Batch has a burgundy color, while the Port Finish is blue for example. Again, the company has used simplicity to stand out.

Comparable Bourbons to the 1792 Small Batch

Old Grand-Dad is a 100 proof bonded bourbon with a high rye content. That high rye is going to give you the spice at the end of your sips just like you get from the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon. While it isn’t quite as smooth or complex upfront, it’s roughly $10 cheaper than the 1792 Small Batch. It’s also bottled in bond, which is not terribly common these days.

Buffalo Trace is a constant crowd-pleaser. As I said above, it usually falls somewhere in the $30-40 range depending on the state and store. Because it can be so hard to get (it’s very popular) a lot of places will charge more for the few bottles they’re allocated. Tasting-wise, the Buffalo Trace is a lot quieter than the 1792 Small Batch, without the spice at the end either. Still, if you’re looking for high-quality and dare I said crushable bourbon, look no further.

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is a blend of bourbons like the 1792 Small Batch. It also has a nice spicy finish like the 1792 Small Batch, which is unique amongst bourbons. Price-wise, it’s usually in the mid-thirty range, also very much like the 1792 Small Batch.

Basil Hayden’s is another high-rye content bourbon. It’s more expensive than the 1792 Small Batch and without the tropical nose, but it’s a solid choice to mix with or sip. Usually, the Basil Hayden’s is in the low $40 range versus the mid-thirties of the 1792 Small Batch. So for less money, you get a more complex bourbon with the 1792 Small Batch.

Pros of 1792 Small Batch Bourbon

  • You can’t beat that price!
  • More readily available than comparable brands (pricing wise and tasting wise)
  • Has a unique flavor profile for a bourbon
  • Available nationwide

Cons of 1792 Small Batch Bourbon

  • Water element on the palate can deter some people
  • You can get better bourbons for only about $10 more
  • Not a traditional bourbon drinkers bourbon
  • Spice is not what a lot of bourbon drinkers want

FAQs on the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon

Question: Who do you recommend this bourbon to?

Answer: Definitely the more adventurous bourbon drinker. I recommend this to anyone who likes trying new things in the whiskey world and won’t be disappointed by the spiciness of this bourbon or the lack of soft, sweetness. I’d say it makes a great gift for that type of person and if you’re that type of person, I recommend it to you!

Question: Do you think this bourbon is worth the price?

Answer: Yes, I think this is a great quality bourbon for the mid-thirty dollar range. I’ve paid a lot more for things I’ve liked a lot less!

Question: Is this a beginner’s bourbon?

Answer: I would say no. While this bourbon tastes delicious, since it is unique in its flavor profile, I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to bourbon. Not to say that a beginner wouldn’t ‘understand’ the flavor, it just might turn them off to bourbon unnecessarily. If a bourbon drinker is looking to start drinking rye, however, I would absolutely recommend the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon!

Question: How does this bourbon taste in a cocktail?

Answer: The bourbon is well-rounded with a lovely, unique flavor profile. Because of that, it has great mixing potential. Because it doesn’t taste like a traditional bourbon though, it will not taste that way in a classic either, so remember that! Check out the best bourbon cocktails here.

Question: Would you add a cube or dash of water to the 1792 Small Batch?

Answer: No, I would not. I tried this, of course, I had to know! But when I added a cube, it quickly watered down the beautiful flavors of the bourbon that I liked so much. This bourbon isn’t ‘hot’, as they say, and doesn’t need to be opened up with water either so I would definitely recommend sipping this neat.

Question: Where can I buy the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon?

Answer: Good news for you! The 1792 Small Batch is distributed nationwide and can be ordered online through various websites and apps! In fact, all of the 1792 bourbons are available nationwide.

Final Thoughts on the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon

If you are a traditional bourbon drinker, you may be disappointed by the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon. That’s because of the spicy element that comes along with the high rye mash bill. But, if you’re one of those adventurous bourbon drinkers who like to see what people are doing – whether it’s traditional or experimental – this is a bourbon for you.

I’d recommend this as a gift for an adventurous bourbon drinker. I know that trying this bourbon from Barton 1792 Distillery has only made me want to try more of their whiskies. I have my eyes on their 1792 Port Finish!

The 1792 Small Batch Bourbon stands out in a world saturated with new bourbons. Due to the tradition and wealth of experience coming out of the Barton 1792 Distillery, combined with the marketing and distribution powers of the Sazerac Company, expect to see 1792 Small Batch Bourbon stick around.

Further Reads:

Wild Turkey Decades Review – Is This The Bourbon You’re Looking For?

Jim Beam Black vs White Label – Which Will You Love More?

Evan Williams Green vs Black: Which Tastes Better?