Sincere thanks to Sazerac and Barton Brands for the sample.
In 2002, Barton Brands, which at the time was owned by Constellation Brands, debuted their Ridgewood Reserve 1792 Bourbon. Shortly after, Brown-Forman howled in disapproval and demanded, litigiously, satisfaction. They claimed that packaging and marketing of the Ridgewood Reserve was suspiciously too close to that of their successful Woodford Reserve brand. According to the always excellent Sipp’n Corn, Brown-Forman Corp. v. Barton Inc., No. 3:03-cv-00648-JBC (W.D. Ky.) was a pretty brief affair as far as these kinds of things go. It seems the Barton/Constellation marketing team pulled the name Ridgewood out of thin air in an admitted effort to capitalize on Woodford’s success. It’s mildly interesting and not at all germane to the issue to note that the Chicago booze baron and “founder” of Barton Brands, Oscar Getz, claimed to also have pulled the Barton name out of thin air when he bought the Tom Moore Distillery in the late 1940’s and renamed the place. Lots of names floating around in thin air apparently.
Anyway, Brown Forman and Woodford Reserve pleaded a good case, and shortly after it began, Ridgewood Reserve 1792 Bourbon was done for…or at its label was done for. The bottle shape was similar to Woodford Reserve’s, as was the design, and then there was the use of the words “wood” and “reserve” together. The court found Barton’s effort all a bit too obvious and intentional. By the end of 2004, the bottles of this particular bourbon now all read Ridgemont Reserve 1792 Bourbon. The lesson here I guess is that courts of law and litigious marketing types get antsy about the word “wood,” but couldn’t really give a shit about the word “mont.”
In 2009 Constellation Brands sold Barton Brands and the Tom Moore/Barton distillery to Sazerac. In 2014, Sazerac grew tired of the Ridgemont Reserve part of the name and changed it to simply just 1792 Bourbon. (1792 being the year Kentucky became a United State, by the way.) Ok, perhaps it’s inaccurate to say they got tired of it. In recent years, the brand has expanded beyond just the one bourbon, so it made sense to drop the “reserve” part on all the new expressions, and they also came to their senses and dropped the meaningless “Ridgemont” part as well. In the last three years or so, the 1792 line has introduced a Sweet Wheat Bourbon, a Port Finish Bourbon, a High-Rye Bourbon, a single barrel expression, and a full-proof expression. Most recently, at the end of 2017, the 1792 Bottled In Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon hit the shelves. This one does not carry an age statement, but as it’s a bottled-in-bond whiskey, we know it’s at least four years old. The conventional wisdom is that it’s somewhere in the four to eight year old range. That bottled-in-bond status also lets us know that the whiskeys used were created in one distilling season, that it was bottled at 50% ABV, and was matured under that bastion of respectability, the government bonded warehouse.
The Nose: A nice mix of sweetness and spice. There’s quite a bit of warm, fresh caramel corn and mildly pithy orange. Behind that, spiced apple sauce, sticky, slightly smoky vanilla bean, cinnamon rolls, and toasted coconut. The rye comes through with a nice herbal spiciness and just a bit of toasted grain. The oak feels rough-ish and solid with more cinnamon, ginger, a hint of mint, and a little star anise rounding up the spice notes.
The Palate: A fairly lush, creamy mouthfeel that begins both zippy and sweet. There’s caramel, dark orange blossom honey, burnt sugar, vanilla syrup, and juicy oranges. After that, notes of unsweetened chocolate, even a bit of coffee grounds, burnt almonds, and sharp, herbal rye. The oak has more tannic grip here, and is a little less sharp than the nose though no less sturdy. There’s hot cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and a little clove.
The Finish: Oaky, spicy and lingering with drying cinnamon and clove, a bit of barrel char and a little oiled popcorn pan fading to the end.
Thoughts: Ah, who doesn’t love a really good bottled-in-bond bourbon? I certainly do, and I certainly enjoyed this one. In some ways this could almost be thought of as the standard 1792 bourbon with the volume turned up, but that would be unfairly simplifying things. This one does share much of that core expression’s flavor profile, but I found it just that much more realized, complex, and integrated. At around $35-$40, this seems like decent value and a very reasonable escalation from the standard 1792 expression. It’s great to see a newish brand like this returning to the decidedly oldish bottled-in-bond, style, that’s a very welcome trend in the bourbon world these days. Definitely Recommended.
- “1792 Whiskey.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1792_Whiskey.
- “Barton Brands.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barton_Brands.
- “Constellation Brands.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constellation_Brands.
- Corn®, Sipp’n. “Woodford v. Ridgewood – A Court-Ordered Label Change for Barton’s 1792 Bourbon.” Sipp’n Corn®, 17 July 1970, sippncorn.blogspot.com/2015/07/woodford-v-ridgewood-court-ordered.html.
- Lippman, John & Linda. “American Sprits: The Barton Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky.” Www.ellenjaye.com, 2011, www.ellenjaye.com/barton.htm.
- Press, The Associated. “COMPANY NEWS; BARTON ORDERED TO CHANGE NAME ON BOTTLES OF BOURBON.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 Apr. 2004, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/24/business/company-news-barton-ordered-to-change-name-on-bottles-of-bourbon.html.