Barton’s 1792 brand has been expanding its lineup ever since it dropped the name “Ridgemont Reserve” in 2014/2015. Rather than the lineup containing just one product, they appeared to be pushing a new product out the door every 6 months or so. In the first half of 2015, 1792 Port Finish demonstrated the brand’s ability to finish their bourbon in a secondary cask.
Next came “Sweet Wheat” which hinted at the fact that Barton had been experimenting with different mashbills. After Sweet Wheat came “High Rye” which used a mashbill that supposedly contained more rye in the mashbill than their standard bourbon.
It is generally accepted that 1792’s standard mashbill is made up of 74% corn, 18% rye and 8% malted barley. 18% rye is already quite high in terms of what many other Kentucky distilleries use, so we are to assume that the rye content in 1792 High Rye could be anywhere from 19% to 44% (I’m leaving room for at least 5% malt in there).
Since Sazerac is notoriously secretive about their mashbills, there’s likely no way we’ll ever know what the makeup is. That is, unless another producer had already sourced this mashbill from them and published what it actually was…
In 2014, Barrell Craft Spirits was a young startup and was sourcing whatever barrels they could find. Most know that Barrell sources a lot of bourbon from Tennessee (George Dickel) but few know that there were two early batches that were comprised entirely of Kentucky bourbon.
Batch 003 and 004 were never revealed as to which Kentucky distiller produced them, but Barrell did release that the mashbill of Batch 003 was “70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malt.” Ironically, that’s the same mashbill as a lot of the early Dickel bourbon that they were sourcing too.
But my hypothesis is that rather than it being a labeling error (and they fact they didn’t taste like Dickel bourbon), that Barrell had actually sourced some barrels of Barton’s High Rye mashbill.
For many years, Barton had been the source for many Non-Distiller Producers (NDPs) bourbon, like Jefferson’s. Barton was also constantly experimenting with many different distillates to see how viable they were when they came of age. Sometimes they were deemed good enough to bottle on their own and sometimes they were sold off to a barrel broker (a middleman who sells barrels to another producer).
Based on the ages of the products that Barrell sourced in 2014 and the likelihood of which Kentucky distillery was sourcing out their bourbon at that time, I think it’s a reasonable conclusion to believe that the bourbon inside of Barrell Bourbon Batch 003 (and 004) came from Barton.
Furthermore, I believe that 1792 High Rye uses the same mashbill as those two Barrell batches (25% rye content). There’s no way to verify this, but I’d say my assumption is more accurate than most.
I went into that explanation because I wanted to put it into context with the rapid rise in price on this bottle in the secondary market. 1792 High Rye is an annual release, but it’s likely the smallest release of their core products.
Secondary prices for this bottle have risen to as much as $150 in early 2021 (retail is still around $40) and I wanted to find out for myself if the bourbon is really worth almost 4 times the retail price or if it’s just about owning a bottle to complete a lineup. So I got a bottle for myself to find out. I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: The scent I think that is most striking right off the bat is carrot cake. It’s a very rare scent that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before. There are notes of orange zest, golden raisins and even a small amount of toasted coconut which are all just outstanding. The nose is also very sweet with the aromas of cinnamon rolls with vanilla icing and light brown sugar. It’s extremely well put together.
Palate: The orange theme continues (as it does in a lot of heavy rye content distillates). Orange zest and orange jelly are the primary sweet fruit notes followed by grenadine syrup. The rye makes itself known with flavors of sharp cinnamon, peppermint and honey.
I’m surprised at how developed the tannins are because I get flavors of a leather belt, a bit of drying oak, and a pinch of wet tobacco. Even though the palate did have some honey notes for sweetness, I still find it to be a little bit lacking which kind of comes off a slightly off-balance.
Finish: Orange and cherry still dominate on the finish. Some seasoned oak, a bit of wood varnish and cinnamon also stick around. Cooling menthol, peppermint and a touch of nutmeg and clove remind you of the high rye content. There’s also a little bit of grassy character within. Overall the finish is good, but is somewhat short and still could use a tiny bit more sweetness.
1792 products have a habit of having amazing noses that sometimes don’t line up with the flavors that the palate and finish bring. “High Rye” seems to fit that bill unfortunately.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but the lack of some sweetness at key moments dropped the score a bit. Maybe it has something to do with the low proof? I’m not sure, but this is a product that adds a few interesting flavors and scents to the core profile of 1792 bourbon and that’s about it.
For many, this bottle is less about finding a new product that is unique or special and more about completing a “vertical.” A vertical is a strange obsession that many enthusiasts have whereby they want to own every label produced by a brand.
If you are collecting all of the 1792 releases, the most challenging ones to find include the Port Finish, the 225th Anniversary and this bottle that I just reviewed. This is why prices are climbing on it. But if you are concerned about getting the most bang for your bourbon buck, then I would highly recommend that you skip this one and look elsewhere.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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