First Stop, Barton 1792 Distillery

Our first stop on the Bourbon Classic Media Camp tour was the Barton 1792 Distillery. It, like many present day distilleries, has an interesting history complete with several ownership changes, expansions, and setbacks. Nestled in the heart of Bourbon Country, Bardstown, KY, they currently produce several brands of bourbon including Very Old Barton and Kentucky Tavern (both of which have bonded versions available), as well as their flagship 1792 Ridgemont Reserve which is named for the year Kentucky gained statehood.

The Basic Facts:

Parent Company: Sazerac Company, Inc. (New Orleans, LA)
Location: Bardstown, KY
Master Distiller(s): Ken Pierce
Mash Bill(s): Four different mash bills with undisclosed ratios
Aging Rickhouses: On site
Website: http://www.1792bourbon.com/
Public Tours: Yes, daily, and still free as of this writing

Highlights of the Tour and Grounds:

  • All of the corn comes from within a 100 mile radius of the distillery, and they use 30 acres of corn everyday
  • The rye and barley grains are sourced from several states, including further north, as the barley grows better there
  • They operate one coal and two natural gas burners–the coal burner produces more than twice the steam as both of the gas burners combined
  • They maintain thirteen mash tanks which hold 650,000 gallons of fermenting grains
  • They operate a single 5 story column still called the “Ridgemont still,” and it’s a monster!
  • The distillate comes off the still at 140 proof
  • 28 traditional rick houses hold 19,600 barrels each, and the barrels are sourced from Independent Stave Company
  • A newer pallet style warehouse holds 76,000 barrels, and that is just as enormous as it sounds (see photographs below)
  • 1792 Ridgemont Reserve is a blend of 8-10 year old bourbons and it was first introduced in 2002
  • Eight bourbons are produced on premises from 4 undisclosed mash bills

During the tour we were fortunate enough to thief directly from a ‘sweetheart’ 1792 barrel (barreled on 2-14-2006). This experience would have been cool enough on its own, but we may or may not have been able to take some pints of it with us on the bus. The tasting offered at the conclusion of the tour had their white dog, Very Old Barton, 1792, chocolate bourbon ball cream liqueur and, wait for it, another version of barrel strength 1792. We’re here to tell you that if the barrel strength never hits the market, it will be a crime against humanity. Take everything we love about regular 1792 and then amplify it into another stratosphere. The higher proof bumps up the barrel flavors but still maintains a great balance. Having talked with Ken Pierce and representatives from the distillery, they all staunchly maintain that they have no plans for a barrel proof release; however, they get this awkwardly frustrated look on their face when asked that screams, “please stop asking, we’ll tell you it’s coming out once the higher-ups say we’re allowed to!” Until then, we’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope.

A Brief History of the Barton 1792 Distillery

Ben F. Mattingly, whose grandfather had been a distiller in Louisville, KY, likely had no idea what he was ostensibly starting when he married Catherine Willett, of the family which owned Willett and Frenke. They operated a distillery at Morton’s Spring in Nelson County, Kentucky, just outside of Bardstown. In 1874, Mattingly and a Thomas S. Moore (who had also married into the Willett family) began working at Morton’s Spring Distillery. Two years later, ownership was transferred to themselves. All of this was occurring at what was the dawn of the Golden Age of Bourbon in the post war United States. Then, in 1881, around the time when their first barrels were coming of age, Mattingly sold the company to some investors and Thomas Moore continued to work there until 1899, when he then bought 116 acres next to Morton’s Spring to build his own distillery. A little over 15 years later, Morton’s Spring went out of business, and in 1916 Moore purchased it and incorporated it into his own distillery. Sadly, the next big event in this story is the passage of the 18th Amendment and the start of Prohibition. The distillery was forced to close as it did not get a license to distill medicinal alcohol.

After repeal, the distillery would reopen with Con Moore (Thomas Moore’s son) in charge. It was later sold to Oscar Getz, a Chicago liquor merchant who would later provide the foundation for the the Getz Museum of Whisky History in 1944. Getz is responsible for picking the name “Barton” at random, and the new Barton Distillery would go on to buy Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro, KY. Following ownership by Constellation Brands (who owned the US rights to Corona sales as well as prominent brandy brands such as Paul Masson), Sazerac eventually purchased Barton in 2009 for $334 million along with the bottling facility in Owensboro. At the time of the sale, Barton Distilling was actually the larger company, and Sazerac more than doubled in size overnight.

Popular Brands currently produced by Barton 1792 Distillery:

  • 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, Very Old Barton, Kentucky Tavern, Tom Moore, Ten High, Colonel Lee, and (likely) Walking Stick Single Barrel.
  • They also produce a number of other spirits, including varieties of vodka, brandy, and schnapps.

Cheerss, from Chris and Darren!


(Some supplemental information via http://www.ellenjaye.com/barton.htm)

Around the Barrel #2

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Hello fellow Bourbon Crusaders! We’re back with another edition of Around the Barrel! If you want to know why we said Crusaders instead of Evangelists, you’ll just have to listen and find out. In this episode we talk about the Four Magic Words in bourbon (Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey), how we choose a bottle we don’t know much about, the Jalopy Point in pricing, and have a little rant about some of our issues with many of the bourbon groups out there on social media.

We also enjoy a little Turkey Shoot tasting of Wild Turkey’s Kentucky Spirit, Rare Breed, and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. I’ll put our ratings at the bottom in case you just need a quick fix.

As many of you know, we are attending nearly a week’s worth of media events for the Bourbon Classic next week. Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter (@BOTBBourbon) if you have any burning questions you want us to try and sleuth out while on our whirlwind tour of distilleries, a cooperage, and Vendome Copper.

Listen to the cast here!

Around the Barrel #2

Ratings:

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel

Chris: 3.5 Barrels   Darren: 3.5 Barrels

Rarity: Albino Deer

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

Chris: 2.5 Barrels   Darren: 3 Barrels

Rarity: Albino Squirrel

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Liquor Barn Selection

Chris: 3.5 Barrels   Darren: 3.5 Barrels   (Note: we were both almost at 4 Barrels)

Rarity: Giraffe (need to be near a liquor barn)

Links mentioned in the show:

Bourbon Classic

Kentucky Bourbon Affair

Podcast #1: What Makes Bourbon a Bourbon? 

A Bourbon Primer

1792 Ridgemont Reseve and Knob Creek Single Barrel Store Select vs. Retail

Barrel Select

Having recently been very impressed by a couple store-selected single barrel bourbons (in particular a Kroger 1792 and a Liquor Barn Russel’s Reserve), I thought it would be interesting to see what difference there is in a name. Specifically, the name of someone’s store on a bottle. I’ve often placated myself that master distillers would always put their best whiskey into their own retail releases, and that any private barrels would be from the same quality of stock. I’m not the type of person that rushes out to get the latest and greatest store release if there are single barrels picked by the master distiller available anytime. However, after a recent disappointment with this very bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel compared to the first Liquor Barn selected bottle that introduced me to this product, I decided a head to head was in order. So here are my thoughts on a couple recent retail releases versus their store select counterparts:

1792 Ridgemont Reserve Barrel Select – 93.75 Proof, approximately 8 years old, high-rye recipe (it says barrel select in the name, so they’re all specially selected right?)

Retail Version – Paid $28.99 (ranges anywhere from $25-30)

Nose: esters (coconut and banana), maple syrup, caramel, very sweet, faint candied nuts

Taste: extremely sweet mid-palate, candy corn, rye spice and cardamom/clove spice, hints of bitter orange particularly on the finish, medium length finish. Overall satisfying and easy

BBB Rating: 3 Barrels, but perhaps the low end because of the simplicity and sweetness. This is basically an extra aged VOB 6 Year BIB that is good for cocktails, sipping or on the rocks and is priced right.

Rarity: Albino Squirrel, can be found most places in Kentucky but is occasionally mysteriously absent.

Kroger Single Barrel Select – Paid $25.99 on sale at Kroger

Nose: toffee, leather, sweet pipe tobacco, rye spice

Taste: much more wood/deep flavor, good and prominent rye spice, red fruits, very balanced sweetness, medium-long finish of good tannic wood (think red wine aftertaste)

BBB Rating: 3.5 Barrels. The increase in complexity compared to the retail version is amazing. If the tannic back end were slightly tamed and more balanced, this could easily be a 4 Barrel bourbon.

Rarity: Giraffe. Very seldom have I seen barrel picks of this, but they are out there. I think it’s a giraffe simply because you never know who will be smart enough to pick up a barrel.

Knob Creek Single Barrel – 120 proof, aged 9 years, traditional recipe bourbon

Retail version – Paid $35.99

Nose: Beam yeastiness is nicely covered by rich barrel notes, but is there to let you know it’s beam. Tart cherry, something citrusy (almost like lemon baked goods).

Taste: Red fruits are dominant, with barrel notes to round it out. Still has the Beam ‘yeastiness’, but that is mostly on the back end and is muted. Even with water added, the alcohol hits a little too hard giving a distinct boozy color to the otherwise good flavors. The finish is very tannic, like a good dry wine. I want a cigar to go with this.

BBB Rating: 3 Barrels, but on the low end. This is a solid bourbon, but it is the bottle that disappointed me originally compared to the Liquor Barn select I started with. I was going to give it 2.5 Barrels, but after further consideration, realized that was just my comparative disappointment talking. I’d still rather have this than our 2.5 Barrel standard, Maker’s Mark.

Rarity: Squirrel

Liquor Barn Barrel Select - Paid $39.99

Nose: Red fruits, and again something like citrus baked goods. Cinnamon/clove and wood smoke (the good kind, like when you’re smoking meat). The classic Beam yeastiness is nearly completely hidden.

Taste: Much sweeter on the front with TONS of vanilla and toffee. The finish rounds out with fantastic cinnamon/clove and bitter orange. Hints of red fruit in the mid-palate. Really no yeasty beam flavor to speak of. The longer I supped it, the more I started to get some hints of rye.

BBB Rating: 4 Barrels, but just by a hair. Yea I went there. The difference between this and the retail version is night and day. I like this a whole lot. This is a bourbon that you keep sipping on to try and identify what that flavor is, and by the time you figure one out, the glass is empty. Guess it’s time for another.

Rarity: Bear. Liquor barn has tons of the stuff, but it is a single barrel, and it all depends on how close you live to a Liquor barn.

We Bring You, The News!

In an effort to continue our focus on giving you the primary sources whenever possible, we’ve started a new page on the site: News! We wanted to be able to bring you the latest (confirmed) bourbon news, yet keep the main page clutter-free and limited to podcasts, content pieces, and the occasional review. Our solution is the new page you can link to on the top bar of the site, or click HERE for a direct link. This page will include news on new releases, bourbon industry news, media pieces we think are worth a read, etc. Our commentary on them will be limited to none, so you can go read for yourselves and make your own decisions. The main page will continue to harbor all of our bourbon-laiden sass, if that’s what you prefer. And honestly, that’s what you come here for right? This is a work in progress, and we’ll probably tailor it to your feedback, so let us know what you think. Cheers fellow Bourbon Evangelists!

New TTB Whiskey Labeling Guidelines

If you’ve been paying any attention in the last year, you’ve heard of all the hubbub about correctly labeling whiskey, and more specifically bourbon. A lot of this has had to do with where something is distilled versus where it is produced/bottled. We’re looking at you Templeton Rye. Something that has been somewhat more nebulous is the correct stating of age in whiskey. You’d think this is pretty straight forward, but there is a lot of creative wording out there. Presumably in an effort to combat this, the TTB has come out with new phrasing for its guidelines. Thanks to Chuck Cowdery for the heads up on his blog. I’ll put the new wording below it’s found in the FAQ section of the TTB site.

The most interesting thing I noticed is that any product labelled as ‘whisk(e)y’ must have an age statement if it is less than 4 years old. Down to the hour if applicable. Previously, I think this only applied to whiskies that have been labelled ‘straight’ that were less than 4 years old and any whiskey less than 2 years old. This seems to suggest that this now applies to any whiskey product less than 4 years old.

They also define the aging statement as referring to time in ‘new oak containers’ for any ‘straight’ product. I suppose this is to prevent counting any aging in a barrel finished process. I’m not aware of anyone putting straight whiskey into used barrels later in the aging process and counting that towards the age, but this seems logical to prevent this kind of nefarious behavior.

It also adds specific examples at the bottom of how to label blended whiskies. Not so applicable to us Bourbon Evangelists, but interesting none the less that they felt it necessary.

What do you guys think about this? Personally I’m for anything that gives me the opportunity to be more confident of what I’m actually drinking. Does anyone else wish that Bottled-in-Bond would make a come back?

New Wording of Whiskey Labeling  

Is an age statement required on a whisky label?
The TTB regulations at 27 CFR 5.40(a) require an age statement on the label of any whisky that has not been aged for at least four years. This requirement applies to any whisky produced by mixing or blending if the youngest whisky in the mixture or blend has been aged for less than four years. An age statement is optional for any whisky that is four years old or more, unless the label makes a representation as to age or maturity. See 27 CFR 5.40(e)(2) for rules applying to age, maturity, and similar representations.

What is the “age” of a whisky?
The TTB regulations at 27 CFR 5.11 define the term “age” to mean the period during which, after distillation and before bottling, distilled spirits have been stored in oak containers. For bourbon whisky, rye whisky, wheat whisky, malt whisky, or rye malt whisky, and for straight whisky other than straight corn whisky, the “age” is the period during which the whisky has been stored in charred new oak containers.

Do the format rules for mandatory age statements also apply to optional age statements?
The regulations at 27 CFR 5.40(a)(5) provide that optional age statements must appear in the same form as required statements. See 27 CFR 5.40 and Chapter 8 of the Beverage Alcohol Manual (BAM) for additional information about optional age statements.

What information must be included in an age statement?
The age of the whisky must be stated in hours, days, months, or years, as appropriate. The age may be understated, but the age may not be overstated. See 27 CFR 5.40(a)(4) for the requirements regarding disclosure of aging in reused barrels for certain products.

How should age be stated if the whisky consists of a mixture or blend of whiskies with different ages?
If the whisky contains no neutral spirits, the age must be stated either as the age of the youngest whisky, or as a statement that includes the age of each whisky in the mixture or blend, and the percentage of that whisky in the mixture or blend. If percentages are listed, they must be based on the percentage of the finished product, on a proof gallon basis, contributed by each listed whisky, and the percentages listed must add up to 100%. If the whisky contains neutral spirits, see 27 CFR 5.40(a)(2) for rules that apply to statements of age and percentage.

Can the age statement include minimum or maximum ages?
As noted above, age may be understated, but may not be overstated. A minimum age (such as “aged at least __ years”) is acceptable, but a maximum age (such as “aged for less than ___ years”) is not acceptable.

I am bottling a straight whisky that consists of one straight whisky that has been aged for 3 years and another straight whisky that has been aged for 2 years. The older whisky makes up 60% of the mixture, on a proof gallon basis, and the younger whisky makes up the remaining 40%. Can I simply label the product as having been “Aged for less than 4 years”?
No. The statement “aged for less than 4 years” does not satisfy the requirements of 27 CFR 5.40 for an age statement, and it creates a misleading impression as to the age of the product. You may choose to label the product with an age statement that reflects the age of the youngest whisky (“Aged 2 years”) or you can set out the percentage of each whisky, with its age (60% straight whisky aged 3 years; 40% straight whisky aged 2 years”).

What are examples of acceptable formats for age statements?
The following formats are acceptable:
_____ years old.
____ months old.
Aged _____ years.
Aged at least ____ years.
Aged a minimum of ____ months.
Over ____ years old.
Aged not less than ____ years.
___% whisky aged __ years; __% whisky aged ___ years.

What are examples of age statements that are not acceptable?
TTB will not approve labels with the following age statements, because they list a maximum age instead of a minimum age, and thus may mislead consumers as to the age of the product:
Aged less than ____ years.
Under ____ years old.
Aged not more than ____ years.

Around the Barrel #1

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Hello, fellow Bourbon Evangelists! We’re back with a little something new for you. Sort of like our version of the Fireside Chat, we bring you the first Around the Barrel cast! In an effort to record more often and get information to you in a more timely manner, we’ve decided to start doing some casts in-between our large historical and scientific pieces. These will include news, events, bourbon reviews, commentary on the bourbon world, and anything else we get into while sippin’ around the barrel. We hope that this way we will have more time for our larger research pieces, as well as allow more time to rant quixotically about news, reviews, and miscellaneous bourbon culture. Let us know what you think in the comments, or on our Facebook and Twitter feeds!

Herein we talk about upcoming events, new releases, our coverage of the Bourbon Classic, the bourbon boom, non-distiller producers, and review some high-proof bourbons. For those of you playing at home, we review Old Grand Dad 114 Proof, Stagg Jr., and Willett 9 Year single barrel with some surprising results. Cheers!

Listen to the cast here:

Around the Barrel #1 1/18/15

Here are links to things we discuss in the cast:

Bourbon Classic

Derby Museum Legends Series

Bourbon Boom Statistics courtesy of the Courier-Journal

Maraschino Cherry Recipe – We recommend adding less Luxardo, some orange zest and about 1 tsp almond extract.