Aged Twelve Years (2021 release)
MASH BILL – 74% corn, 18% rye, 8% barley
PROOF – 96.6
AGE – 12 years
DISTILLERY – Barton
PRICE – $46 (more commonly $60)
WORTH BUYING? – Indeed!
This is the fourth post in a series of five, exploring the impact of familiarity on the tasting experience of a whiskey.
The previous three posts explored two whiskeys—Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve and Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Discovery Series #4—blended from sourced bourbons distilled by two ubiquitous distilleries: MGP in Indiana and Barton in Kentucky. (Discovery #4 also includes bourbons from two other distilleries.) These were compared to my experience with a whiskey from the opposite side of the country and a very different terroir than Kentucky or Indiana, Woodinville Cask Strength Bourbon from Washington state.
I’d uncorked the Woodinville because both the Belle Meade and Discovery #4 tasted too familiar one night. I’d been having so much MGP and Barton sourced whiskeys over the previous year. They’re everywhere! And that night I was craving something different. Woodinville was the answer.
Yet I recognized the Belle Meade and Discovery #4 were both excellent. Nothing wrong with them. The problem was me, and my feeling over-saturated by the MGP and Barton flavor profiles. Wanting to give them their fair due, however, I followed up my Woodinville post with a post each on the Belle Meade and Discovery #4.
Now I’m going back to the source of one of those two ubiquitous sources, Barton. On the table tonight is a bottle of Barton’s own product, 1792 Aged Twelve Years. I included it for this series in light of the Discovery #4 featuring a significant percentage of Barton distillate, and so also that distillate’s very recognizable flavor profile. Similarly aged, but bottled by Barton itself and offered at 96.6 proof (a full 18.4 proof points lower than Discovery #4), how will it compare? More specifically, what impact will it have on me considering my recent sense of Barton overwhelm?
Here are some brief notes taken about two weeks after uncorking, the second pour into this bottle, tasted in a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – honey amber-orange with straw highlights
NOSE – strong sweet rye florals, backed up by old fashioned jawbreaker and other bubblegummy candies, smooth oak, maple taffy, sugar-glazed doughnut
TASTE – the balance tips toward the various candies here, with a notable caramel note pairing well with the soft spices of the oak
FINISH – old fashioned maple-sugar cake frosting and soft oak tannins
OVERALL – an easygoing, lovely array of old fashioned candy store and bakery flavors
This is good. Its bright floral emphases are tempered by a faded, old fashioned quality that gives it character and keeps it from tipping into anything like a cloying or otherwise overdone sweetness. Well-aged with a sparkle still in its eye, it strikes a nice balance between lively and relaxed. Very worth the cost, all things considered.
I poured a bit of the Discovery #4. Its blend involves two other bourbons and isn’t pure Barton. But comparing them side by side, they are indeed distinct relatives.
On the nose they share that tell-tale floral Barton rye bouquet, with the 1792 distinguished by its candy-bubblegum notes and the Discovery #4 by an almost fudge-like density. On the taste they diverge a bit more, with the 1792 showing its flavors brightly like an old sepia-toned outdoor family photo. Discovery #4 is a bit darker by comparison, wood-spicier, grittier, now with more oak and some peanut. On the finish, the 1792 lingers lightly and with a clarity to it, while the Discovery #4 shows its higher proof with a warmer finish that nudges the grittier dry herb and wood notes forward.
I must admit, tasted side by side, if I had to choose—which of course I don’t, they’re both already here, bought and paid for—considering price I might have to side with the 1792 Aged Twelve Years. It offers a very nicely oaked rendition of the high-rye 1792 flavor profile. And at 96.6 proof the flavors have enough support to pronounce themselves while remaining restrained when it comes to the spicier aspects.
Discovery #4, on the other hand, though it offers those welcomed nut and chocolate notes that the 1792 does not, isn’t so drastically a better tasting experience overall to warrant paying twice the price.
This is whatcha call a conundrum. I appreciate the exceptional blending skill evident in the Discovery #4. But given it ultimately comes across for me as a predominantly Barton-based tasting experience, and as I get a similar quality experience (albeit with several distinct aspects) from Barton directly and without the middleman costs…
Now that the bourbon boom is well into the lingering roll of its initial thunderclap, and more name brands are again putting out their own bottlings of well-aged whiskeys, the secondary bottlers are going to have to up their game—whether by creative blending that achieves even more distinct flavor profiles than the parts of their sum, or by the happy accident of selecting single barrels of exceptional character and quality. With so many options now available, it’s going to take much more than an age statement and a different label design to compel consumers.
COMING IN PART 5:
MGP’s George Remus
Cask Strength Single Barrel