I’m on a quest, you see. Like Don Quixote, I am on a mission to make the world a better place by pitting my “impressive” (insert sarcasm) tasting skills against a sea of bottom-shelf booze to deliver quality to beleaguered peasants (that’s you) whose pockets have been picked by $200 Macallan 18 and $120 limited edition bourbon. To that end, I tilt windmills like Old Fitz and Old Forester (why are bourbon brands always old?) to bring you gems like this one.
1792 Ridgemont Reserve is the highfalutin’ name (in a similarly highfalutin’ bottle) for the West Coast US’s version of the acclaimed value brand Very Old Barton: Bottled-in-Bond, affectionately known as “VOB BIB” and only available on the vaguely Eastern half of the US. 1792 Ridgemont Reserve is the same mashbill as VOB, but aged 2 extra years and bottled at a slightly lower proof (VOB is 100 proof). Since I cannot get and have never tasted VOB, this will have to do.
This bottling from the Barton distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky is named after the year Kentucky became a state. The Barton distillery is owned by Sazerac (Buffalo Trace) but only produces a few brands, most of which stays out East. It’s around eight years old (it used to have an age statement, which was dropped in 2013) and comes from a high-rye recipe.
Bottle note: despite the awkward shape of the bottle, I really like the woven “scarf” around the neck – it makes it so easy to pour.
Nose: Salted caramels. Nougat. Mild oak, lightly sweet. Hint of acetone. Not exactly a “study it over the course of an evening” type of aroma, but simple and sweet.
Palate: Silky, medium-bodied. Oaky up front, and a bit hot at first. Then, nougat-y taffy and rich corn. The corn here is syrupy and round, and not plastic or industrial.
Finish: Medium-long. Nut skins, light caramel, fading with a bit of charcoal. Not bitter.
With Water: A splash of water adds a vegetal note to the nose – like raw green split firewood. It utterly removes the tongue burn, but at the expense of some flavor. Water (or ice) is optional with this one, when drinking straight up.
Overall: I wouldn’t exactly buy a bottle of this for exclusive sipping. However, it makes a graceful, easygoing dram AND a top-notch cocktail, which makes it the golden intersection of value bourbon for me. It has none of the aspects of cheap bourbon that always put me off – the over-oaked bitterness, the rough, high-octane grainy alcohol, the acetone (well maybe a bit), or the fake-candy high-fructose corn syrup flavor. It’s just straightforward, sweet, silky, and mixes flawlessly into an Old Fashioned or a bourbon Manhattan. Alas, it’s more expensive than VOB so it doesn’t win any “value” awards. If you can get VOB, leave this one in the dust. If you can’t, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve is an acceptable substitute.