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 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.
Am I reading you right in that you’re saying 1792 is only available on the west coast while VOB is only available on the east coast? We have both in stores here (east coast), though VOB can be hard to find. And I’m pretty sure that 1792 is not meant as a substitute for VOB in your market any more than Beam 8 year is meant as a substitute for Beam 7 year, only available in or around Kentucky, in my market. Also, when you’re moving into the $25/$30 range, you’re typically moving out of the “value” brands (at least from my perspective). Maybe that’s changing as prices are increasing, or maybe you’re just used to scotch prices, but I generally think “value” brands are bourbons like Old Grand Dad, Beam white, Old Forrester, Wild Turkey 81p, and VOB.
Despite picking apart your information, please don’t consider this as anything but respectful conversation.
Actually, what I meant (and didn’t say clearly) was that VOB is not available on the West Coast, but 1792 is. Since they’re both from Barton, and 1792 is nearly the same as VOB, then 1792 is the closest we get to having VOB on the west coast, even though it’s significantly more expensive. Cheers!
Another instance where I can’t agree. I find the 1792 has all of the qualities you say it lacks. It’s thin and harsh, with a cheap, cloying taste. I could barely finish the bottle. But then I’ve never been a fan of the VOB line either. For good quality, inexpensive bourbon, I prefer the Wild Turkey 101 or even Old Granddad BIB. Far better.
Damn shame that both your’s and the Noob’s reviews indicate this one has gone downhill in the past few years. I bought a bottle about 4 years ago that was quite possibly the most complex and well crafted bourbon I’ve had other than Pappy. The same could be said for the bottle my dad and I bought for my gramps about a decade ago. Sneaking a sip or two of that at the ripe old age of 16 is what got me started on my whisky journey several years later. Hopefully it can get back to being what it once was. Until then, Elmer at least seems to be consistently good.
Gee just bought one to try after seeing it on so many top under $30 lists. Just goes to show peoples palate preference when in comes to whiskey are as diverse as the tastes of the whiskey out there.