When I was sent the original press release for the new 1792 Full Proof bourbon, I was pretty excited.
Over the last year I have enjoyed watching Barton 1792 brand stretch it’s legs with new releases outside of the standard small batch offering. There isn’t a lot of trickery going on, and the releases are straight forward, both in formula and appearance. For instance the Sweet Wheat bourbon, which lived up to it’s name and got better the longer the bottle was open. Then there was the Port Finish, and the Single Barrel. I find it neat that Barton didn’t come out with all kinds of slick Swedish packaging or do any kind of re-branding at all really. They haven’t forgotten their stock in trade. No fancy shmancy graphics. Just that simple 1792 in gold block lettering, the distinctive rounded trapezium shaped glass bottle with the classy gold cap.
That brings us around to the Full Proof.
For a refresher, Barton distillery came across a batch of nearly nine-year-old barrels. A smart decision was made to bottle them at the same proof in which they had entered the barrels, 125. They didn’t go through the standard chill filter process, but rather were run through the plate and frame method, which left a lot more of the flavor and body intact.
I poured the juice into my glencairn and gave it 10 minutes or so of air. The color was honey golden. I held it up to the tip of my nose and gave it a good, strong, deep inhale. Boom. There was the proof! But the alcohol quickly made way to something else, these delicious and fragrant notes of sweet cherry. But the cherry was being supported by something stronger underneath. Another swirl and deep inhale revealed a sturdy foundation of rich vanilla. The flavor gave off all the classic bourbon notes of charred oak that puts its cards on the table of your palate as sweet caramelization. Almost like cola without the fizz.
But I kept coming back to that nose.
It’s a fact that vanilla combined with anything will absolutely boost its potency, which is why it’s used in so many cooking and baking applications. That’s exactly what was happening to the cherry. Vanilla is also a benchmark fragrance, one that your mind uses as a marker when it catalogs events that happen over the course of your life, almost like an enhanced flavor indexing system. A comfort fragrance.
For me, all that vanilla and cherry gave me flashbacks to when I was 17, a summer of joyriding around country roads with my friends, driving too fast, trying to tune in the rock station being broadcast on the FM band out of Louisville. The signal went in and out of static as we coursed through the hills and valleys chock full of limestone. Eventually we’d find our way into town. We had a local ice-cream hangout, a drive-in type of place, and in the evening eventually everyone would end up there. Carloads of restless teenagers on a summer night, hanging out of windows, reliving the events of the day with a great bluster of laughs. The pulsing neon glowing from the sign out front lit the scene. It was like a beacon. It still is. The drive-in served all manner of frozen treats; hand churned ice cream, shakes, slushies, splits, sundaes and colas. You could order any kind of cola you wanted, like blueberry, pineapple, etc. If you dreamt it, one of the girls behind the counter could make it a reality for $1.25. Anything that came in pump-syrup form could be added to cola. I myself loved cherry cola with a nice dose of vanilla. I had a friend who worked there named Anna, who would comp my friends and me almost anything we wanted. Asking for a small of anything most assuredly meant you would get a large of everything. That place must have lost a fortune on us. On my birthday I asked her to create for me the most supreme vanilla cherry coke known to man. Through the window came a massive Styrofoam tanker filled with a cola potion that must have required advanced training at Hogwarts, brimming and sloshing with brown liquid that had been run through a cold fusion atomizer with cherry and vanilla syrup. I tasted it and my eyes almost rolled back in my head. It was simply a vanilla cherry coke overload.
1792 Full Proof is the perfect version of this moment for me.
At 125, the proof is exactly where it needs to be. When you get bourbon up into the 120’s, it always has a zing about it, the power and punch to take the flavors beyond the edges of the envelope. I tasted gobs of rich, buttery oak. There was also a component of fruitiness that revealed itself like a treat.
The finish hangs on, burns, simmers and cooks in the mid-palate. It has a sustained expression of smoky flavor and a sweet oak character as it fizzles out.
For $45, this is a lot of good bourbon for the money, and the trigger for a lot of good memories.