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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Barton 1792, Kentucky, USA

My fourth stop of the day (but this distillery, like Buffalo Trace, is owned by Sazerac and is not on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail) and if the Jim Beam experience lowered my expectations regarding the asthetic qualities of bourbon distilleries, then Barton 1792 sent them crashing through the floor.  This was a whiskey factory and industrial site, pretty it aint.  Still I really like the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve so this is still worth seeing as it goes some considerable way to dispel the Scottish distllery myths about the location, water and overall "terroir" magically contributing to the wonderful spirit.  1792 is a great product... and it is made in slightly run down, red brick factory in the middle of Bardstown.  I also learned that the 1792 date is a bit misleading, it has nothing to do with the distillery, but was chosen because it was the year that Kentucky became a commonwealth of the United States (well played Sazerac Marketing Department).  My tour was a little surreal, they are not in production now so our first stop was the obligatory bottling hall where we got to see (and hear) Taaka vodka filling.  Vodka on a bourbon tour?  Our guide seemed to have carte blanche to wander the site and so we did, rather aimlessly, looking at warehouses full of Magaritaville mixers and Cluny blended scotch as well as loaders, boiler houses and weigh bridges with the same level of enthusiasm as the stills or warehouses themselves.  This was a tour that desperately needed some structure and editing.... even I was bored by the end.  Simply put they need a story... what are they trying to tell the visitor?  Jim Beam talked about their family heritage, Maker's focussed on their brands, Heaven Hill told the overall bourbon story.  Sazaerac... come up with a story and then build a tour.  The highlight was without doubt the samples at the end, one I had never even seen before but will definately look for, Very Old Barton, and of course the excellent, high rye content, 1792. Just before I left I was, of course, offered a chocolate and I realized I had just been to my first Kentucky distillery that DIDN"T have a Beam connection.

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Strathisla, Keith, Scotland

Strathisla, Keith, Scotland This is the malt at the heart of the Chivas Regal blends and much of the tour is focused on that.  Unsually for a whisky tour they gave us a dram of Chivas 12 year old at the beginning while we waited for the tour to start (but as they charged over $10 to take this tour and they have no cafe or other facilities it seemed like the least they could do).  They also have some interesting old Chivas memorabelia on display as well.  ( The original Chivas grocery store in Aberdeen is now a Chinese restaurant called Sam's on King Street and by all accounts if you ask them they will take you into the back to look at some of the old Chivas Bros fixtures and fittings).  The site is attractive and photogenic with a nice waterwheel feature and next door to Strathisla is the old Glen Keith distillery which they told us will re-open in 2 years time (see my blog "Return of the Dinosaurs?").  I made a note on the tour that apparently just one man runs the whole distillery such is the level of automation now, which might make at least 15 men in Tain quite nervous.  We finished the tour with samples of Chivas blend 18 year old and Strathilsa 12 year old single malt.  I find the Strahisla single malt, like the distillery itself, doesn't really stand out (maybe why it is used in blends) although I always get some banana notes when I taste it.  I sometimes get those same notes in the Chivas Regal blends although part of me wonders if that is just power of suggestion, would I taste banana if I didn't know Strathisla was in the blend? 
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