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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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Stillwaters Distillery, Ontario, Canada

Stillwaters Distillery, Ontario, Canada

When I planned my recent business trip to Canada I had my heart set on visiting my first Canadian whiskey distillery. I had expected / thought / hoped it would be Forty Creek as that is the whiskey that completely and forever changed my opinion about the possibilities of Canadian whisky. Sadly, with my schedule and limited visiting times at the distillery during the fall and winter I had to rethink. Thanks to Johanne McGinnes (aka the Whiskylassie) I was introduced to Barry (and Barry) of Stillwaters and found my way to their industrial unit in the suburbs of Toronto.

While not a formal distillery visit / tour, Barry (but not Barry, he was busy) was kind enough to spend some time with me and show me around the place. Like most craft distilleries this part did not take long. We discussed (distilled perhaps?) their journey via vodka, independent Scotch bottlings, gin, single malt, brandy and finally (and perhaps saving the best until last) the bottling of their 100% rye expression which was ongoing when I arrived.

I had tried the Stalk and Barrel Cask Strength single malt on a Twitter Tasting (also organized by Johanne) and while I liked it there was nothing about it that stood out for me, other than its youth. However I had heard “good things” about their rye and as a “rye guy” I was happy try it. Glad I did. I did not take notes but recall vividly that the nose was rich and fruity and the taste had all the spice, fruit and chocolate notes I have come to love in ryes.   Well balanced with a herbal, minty finish I was impressed. Will definitely pick up a bottle if it ever makes to Texas. I also re-tried their single malt and at 46% ABV and found it better balanced than the cask strength (for my palate) and would happily have drunk more but for the plane home I had to catch.

So with a Canadian notch freshly carved into my distillery bedpost I now have to find a way to get to Japan so I can say I have been to the “Big 5” of whisky producing countries; Scotland, USA, Ireland, Canada and Japan.

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