Barton 1792 is debuting a new line entirely devoted to experimental finished bourbons. The Thomas S. Moore line of whiskeys will be an annual release of the distillery’s high rye mash bill finished in various wine and spirit casks from around the world.
The 2020 release, on shelves this month, features three finishes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, and Chardonnay.
Among other things, Moore’s biggest accomplishment is likely building what is now the Barton 1792 Distillery. Moore built Bardstown’s first cathedral and created the Belle of Nelson brand, and opened his own distillery in 1889. It operated for decades before Prohibition shuttered its doors. Moore’s name is attached to these whiskeys in tribute to his spirit of innovation.
The Moore line is going to serve as Barton’s showcase space for “extended” cask finishes—finishes of between two and five years, according to master distiller Danny Kahn. It’s a major differentiation from the majority of bourbon finishes on the market today.
“Quite often with cask finished products,” explains Kahn, “they’re put in a cask for 4 months, 6 months, and what happens then is you’re [only] extracting the flavors of the product that were in those casks ahead of time.”
Kahn says that after those months are over, though, more complex flavors emerge. At two years, the whiskey will begin to extract flavors that demonstrate how the barrel was constructed—how it was toasted, etc.
Because they wanted space for wine and spirit finishes to flourish on these whiskeys, Kahn says he centered on younger bourbon stock—between 5-7 years of age—as the canvas for the finishes. “Five year old bourbons actually do better in these casks than some of the older ones,” he explains. “Rather than getting a lot of the caramel and char and some of the more classic bourbon age notes (that might overpower and might not blend with some of the wine cask notes), it tends to blend better. I get more of the fermentation components. I get more of the fruity character. I get a little bit more of the grain. And I just find that these mix better with wine flavors or the other spirits.”
Given the balance of aging time and finishing time, most of these bourbons will be (unstated) ages between 7 and 10 years. Kahn says he has several other finishes in the wings, and hinted at cognac, sherry, and tawny port currently maturing.
For 2020 though, we’re presented with Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Port. We tasted these whiskeys, and the initial impression is that the Moore line is doing something really impressive with finishes that don’t always land.
Thomas S. Moore Port Cask
A sweet and soft port finished bourbon made entirely from ruby port barrels. It’s lush in the mouth with subtle baking spices and a prolonged, jammy finish.
Thomas S. Moore Chardonnay Cask
A surprisingly complex Chardonnay finish, showing initial notes of brown butter and green apple, with hints of citrus and tropical fruit.
Thomas S. Moore Cabernet Sauvignon Cask
A California cabernet finished bourbon with an underlying caramel and vanilla sweetness. This whiskey boasts peanut butter fudge notes on the finish and a resonant dark fruit jammy-ness that combined conjure the unmistakable flavor of peanut butter and jelly.
All releases will have a suggested retail price of $70, and will typically debut in the Fall going forward. Kahn said COVID-related delays impacted this year’s release.