The Barton 1792 Distillery isn’t sitting on its laurels. Starting this December, the Sazerac-owned distillery is turning cask finishing on its head. Welcome Thomas S. Moore, a new brand of cask finished bourbon whiskey named after the distiller who built the distillery known as Barton 1792.
Cask finishing is nothing new in the whiskey world. You take a matured whiskey and let it age for a few months in a second cask, be it ex-wine casks, toasted barrels, etc., to impart some flavors of the spirit from those casks to the original whiskey. Where the Thomas S. Moore range differs is its extended cask finishing. They start with their high-rye bourbon aged between 5 and 7 years and move it to different casks to further mature for a period of 2 to 5 years. You read that right – years, not months. The reason for the extended finishing period is to not only impart those fruity wine notes, but to provide additional cask aging. Master Distiller Danny Kahn says the finishing barrels are toasted and add more baking spice and vanilla notes akin to aging.
This annual release will kick things with three expressions – a Port finish, Chardonnay finish, and a Cabernet Sauvignon finish. The cab and Chardonnay casks come from Napa and Sonoma, and ruby port casks are utilized.
PORT CASK FINISH
Coming in at 98.9 proof, the Port Cask finished Thomas Moore is ripe with dark fruit and spice. The nose features hints of blackberry jam, sandlewood, and toffee. The sweet, juicy fruit notes play well against the bourbon’s traditional caramel sweetness. Wood spice and orange peel break up the slightly saccharine entry, giving the whiskey a touch more depth. The medium finish leaves behind hints of plums, cardamon, and a touch of oak. This one’s my favorite of the bunch.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON CASK FINISH
The Cabernet Sauvignon cask finish expression is bottled a little lower at 95.3 proof. Still fruity, though we’re looking at berries instead of more concentrated jams of its port cask-finished sibling. Raspberries and vanilla make up a large portion of the nose, with an additional citrus and herbal characteristic. On the palate, a spicy start gives way to syrupy caramel and juicy raspberries. The mid-palate introduces vanilla and some baking spice. The finish here is longer with a lingering fruity sweetness. The sweetest of the bunch.
CHARDONNAY CASK FINISH
Proof-wise, this expression sits in the middle at 97.9 proof. Let me start by saying I’m not the biggest Chardonnay fan, but I find the expression interesting. Buttery caramel and orchard fruit meet a slightly mineral note on the nose. The fruit character here is more rounded. Taste-wise, this is a nice balance of caramel, spice, and baked apples. There’s a slightly buttery or oily character on the mouthfeel that coats the palate. A bit of toasted oak leads into the finish, which features lingering notes of buttery toffee and stewed apricot. Again, it’s pleasant and interesting, but again… I’m not a Chardonnay drinker.
Overall, I kind of dig the extended cask finishes. They certainly add more to the traditional bourbon notes than a much shorter cask finish. Whether or not that’s your thing is up to you. Personally, I’m a fan of experimentation in the whiskey industry. Sometimes these experiments land and sometimes they don’t. In this case, the drinker must accept the heavy-handed finish and not expect a “regular’ bourbon or one with a light finish. Chances are if the announcement of this new line immediately peaked your interest, you’ll probably enjoy these. If you’re a traditionalist, stay away. Me – I’ll be looking for the Port Cask finished bottle.
Thanks to Sazerac for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.