Costco recently upped their bourbon game pretty dramatically. The big box shop released three new bourbon whiskeys in collaboration with Barton 1792 Distillery, which is one of the Sazerac Company’s most revered distilleries (after Buffalo Trace, of course). While the bourbon for Costco is a sourced bourbon, it is very clear where it comes from. And that distillery also produces some very good and very similar bourbons.
That means only one thing: It’s time for a side-by-side comparison!
For this taste test, I grabbed a bottle of Kirkland Signature Small Batch Barton 1792 Bourbon and tasted next to 1792 Small Batch Bourbon. Technically, these two whiskeys come from the same source/distillery/warehouses and are likely to have some big parallels. That said, the blenders at Barton 1792 surely devised a unique flavor profile for the Kirkland version so as not to step on the toes of their own small batch release (which is how this always goes).
So how different are the two expressions?
That’s the question I aim to answer below. I also want to figure out if it’s worth hitting up Costco for a much cheaper bottle of Barton 1792 instead of just dropping into my local liquor store for a standard 1792 bottle. Let’s dive in!
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Part 1: The Taste
Taste 1 — 1792 Small Batch
This opens a little woody with cherrywood next to a hint of sour apple that develops into sour mash grains (kind of like walking into a distillery) that are all cut by caramel and vanilla notes with a cherry vibe that goes from sweet to spicy enough to feel like Cherry Coke. Moving onto the palate, there’s a clear “classic” bourbon vibe with rich caramel and smooth vanilla that hits a spicy heat on the mid-palate.
The end hits on a soft vanilla and cherry creaminess with a hint of dry wicker and more of that spicy warmth.
Taste 2 — Kirkland Signature
This is immediately a much sweeter nose with hints of pear and peach candy leading towards a watermelon taffy with mild hints of old leather, dry woody spices, wet oak, sweetgrass, and cherry Starbursts. The palate lets the cherry shine with a good sweetness next to creamy vanilla, caramel, spiced apricot, toffee candies, and a hint of dried sweetgrass. The mid-palate’s sweetness fades away pretty quickly on the light finish while a whisper of slightly spiced cherry tobacco leads back to a hint of that wet oak on the very end.
Part 2: The Ranking
2. Kirkland Signature Small Batch by Barton 1792 Master Distillers Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch no. 1124
Average Price: $19 (1 liter)
This is the entry point to Costco’s new lineup of Kentucky Bourbons (along with a Bottled-in-Bond and Single Barrel release). The whiskey in the bottle is from Sazerac’s Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown with a mash bill of 74 percent corn, 18 percent rye, and eight percent barley. That juice is left to age for four to five years before blending, proofing, and bottling for Costco.
This ranks last because it was so much sweeter on the nose and had a lackluster finish — compared to this one other pour. Had I been tasting this against a different bourbon, different notes would have surfaced and created a different experience. But that’s not the point here.
1. 1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $28
This whiskey from Barton 1792 Distillery is a no-age-statement release made in “small batches.” The mash is unknown but Sazerac does mention that it’s a “high rye” mash bill, which could be exactly the same as Kirkland Signature Small Batch — or not. The juice is batched from select barrels and then proofed down and bottled as-is.
This wasn’t any deeper but it was more nuanced. It also had a much stronger finish, albeit a little warm. But a bold finish is better than a finish that peters out, IMO.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
Side-by-side, these are very, very, very similar. Both are classic bourbons with a lot of cherry, vanilla, caramel, oak, and spice. Both are fairly well balanced but you do feel a little let down by the Kirkland bottle’s soft landing.
That said, if you’re mixing cocktails or highballs, 100 percent buy the Kirkland Signature Small Batch. A liter of the 1792 Small Batch would run around $37. The Costco bottle — which is a liter — is $19 (before tax). The taste difference is way too minor to get caught up in it when the price gap is that wide. Yes, there’s a little softer finish on that Kirkland bottle and a tad more depth on the 1792 Small Batch. But in the end, these are extremely close pours.
Look at it this way, Costco has some serious bourbon for a great price right now. Don’t sleep on them — they’re cheap, tasty, and will make killer cocktails or everyday sippers on the rocks. If you don’t have a Costco membership, grab a bottle of 1792 Small Batch. It’s a very solid and classic pour for everyday use. Either way, you can’t lose with these two.