Nose: The first words to escape my lips when bringing the glass up to my nose were “Oh God.” The sweet aroma that this whiskey gives off is amazing. Soft subtle traces of vanilla, honey, soft grain and light wood waft out of the glass. I can’t emphasize enough how sweetly soft and subtle these aromas are for an aged rye. Unlike the majority of the BTAC collection, Sazerac is bottled at a very manageable 90 proof, which gives it zero alcohol burn on the nose. Every time I smelled this whiskey I was transported to the early morning hours of a rickhouse in Kentucky, right after the doors are opened and the soft scent of whiskey fills your nose. Truly perfection.
Palate: When taking a sip, you’re instantly reminded that this is an aged rye you’re drinking. Flavors of subtle vanilla and light citrus mix with dry flavors of rye, aged oak, and soft leather. While wood is definitely present, I’m surprised that it’s not at the forefront and doesn’t dominate the palate like you would expect in an 18 year old rye. Yes, it’s dry and not as sweet as the nose would lead you to believe, but it’s also not spicy like you would expect from a rye. Truly just all flavor with zero alcohol present.
Finish: The finish on the Sazerac 18 Year seems to last forever. Much like the nose and palate, the finish is very subtle and understated. I tasted light traces of honey, orange, and peach bubblegum, mixed elegantly with subtle hints of soft rye and lightly toasted wood. This may sound like a strange pairing of flavors, however they’re truly elegant together and bring one of the most enjoyable finishes I’ve had in a long time.
Uniqueness: The last great rye I tasted that was this good was, drum roll please….BTAC 2013 Sazerac. Seeing as how the BTAC Sazerac line was removed from the barrels in 2003 and put into stainless steel tanks to prevent further aging, this makes sense. Since then, Buffalo Trace has been drawing down from this supply while waiting for more to come of age. So, you’re drinking a near identical whiskey year over year since it was tanked.
High aged ryes are rare and those that aren’t overly woody are even rarer. While the Van Winkle Rye is almost equally as delicious, it’s only aged 13 years vs the Sazerac’s 18. To be able to age in the barrel for another 5 years and still equally compete with a perfectly aged 13 year rye is pretty special in my book. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the next iteration of Sazerac tastes like after Buffalo Trace finishes off the current batch from the steel tanks. While I have high hopes that BT can match what they’re currently bottling, they’ve set the standards pretty high for themselves to equal the last 11 year run of Sazerac.
Value: You’re hard pressed to find another rye, let alone another bourbon that will be better than Sazerac for the price. This could easily command double the price tag for a bottle and still be considered a good value due to the well balanced rye Buffalo Trace has put together. While it may be hard to find in the stores, I’d highly recommend buying a bottle if you ever get the opportunity. I'd even recommend shelling out more than you normally would for a glass of this at your favorite bourbon bar.
Overall: People often forget how great a consistent product is as the years go on. I feel that this is the case for Sazerac. Sure, it’s always a contender when talking about great ryes, but to think that BT has been able to offer virtually the same fantastic bottling for the past 11 years is mind blowing!
Sazerac won’t wow you with intense heat like Thomas Handy, nor will it slam flavors in your face like George T. Stagg. Instead, it will offer you a smooth mellow sip that focuses on subtle soft flavors that are sure to please. As long as you know this before drinking a glass, I think you’ll be treated to the same awesome experience that I had when reviewing this whiskey.
To sum it up: The next rye to come around that beats out this batch of Sazerac will truly be phenomenal because Buffalo Trace set the bar high with this world class rye.
-Jordan - Reviewed: 1/2015
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