Sazerac 18 year old Straight Rye – 2011 Release

Opened: February 12, 2012
90 proof (45% ABV)
Price: $79.99
Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey – 18 years old
Distiller: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Tasting Date: March 7, 2012

Color in glencairn glass: Bright orange, yellowy brown.

Nose: Cherry soda, Dr. Pepper, mint leaves, waxy wood resin, citrus rind.

Taste: The entry is spicy with cinnamon fireball, followed by a palate full of black pepper, cloves and walnut. Hot, sweet, vaguely minty medicine comes through on a long, sticky finish.

The spices hit the tongue up front while woodsy, medicinally sweet bubble gum hits the upper palate. There is a sparkling of dark spices throughout the taste: pepper, clove, cinnamon, allspice, a lot of hot earthy flavors, like an autumn forest floor covered with fallen leaves, only a sweet, corny tang replaces any bitterness associated with such an image. Wood brings weight, but can also be found relating to some of the lighter notes, like a thin tree-branch slightly shaved.

This rye is very 3-dimensional, often veering in different directions simultaneously. At times, the intense spice can threaten to blot out some of the immense complexity this whiskey holds, but careful tasting reveals a balanced trade-off of influences. There’s a lot to investigate here, a lot of nooks and crannies to indulge in.

Value: $99/$80

The Sazerac 18 year rye (Saz18) is one of the two straight rye whiskies that are part of the annually released Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC). As may already be understood, a straight whiskey with an age statement is legally obligated to include no whiskey younger than the stated age, but can include any whiskey aged to an older year. The fact sheet that Buffalo Trace (BT) makes available for each BTAC release states that the whiskey was distilled in the Spring of 1985 by the Buffalo Trace Distillery. The site of what is now BT has changed hands many times over the years, and as best I can ascertain in my research, the whiskey in my bottle was distilled at what is now BT under contract in 1985 for a separate spirits company and was sold back to BT around 1998.

By that logic, the whiskey would have turned 18 in 2003. It seems that somewhere around ’03 to ’05, BT put their intended future Saz18 stock in stainless steel containers so as to curb the wood influence, and they have been slowly bottling their dwindling supply, rationing it out so that they can continue to release the label annually until a new crop of 18 year old rye is ready for bottling. As far as I can tell, the new crop of rye destined for Saz18 was distilled by the current owners in around 1997 or thereabouts. If this information is correct, the Saz18 fact sheet should remain consistent in displaying a distillation year of 1985 until the 2015 BTAC release.

The Saz18 is another example, like the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, of an aged rye quickly going the way of the dodo. I don’t know what we can expect when the new crops of older rye (and bourbon for that matter) start appearing on shelves in the next decade, but I don’t doubt for a second that they will taste different from the juice that currently fills their labels. Stock up while you can.

~ by WhiskeyWonka on March 12, 2012.

2 Responses to “Sazerac 18 year old Straight Rye – 2011 Release”

  1. […] Rye, and it used this same 16-year old whiskey as a component in that blend. Unlike the current Sazerac 18-year old and Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, which were distilled in the 80′s and put into stainless […]

  2. […] not as complex in dark flavors as the like-aged Sazerac 18-year old rye, this whiskey is a delicious, dessert-y lesson in alternative barrel aging. I would love to see […]

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