As part of their annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Buffalo Trace releases two rye whiskies: Thomas Handy Sazerac, a barrel strength version of their regular Sazerac release and Sazerac 18 Year Old. Both George T Stagg and Sazerac 18 are considered by many the best of the collection.
Normally a review of this whiskey happens in the fall when this is released, but I happened to run across a bottle of this recently… and I’m sure glad I did. This was distilled in the spring of 1985. When it matured at 18 years, they stopped the aging process by storing the whiskey in stainless steel vats. This process isn’t uncommon. Sazerac 18 is also considerably rarer than George T Stagg – 27 barrels versus 157 barrels. That’s a large variance. I hear some stores only get 1-2 bottles each fall.
Enough jabbering – how is it? In a word, refined. I smell some toffee, a little citrus (orange peel) and rye earthiness. When I taste it, this 90 proof Sazerac 18 comes in sweet (fruit & honey) and coats your mouth. Heck, I even get a tiny hint of chocolate here. Now, don’t go expecting a Hershey Bar. The rye spice builds up and tickles the tongue. There’s also a little oak, but just enough to balance it. The finish is sweet and slowly fades away. There is nothing harsh about this whiskey.
Make no mistake, this is one outstanding whiskey. It’s price tag is about $70, but you’ll probably find it marked up in stores. Is it worth the price? That depends on your budget and how much you enjoy rye whiskey. I’ll easily purchase another bottle IF I run across it again.
One of my new favorite whiskies.