Sneak Peek of the Sazerac House


Earlier today, Sazerac Company offered members of the press a preview of the Sazerac House museum.  The Sazerac House is destined to be an important visitor attraction and museum in this giant cocktail city of New Orleans.  The history of the sazerac cocktail will play a large part at the museum, but expect to see other New Orleans cocktails featured. The role of New Orleans in the history of bourbon will also be a key part.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Sazerac Chairman Bill Goldring and Sazerac CEO Mark Brown were in attendance.

Right to left: Jeffrey Goldring, Bill Goldring, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, and Mark Brown break the ground, so to speak

Right to left: Jeffrey Goldring, Bill Goldring, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, and Mark Brown break the ground, so to speak

“We’ve long believed that New Orleans really is the birthplace of the cocktail,” said Brown.  “There would be those that would dispute it.  Fair enough, but I think we have a pretty good claim.  This is going to augment all of the hard work that Ann Tuennerman has been doing with Tales of the Cocktail, which by any standards has been remarkable.”

After a few words from everyone, Brown mentioned the company is burying a time capsule.  Inside is a bottle of Sazerac Rye, Peychaud’s bitters, a rocks glass, and a recipe for the cocktail.

A time capsule will be buried in the museum.

Sazerac Company is based here in New Orleans, though most of the action takes place at their award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY.  The company’s roots can be traced to the Sazerac Coffee House in the French Quarter back in the 1800s.  It is said that is where the sazerac cocktail was invented by Antoine Peychaud.  The Sazerac Company itself formed in 1850.

The location at the intersection of Canal Street and Magazine Street is near where the original Sazerac Coffee House stood, and in a prime tourist location. Sazerac projects 100,000 visitors during its first year. The Sazerac House will create 45 new jobs and is expected to open late 2018.

Brown also said, “New Orleans’ claim to fame with cocktails is definitely going to be cemented with this opportunity.”

And before you whiskey fans ask, I’m told there will be commemerative bottlings available at the museum.

2016 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Review

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Trace

Autumn used to mean a crispness in the air… leaves turning colors…  Now, it’s associated with the release limited edition whiskies.  One of the big dogs is the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  Five whiskies are released each year at various ages and proofs.  This year’s releases are priced at $90 (good luck finding at bottle anywhere near that price).  Let’s break down the collection:

Sazerac 18

Barrels for this were laid down in the spring of 1998, when I was graduating high school.  Yikes!  This is the first release in years that doesn’t come from a vatted tank.  Damn close to previous bottlings. Compared to the vatted releases, the new 2016 feels slightly fresher in the nose. It doesn’t have as sharp the rye spice. It’s still as rich as ever: Freshly grated ginger, coffee cake, cinnamon sugar, clove and allspice. On the palate, the aged rye grain provides a bit of zest and slight sharpness to an otherwise rich whiskey. Notes of Christmas cake, cinnamon, dark brown sugar dominate alongside the sharp rye. On the backend, the long maturation starts to show its hand with some tannins and a bit of oak spice. The finish is not as long as I’d like, but nice. Some semi-sweet/spicy nutmeg and candied ginger lead to a dry finish. I agree with Whisky Advocate’s John Hansell in that this new bottling isn’t as dry as previous releases, and comes across as a tad sweeter. To me, the oak really starts to show itself on the back palate. This is one whiskey that’s hard not to like. When it comes to well-aged rye whiskies, Sazerac 18 is still king. 9/10

Eagle Rare 17

Aged 17 years, Eagle Rare 17 is the oldest bourbon in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. I tend to describe Eagle Rare 17 as an elegant sipper, and this year’s release lives up to that description. Old leather jacket, tobacco, and slightly burnt caramel lead the nose, with a touch of oak and spice just underneath. On the palate, dried fruits and dark caramel provide some sweetness, which is tempered by baking spices and slightly drying oak tannins. There’s a little vanilla to be had with some airtime. The finish is long, spicy and dry. This year’s bottling doesn’t come across as oak-heavy as last year’s, but make no mistake: oak is still a major player here.  8.5/10

George Stagg

The 2015 edition of George T. Stagg was my favorite whiskey last year. How does this one compare? For starters, it comes in at a whopping 72.05% abv, or 144.1 proof. The semisweet nose carries concentrated aromas of dark cherries, espresso, vanilla bean and cola. Taste-wise, we’re talking chocolate covered cherries, cigar box, dark brown sugar and a sort of sweet oak. Those oak tannins take hold, and the whiskey becomes a bit dry leading into the long, semi-sweet/dry finish. Oak is a more dominant note here compared to last year’s release, but the whiskey not as disappointing as other reviewers have made it out to be. An oak-heavy George Stagg still carries itself with more high esteem than say, Orphan Barrel’s Forged Oak or Rhetoric.  8/10

William Larue Weller

William Larue Weller is always a hot seller amongst bourbon collectors. It comes in at 12 years and 7 months old, which many consider a “sweet spot” in terms of aging. This year’s release is 135.4 proof. Weller is always a solid release. The fact that it shares the same wheated recipe as the Van Winkle bourbons makes this one almost as impossible to find. The nose is rich and robust, with sweet caramel, dark fruits, toasted oak and vanilla. On the palate, juicy dark fruits mingle with brown sugar, vanilla, and some allspice. A touch of oak shows up on the backend, adding a hint of cinnamon. The finish is sweet and long, urging you to take another sip. This one’s a keeper!  8.5/10

Thomas H. Handy

Thomas H. Handy is the odd man out in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Whereas the other whiskies are 12, 15, 17 and 18 years old, Handy comes in at a mere six years of age. It’s basically the barrel proof version of Buffalo Trace’s Sazerac Rye whiskey. I have a bottle of the 2013 release open at the house, and I enjoy it from time to time. This year’s release comes across as young. Those sharp rye and dill aromas are in charge here. Some light caramel and cloves round out the nose. It smells young-ish. It tastes like it smells, unfortunately. An initial sweet caramel candy note kicks off the palate, followed by dill, toasted rye bread, and cinnamon. The finish is a touch fiery, and leaves a pleasing sweet and spicy flavor. I hate to say this, but I’m not a fan of this year’s Handy. It just feels young and disjointed. Ten times out of ten I’ll reach for Heaven Hill’s Pikesville Rye at almost half the retail price of this. My 2013 bottling of Thomas H. Handy blows this one out of the water.  6.5/10

My favorite of the bunch is still Sazerac 18.  Buffalo Trace did a fantastic job with this release, along with Weller and Eagle Rare.  George Stagg isn’t as good as last year’s phenomenal release, but it doesn’t mean it’s bad.  This year’s slightly oak-heavy release still comes with a recommendation.

Lagniappe Review – Expresiones Del Corazon Tequila

Photo courtesy of Sazerac Company.

Photo courtesy of Sazerac Company.

With Cinco de Mayo nearby, I decided to post a couple of tequila reviews.  Since this is a whiskey blog, a couple of these expressions have rested in either Buffalo Trace or Old Rip Van Winkle barrels.  Of course, I’m talking about Expresiones Del Corazon – Corazon Tequila’s premium lineup.  All are bottled at 40% abv.

Let’s start with Expresiones Blanco.  There is no aging on this one, and only about 5,100 bottles exist.  The nose here carries classic, earthy tequila notes while maintaining a light nature.  I pick up herbs, lemon juice, agave and stewed green fruit.  Taste-wise, there’s something refreshing here.  Waves of citrus and agave lend to a slight minty finish.  A lot of care and expertise was put into the distillation and production of this tequila, and it’s evident in every sip.  Nicely done.  8.5/10

Next up is Expresiones Reposado.  This expression is “rested” in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels for 10.5 months.  Even in that short amount time, the barrel has managed to shape the flavors of the tequila, mellowing them slightly.  The nose still leans towards tequila blanco, with dominant herbal and agave notes.  A touch of dill, spice and sweet toffee can also be found.  Those herbal flavors also show up on the palate, alongside cinnamon and caramel.  The finish is a bit spicier than the blanco expression.  This one’s a nice balance of mellow tequila blanco and bourbon barrel influence.  8/10

Finally is Expresiones Añejo, aged in Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon barrels for 23 months.  Two years in a bourbon barrel really spice up the tequila.  Ginger, Caramel and herbs rise out of the glass.  It has the most “bourbon” notes of the three expressions, and same goes for the palate.  Spicy caramel, cooked agave and spice (ginger and cinnamon) dominate the palate.  Some lime zest and oak hide in the background.  The long finish carries a nice spiced citrus and herbal note. 8.5/10

My favorite was the añejo, followed by the blanco and reposado.  I’m not generally a tequila fan, but wouldn’t mind sipping on any of these if given the chance again.  If you know me, that’s really saying something.

Thanks to Gemini Spirits & Wine for the samples.