By Richard Thomas
In some ways, Sazerac is really more of the key brand name coming out of Buffalo Trace Distillery than their own namesake small batch bourbon, as Louisiana’s Sazerac is Buffalo Trace’s parent company. Given that, it shouldn’t be surprising that the bedrock Sazerac 6 Year Old is supported by an entry in Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, the Sazerac 18 Year Old.
The thing about the Antique Collection is that each year is different, so each annual release is a limited edition. Reviewing last year’s Sazerac 18YO, S.D. Peters described it as a sweet rye, but one where “the sweetness is tastefully balanced with the Rye’s robust spiciness.”
The Sazerac 18 Year Old is one of two expressions in the Antique Collection that are not cask strength whiskeys, and is instead bottled at 90 proof (45% abv). Like its antique cousins, however, Sazerac 18YO comes in a modernist package that looks more like a wine bottle than something that should have an aged American whiskey in it. The advantage there is the tall, clear glass bottle and its minimal labeling shows off the color of the whiskey to its fullest extent.
In the glass, that color is very, very rye, namely the deep orange place where burnished copper meets amber. The nose is richly sweet, with garden herbs and a certain grassy quality meeting sweet, wet tobacco and molasses.
As with last year’s Sazerac, that nose is almost misleading, with the flavor of the older Sazerac rye packing a lot more than even that rich and pleasant nose might suggest. Notes of leathery wood and minty all-spice predominate over the still-rich sweetness, with just a dash of dry pepper. That spice mixture — mint, pepper, all-spice — linger in the aftertaste as the moderately warm finish takes its time in winding down.
Entries from the 2013 Antique Collection go for $70, or should assuming no vendor mark-up, and the Sazerac 18 Year Old Rye is no exception.