By S.D. Peters
The annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection includes an 18-year aged version of its standard, 6-year old Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey. The difference in age expresses a maturity in the spicy notes, making the 18-year expression a more enjoyable sipping rye for those who favor the whiskey’s spicy side.
The release for the 2015 Antique Collection is drawn from the same source as previous years: stainless steel tanks at the Distillery containing fully matured Sazerac 18-year old rye. That makes it something of a “standard” in the Antique Collection, insofar as its previous releases were all variations of the same preserved vintage, much the same way Eagle Rare 17 Year Old was prior to this year.
What made previous Antique Collection releases of this standard also makes the 2015 release unique: it’s the last release of that vintage. Next year the Sazerac 18 will make the same transition Eagle Rare 17 made this year, and come straight from the warehouse out of batches of oak barrels, just as George T. Stagg, Thomas H. Handy and William Larue Weller already do.
Sazerac 18 year Old Straight Rye Whiskey is bottled at 90 Proof (45% alcohol), and shows a robust rye amber in the glass.
The Sazerac 18-year old is a basic rye, and therein lies its beauty. What makes it special, and of particular worth to rye fans, is that it weighs heavy on spice. Which isn’t to say that the sweetness isn’t light. Instead, it’s singular. That sweetness is a ribbon of molasses, thick and pure, that transforms into a well-aged rum and caramelizes.
Otherwise, peppercorn and allspice, chased by a moderate hint of white grapefruit at one point, fresh-squeezed lime at another, are pronounced in the nose and palate. The finish, long, relaxing and as dry as the Mojave, find the dominate spice in the form of bitter and bittersweet—red raspberries, light citrus, chocolate chips, and allspice—complimented by a nib or two of vanilla and a few fresh mint leaves.
After tasting the 2015 Sazerac 18, curiosity made me glance at my notes for an earlier release (the 2012). I was surprised by the differences in my experience, especially since both releases were from the same stainless-steel preserved vintage. Similar: the emphasis on spice and the presence of citrus notes. Difference: everything else.
There’s no accounting for how one experiences a whiskey’s flavor, I suppose. But I think the difference in my experience tasting Sazerac 18’s from the same vintage bodes well for next year’s release. After all, if there can be so much difference between releases from the same vintage, imagine what we might expect from a vintage drawn from barrels filled in 1998!
In the U.S., the 2015 Sazerac 18-year Old Rye is supposed to cost about $80. According to Wine Searcher, the average market price is a whopping $550.