By Kurt Maitland
The release of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (BTAC for short) is one of the highlights of the whiskey calendar, up there with Diageo’s annual Special Release, Parker’s Heritage hitting the shelf, and, of course, the mad rush for Pappy’s.
Here we look at this year’s Sazerac 18-Year-Old, and this time it’s something new to BTAC. Previously this annual release of aged rye whiskey had been drawn from stocks stored in stainless steel tanks, essentially frozen in time. Last year’s Sazerac 18 represented the end of that batch, so going forward new releases will come directly from dumps of 18-year-old barrels, still bottled at 90 proof (45% ABV). Thus, it was with some anticipation that aficionados looked forward to the new version of Sazerac 18 Year Old, wondering how it would measure up to the past run.
Color: New Copper
Nose: Baking spice, leather, stewed apple, hints of cinnamon
Taste: There is not much rye sweetness in this release at first. It’s oakier than I expected and possesses an earthy/bitter quality that is reminiscent of cocoa powder. Later sips reveal a little of the sweetness that I didn’t get at first. The mouthfeel is very dry, astringent and bitter.
Finish: It’s shorter/thinner than I expected. There is a quick rising heat after your first sip but it doesn’t go very far. It just falls back into the earthy bitterness I mention above.
Water helps. It cleans up the bitterness a little and pulls out some stone fruit and a little caramel but the flavor and finish are still shorter than one would expect for a whiskey of this vintage.
There is no way around it. This release is a disappointment relative to what we expect from a BTAC release. At this low of a proof, the core flavors shouldn’t need water to make an appearance.
Addendum By Father John Rayls
I did a side by side comparison between Sazerac 18 and the entry level Sazerac, the 6 year old. The colors are very close, but the 18 comes away very slightly darker (chestnut). The legs are there for both, but both are pretty thin with the 18 being only slightly more viscous. The 18 looks much darker in the bottle than it does in the glass.
The nose is faint on both, but the 18 has a little bit more there with slight notes of oak, leather and caramel and only a little spice showing up. Surprisingly, there is some slight alcohol burn on the nose. Both bring a peppery/clove spice to the palate on a caramel oak base. However, it is a subdued palate profile. The finish is mostly medium, but does bring some spice at the back of the mouth. I was very disappointed in both flavor and finish. It was just so…”underwhelming.”
After drinking all the big bourbons and a very big rye in the BTAC collection, the Sazerac 18 comes off as the weakest link. It’s not a bad whiskey. It’s just not a great whiskey.
All of this year’s BTAC have a SMRP of $90 but for most people, you will be paying much more if you are interested in this release.