The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection has plenty of younger siblings: Eagle Rare, Stagg Jr., and the entire Weller line. One of the lesser known little brothers, at 6 years old, is Sazerac Rye, the 18 year old version of which is one of the rarest annual releases in the entire Antique Collection (while the cask strength version is released as Thomas H. Handy). The name comes from the famous cocktail, reportedly conceived in New Orleans at the Sazerac Coffee House, and it’s also, not coincidentally, shared by the NOLA-based parent company of Buffalo Trace Distillery. The exact mashbill is unknown, but it is believed to be in the Kentucky style with not much more than 51% rye in the recipe. Thoughts follow.
I don’t usually comment on bottle packaging, but Sazerac Rye is a real piece of liquor shelf eye candy. Everything about this bottle, from the long neck and saloon-style bevel to the raised, stylized font, screams old West whiskey coolness. Anyway.
The nose on the whiskey is bright and sweet, and there’s not nearly as much peppery heat as I normally detect in a rye whiskey. It has a rich vanilla and toffee core with secondary notes of caramel apple, candy corn, and clove-studded orange. The palate is velvety with a generous, well-balanced heat. Initial notes of black pepper, honeyed cereals, and vanilla custard give way to caramel sauce, red pepper, and cinnamon sugar on buttery toast. The finish is medium-length, eroding into sawdust and baked apples. This one drinks more like a high rye bourbon, so it’s not surprising that there’s suspicion surrounding a high corn content in the recipe. Still, there’s enough fruit and rye spice, all in fine balance, to keep me coming back for another sip.