It was only a matter of time before Sagamore Spirit turned its finishing eyes to the venerable rum barrel, with this blend of 5- to 6-year-old MGP rye whiskeys spending 10 extra months in a mix of South American and Jamaican rum barrels. It’s worth noting that Sagamore seems to have now dropped the “Distiller’s Select” moniker in favor of a more cohesive “Reserve Series” label, though the company has toyed with names like “Brewer’s Select” and “Vintner’s Finish” in the past, so who knows.
Rum and rye are natural bedfellows, and here the two prove that they continue to work well, Baltimore-style. The nose is at first sweetly rummy but not overblown with sugar, offering a few quiet notes of hogo, but then rushes into that intensely grassy character that’s endemic to rye — this probably being built on MGP’s 95% rye/5% barley mash. Peppery and biting at times, it features notes of lumberyard and brush fires lingering after the rum character dissipates, which happens quickly.
The palate has a more elegant composition, the grassy core mixing well with a lightly sweet, buttery quality. Notes of dark cocoa powder perk up alongside a slug of vanilla and caramel, followed by Maraska cherry, buttered toast, and graham cracker notes. Some orange peel pops up late on the finish, with a reprise of grassy herbal character.
This whiskey really grew on me over several hours of tasting, and I kept returning to my sample bottle to uncover more and more of its charms. The nose is strange as it reverts rapidly to an almost vegetal state — but the palate is so delightful one can eventually push past any flaws detected there. Whether the solution to this paradox is using older rye, a different mash, or more time in the rum barrel — well, that’s a job for Sagamore to figure out next time around.
98 proof. Reviewed: Batch #1A.
A- / $79 / sagamorespirit.com