Review: Sagamore Spirit Creator’s Cask Rye
American whiskey fans have long been stricken with single barrel fever. And for a community based around comparing and contrasting opinions on flavor, that really comes as no surprise. Barrel picks allow us to explore a single producer’s range, all while admiring the variety that can emerge when sipping otherwise identical distillate side-by-side.
Some hallmark brands — Blanton’s, Baker’s, and Elmer T. Lee immediately come to mind — are ubiquitous as single barrel releases. Others are selected by individual stores or regional distributors, with popular picks becoming something akin to gold at bottle shares and community meetups.
In a social media-friendly twist, some producers have been inviting guests to try their hand at picking for broader releases. That includes Maryland-based Sagamore Spirit, which recently invited four social media creators to try their hand at a collaborative pick of rye whiskey. They were:
- Ryan Mills (@thatoneduderyan), Spirits Influencer
- Leandro DiMonriva (@educatedbarfly), Mixologist
- Sarah Jeltema (@whiskynomad), Spirits Influencer
- Shannon Harris (@TheBrewBrotha), Brewer
The four influencers visited Sagamore’s facility to taste through and ultimately select one of four samples. (Part of the selection process can be seen in this video.)
Technically, the creators were actually picking among two-barrel blends. All Sagamore Barrel Select releases incorporate whiskeys from two separate mashbills — one very high-rye and one considerably lower-rye — with liquid originally distilled in Indiana and warehoused in Maryland. (It’s worth noting that Sagamore has been distilling their own rye since 2017, so it’s likely the Barrel Select program will eventually feature Maryland-made spirit.)
The result, dubbed Creator’s Cask, is a “Maryland-style blend of 7-year-old rye whiskies.” Ultimately, the two-barrel blend was bottled at 110 proof. Let’s dive in.
The nose puts to rest any mystery surrounding the source distillery. This noses like a great MGP 95/5, along with some additional depth I’m guessing comes from the inclusion of the lower-rye mashbill. This has rich notes of dark and red fruit: blueberries, black cherry, and almost sweet medicinal cherry that’s far from off-putting. Then freshly cracked black pepper along with some of that classic dill and parsley. There’s a ton going on here, and immediately it reminds me of some very good MGP rye I’ve tried at 14 years plus. Not a bad start for a seven year age statement.
The first sip is sweet and fruity, with a big hit of raisins and dried cranberries. The baking and rye spice come a little later, but they’re present and linger for a while. On the second sip, I get some classic herbal notes and mint jelly mixed in with the fruit. While there is black pepper on the nose, it’s more pink peppercorn on the tongue. There are complex flavors layered here, and while it’s easy to tell the flavors come from distinct liquid streams, they’re not clashing in this blend.
On the finish, the spice gives way to sweetness, not terribly long but long enough. There’s a touch of mint, then some leather, and a pop of lemon drop that keeps things from getting too drying and leaves me reaching back for another pour. Turns out my glass is already empty. It’s not the absolute best finish I’ve had on an Indiana-sourced rye, but this one certainly punches far above its age.
This one surprised me, and it’s got a depth I didn’t necessarily expect from a seven-year blend. It seems like the Sagamore team selected at least one “honey barrel” — I guess it would be a “honey two-barrel blend” — for the creators to pick. I’m just glad they chose this one.
The Sagamore Spirit Creator’s Cask Rye is available exclusively through Reserve Bar.
A / $71 / sagamorespirit.com
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