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Review: 2011 Sazerac 18 Year Rye Whiskey

Sazerac 18 year old Rye Whiskey is one of five Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys released each fall. It is usually the more composed, elegant, and stately representative of the lineup’s two ryes. The much younger Thomas H. Handy Rye, which is offered at barrel strength and around 6 years of age, is the second in the release. (As an aside, I’ve often wondered why the Handy fits into a release called the “Antique Collection”, but it’s outstanding whiskey!)

Does the 2011 Sazerac 18 live up to its billing as one of the best rye whiskey releases of the year?

Sazerac 18 year Rye Whiskey, 45% abv (90 Proof), $75.00

Color: Deep amber

Nose:  The rye is floral and sweet with a darker side. Vanilla taffy, soft mint, sweet orange rind, a bit of cinnamon stick, caramelized banana, and maple syrup against old leather. The rye’s edges have been rounded beautifully by wood and time, but still have some vibrant zip.

Palate: Only moderately sweet, which is a different impression than the nose indicated. Brittle toffee and orange marmalade try to anchor the vanilla, crisp mint, and cinnamon. Chicory coffee, pepper, moderately spicy rye, and some light woody grip adds interest.

Finish: Bolder wood notes and chicory bitterness are mellowed with lingering fruit (citrus rind, berry) and rock candy.

Overall: One of the best available Rye Whiskeys each year, but this year is exceptional indeed. The nose alone is one of the finest in whiskey. A slightly higher proof might help to add more body. Outside of that, it is simply brilliant rye.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.4 (Superb/Outstanding)

15 Comments

  1. LostBottle says:

    Thanks for the review and the great blog, Jason. It is interesting that the HW Rendevous was rated the same as the Sazerac at a 9.4. Do you really find these to be on par? For me, Saz is the star in the BTAC and easily bests the Weller. I would also be very interested to see your review of the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye.

  2. Rendezvous is an outstanding whiskey so that’s not a slight to the 18 in the least. I’d say on the palate it bests the Sazerac 18 slightly, but they are both different. The nose on the 18 is just stellar though – an absolute stunning experience. I don’t have any of the Van Winkle for 2011. Should I get a hold of some I absolutely will review it.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. I have a bottle of Saz 18 that I’m waiting on to open, but I have tried samples of it on 2 occasions in a less than clinical setting, so it’s hard for me to rate at this time. I thought it was very good on both occasions but also was not blown away. It was sampled after some higher proofers so I think perhaps they drowned it out a bit. I’m looking forward to cracking my bottle and expect it to be terrific. Thanks for the review Jason, good as always!

  4. Chris says:

    Hello, between the Handy and the Saz 18, which do you prefer? (I know, apples and oranges)

  5. Chris I haven’t had the 2011 Handy yet, but will shortly. Last year I’d say the Handy, but we’ll see about 2011.

  6. Vince says:

    Hi Jason, Great review as always! Our Bourbon Society tasted the entire BTAC this month. All were exceptional but I would say the two “stars” of the show were the Sazerac 18 and the Stagg!

    Keep up the great work!

  7. wood is good says:

    Awesome, been waiting for your thoughts on the Saz 18! It’s my fave of the 5 this year, with the Weller a very close second. I place the Stagg “third” only in the sense that it’s simply a drink I couldn’t imbibe in every day; it’s more of a “few times a month” bourbon for me. But the Saz and Weller? Dang, I could drink them nearly everyday–that is, if i wasn’t trying to make my few bottles last!

    The Saz has a beautiful nose, and I love having it linger in the mouth. The Weller really rounds out after sitting in my glass for an hour and takes on a slightly “creamy” essence for me; the Saz—you pour it and it’s ready, once I get my nose out of the glass! Such a great scent.

  8. BMc says:

    Hi Jason, a thought just occurred to me, and I was wondering if you’d heard anything about this – since, as you know, the Saz 18 stock has been resting in steel tanks for 6-7 years, do you know if it’s stored at original barrel strength, or if it’s been watered down to 45%? The amount of water could change the development of the whiskey in the tanks.

  9. SteveBM says:

    While it’s easy to say that Eagle Rare 17 is my least favorite, it’s hard to say I have a favorite of the BTAC because I’ve always really enjoyed the Stagg and Sazerac 18. This year the Weller also positioned itself right up there. I can, however, say that the Sazerac 18 is the one that I tend to drink on a consistent basis and I love it. It’s a great ‘dessert’ after a nice meal. I need to do a comparison of the ’09, ’10, and ’11 sometime.

  10. MAL says:

    This stuff is so hard to find in Michigan. There is a bottle of ’09 Handy at my local store, been sitting on the shelf for over 6 months.. I’ve seen good reviews on the ’10 and the ’11 Handy, but not the ’09. Should I snag the bottle of ’09?

  11. sam k says:

    I’ve thought the Handys have been exceptionally good since the first offering, and even better the last couple of years. As my friend John Lipman says, “They have that ‘old whiskey’ flavor.” I don’t think you can go wrong.

    There are still 59 of them available from the PLCB website at $60 a pop. http://www.lcbapps.lcb.state.pa.us/webapp/Product_Management/psi_ProductInventory_Inter.asp?cdeNo=9458

    Go for broke. No wonder al Quaeda hates us!

  12. Man, don’t name the prices of these bottles. Its over $ 180 in Europe. I hoped to pick up a Sazerac 18 on my trip to SF, but they sold out before I got there. Bummer.

  13. Sjoerd, too true! I guess we shouldn’t complain about the prices.

  14. Ryan Wainwright says:

    Once again a spot on review;I am undecided of which of the BTAC is my favorite of year. I believe that with Weller,Stagg or Saz 18 you just can’t go wrong;that being said I truly enjoyed a deep cherry note in this years Stagg .Looking forward to more great reviews.Cheers.

  15. Franco C. says:

    Jason,
    You convinced me. Always looked at BTAC as a bit pricey, but clearly this is one serious rye. I’m partial to gin/ botanical aspects of rye, which seems to come from youth. Am I missing a crucial aspect of rye in older incarnations?

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