This Sazerac 18 from the 2011 release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection may be the oldest rye I’ve tasted, but then again it may not; there are rumours that the Van Winkle Rye 13 may in fact be a lot older than 13. But this is certainly the oldest rye I’ve tasted by stated age. Why the American whiskey business can’t be more transparent, I don’t know. Anyway, I managed to get my hands on the entire BTAC release for 2011 when I was first trying to develop a sense of bourbon–back then it was possible to actually find and buy them all. I split the collection 50/50 with my friends Jessica and Nate–they kept the bottles, I took my half in mason jars because I’m hillbilly that way.
Last year I made an attempt to score some of the BTAC and failed. This year I don’t think I’m going to try very hard. It’s not that I don’t think the whiskeys are worth it; I think they are–despite the price increases they still present very good price/quality ratios compared to Scotch of similar quality. It’s just that my ability to truly appreciate this stuff is not very well developed and so the gigantic hassle of trying to score a bottle makes the entire experience not worth it.
Sazerac 18, 2011 Release (45%; Buffalo Trace Antique Collection; from my own bottle)
I have no idea what the rye component of the mashbill is here or what the source of the distillate is.
Nose: Cold tea, pine, cinnamon, mint. Some darker aromas after that–some toffee, some dried tangerine peel, some brown sugar and maple syrup. Very nice depth of aroma. More wood with time.
Palate: Very nicely integrated. The rye notes don’t jump out at all. They’re there–the pine, mint etc.–but in perfect balance with caramel, toffee, some of that dried tangerine peel from the nose, and also some non-tannic wood. Very smooth and highly drinkable. The wood becomes more and more palpable with every sip but it’s not very tannic and rather pleasurable.
Finish: Medium; nothing new.
Comments: The fact that it has been in a half-full mason jar for a while probably has had some effect on this whiskey, so please factor that it into how seriously you take this review. As tasted today, however, it is the least rye-forward of all the ryes I’ve had. Which may be why I like it the most of all the ones I’ve had so far. Apart from the minty/pine thing this has some things in common with some sherried single malts, though it is, of course, woodier than single malts of similar age. Would probably make a killer Manhattan (and that statement might be another reason why it’s probably a good thing for me to not get any more BTAC).
Rating: 88 points.
I happened to print out the BTAC fact sheets in 2011. Not sure if this info is easily available online anymore or not, but I might as well copy some of the more interesting info here, right?
Year of Distillation: 1985
Release: Fall of 2011
Proof for Release: 90
Large Grain: Minnesota Rye
Small Grain: Kentucky Corn Distillers Grade #1 and #2
Finish Grain: North Dakota Malted Barley
Distillation: Double Distilled; beer still and doubler
Proof Off Still: 135
Barrel: New White Oak; #4 Char; Charred for 55 seconds
Barrel Entry Proof: 125
Barrel Size: 53 Liquid Gal
Warehouse: Warehouse K
Evaporation Loss: 57.27%
Barrel Selection: 28 hand picked barrels
(from BuffaloTrace.com in 2011)
Thanks! Is the percentage of rye in the mashbill known?
No, the mashbill is not stated!
Sku might know…
I’m hardly a whisky connoisseur (still haven’t developed a taste for the scotch style, but I drink the bourbons from time to time, and I might suddenly be finding myself capable of differentiating some of these flavor components). I’m wondering what kind of effort you need to undertake in order to get your hands on some of these rare bottles. How much do you have to spend?
The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is not crazy expensive (relatively speaking); the bottles are just hard to get because it is severely allocated and there’s a major feeding frenzy around this annual release (coming up very soon). It’s a similar situation with the Van Winkle releases. If there are any serious liquor stores in your area who move a lot of inventory they will likely get some. The problem is that the hype now extends not just to customers but also to stores who make a big deal out of how they release them. Some hold them back for favoured customers and never put them on their shelves or websites; some make a big production out of doling their allocation out bit by bit. A lot (especially the Sazerac 18, the George T. Stagg and to a lesser extent, the Weller) now goes to hipster bars as well.
If you can find them, expect to spend somewhere between $70 and $100 per bottle. The two from the series that usually hang around for a while in many places are this one and the Eagle Rare 17.
I’d say the Handy (and Eagle Rare 17, as you stated) hangs around much more than the Saz 18. I think the Saz 18 actually has the fewest bottles released yearly of the 5 BTAC bottlings. Enjoying the blog MAO, new reader here that came over from Sku’s blog.
Whoops–I meant the Handy too. Lost track of which thread I was replying on! (And glad to have you.)
Make sure not to store the jars on the side, to avoid cork spoilage.
Were they virgin glass, or first or second fill pickle?
Virgin glass, and the empty jars make excellent receptacles for home-made peach and plum jams.
Well, it’s been three years.
I lost track of this mason jar and found it today in a box, with about two inches worth of Sazerac 18 in it. The whiskey was pretty cloudy and there was quite a bit of sediment at the bottom of the jar. Naturally, I poured some. It’s lost a bit of punch and has a faded quality but it’s still surprisingly good! Sweeter now but still very well balanced with a spicy finish. Even in this diminished state it’s far better than most of the more easily available ryes I’ve had in the years since this review.
I guess I should look for my mason jars of the Weller and Stagg from this set too…