*Thank you very much to AP and Buffalo Trace for the samples!
Since I started with the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection’s Thomas Handy release (ol’ Tom being the founder of Buffalo Trace’s parent company Sazerac), it seems only fitting (if not a little confusing) to end with the Sazerac 18 Year Old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, seeing as it was the Sazerac brand of cognac that got Thomas Handy into this mess in the first place. It’s also fitting that I end with my favorite of the series, though it’s certainly hard to pick a favorite from a group of such incredible whiskies. Since I’ve rattled on about Sazerac in previous posts, I might as well rattle on here a little about the Antique Collection in general. I hope I’ve made it fairly clear in the previous posts that I think it’s a pretty damn high quality group of whiskies…and pretty much has been since the Antique Collection was first rolled out in 2002. It’s arguably one of the most anticipated and sought-after whisk(e)y releases of the year and increasingly harder and harder to lay hands on any of the bottles. Like I said, not an easy task to pick a favorite from this bunch, they’re all excellent examples of the style they represent and, as a nice bonus, they all look incredible in the bottle and the glass.
The Sazerac 18 Year Old was my favorite for its complexity, its structure, and its refinement. I enjoyed the Stagg and Weller immensely, their straight-from-the-cask intensity it not to be missed, but in the end, this one won me over. Created from a mashbill of Minnesota rye, Kentucky corn, and North Dakota malted barley, this was aged for, you guessed it, 18 years and bottled from a selection of 28 barrels.
The Nose: Oh man…a rich, sweet, engrossingly complex nose with orange blossom honey, deep cinnamon, butterscotch, and warm soft rye bread. There’s a bit of that pickling spice earthiness I seem to get with rye whiskies, but it’s mellowed here by the wood, washed with spice and honey. There are nice secondary notes of vanilla crème brûlée (especially the burnt sugar top) and old worn leather.
The Palate: Much less sweet than the nose implies, the burnt toffee notes from the nose carry over with more toasted rye bread and a bit of orange pith. A terrific, powerful swell of woody spice quickly rolls in, bringing out more herbaceous, almost mint-like notes from the rye along with cinnamon stick, white peppercorns, rough clove, and strong, balanced, near perfect notes of tannic, leathery, charred oak.
The Finish: A wonderfully warm finish of charred oak, rye spice and white pepper. That powerful swell from the palate recedes here with almost perfect balance.
Thoughts: A truly fantastic whiskey, I found the 2011 Sazerac 18 Year Old to be just stunning. That rich, really aromatic nose filled up the room almost like a peaty Scotch and the palate is challenging and luxurious all at the same time. This is a heady combination of intense, bold flavors and mature complexity that deserves contemplation. Pretty much a masterpiece of American whisky making. Highly, highly recommended.