*Thank you very much to AP and Buffalo Trace for the samples!
Saving the best for last, or at least my favorite for last, the Sazerac 18 Year Old wraps up the reviews of the 2013 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Once again, as is now expected, this proved to be a terrifically high quality group of whiskies; carefully made, beautifully packaged and more or less worth all the surrounding hype. Compared to the only other complete collection I’ve tasted, the 2011 group, I think this one perhaps lacked the smallest bit of something or other…or perhaps I’ve just grown more cynical and demanding. Either way, my general impression/opinion of this year’s group is slightly lower than the 2011 group. But make no mistake, this is a fantastic group of whiskies. The Stagg, Weller, and Sazerac expressions continued to be stellar, while I thought the Eagle Rare really stepped up its game this year. The Thomas H. Handy was the only one to disappoint a bit, but even that one had its moments. With bourbon fever on the rise, pretty much any of these bottles will be tough to come by, but most of this year’s collection are worth the hunt and surprisingly remain (at the retail level) a relatively decent value.
The Sazerac name is a fairly important one in whisky and cocktail lore. For more historical/hysterical info, be it on the cocktail, the whiskey brand, or the company, please check out my review of the Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey. This years edition of the Sazerac 18 Year Old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey is, yup, you guessed it, an 18 year old whiskey, unlike the Eagle Rare 17 Year old which this year is actually a 19 year old whiskey.
The Nose: An absolutely wonderful nose, it just seems billow out of the glass. There’s a lot of sweetness, a lot of rye, and a lot of oak here and all three are balanced so well together it’s a little jaw-dropping. Lots of dark caramel sauce, vanilla cream soda, and thick floral honey along with complex citrus notes of juicy orange, even a bit of Cointreau. The rye is rich but mellow, like warm buttered rye bread, and dry rye flour, only a little of that younger, pickling spice rye. Lots of vanilla bean and dusty cinnamon with a little soft clove, worn leather and sawn oak as well. In the background, subtle hints of dried tobacco leaf, mint syrup, and corn oil round out a very complex nose
The Palate: A somewhat thin but oily mouthfeel, initially full of burnt sugar and orange-tinged sweetness. That vanilla cream soda from the nose carries through much of the palate, but it gets outpaced by the rye which is more aggressive now, with a harder, sharp grain quality. Woody, spicy notes quickly bloom. More hints of old leather mix with more cinnamon, rough clove, cracked peppercorns, and a touch of anise and menthol-y mint in a spicy finale that’s big and drying, but in control and mouthwatering as well.
The Finish: Long, dry, and tantalizing with continued peppery rye, earthy mint, dusky clove, balanced with that burnt sugar sweetness from the palate.
Thoughts: Another year, another beautiful Sazerac 18 Year Old. One of the better noses my nose has nosed all nose, I mean year. Wonderfully complex, balanced and integrated, you could nose it for hours if you could resist the temptation to crawl into the glass. The palate followed well, and though it had a leaner, more aggressive character to it, that complex wave of spice and the keeps-you-coming-back-for-more finish managed to keep pace with the stunning nose. Year after year, the Sazrerac 18 Year Old tends to be a virtuoso display and is certainly not to be missed. This one was my favorite of the 2013 Antique Collection, just edging out the William LaRue Weller and the Stagg. Highly recommended.