Whiskey Review: Sagamore Distiller’s Select Manhattan Finish

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Sagamore Spirit. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

I’ll admit, it took me a number of years to warm up to Manhattans. Mostly a whiskey and a beer person and plus, many years ago, there wasn’t much use of good vermouths as I was learning my way behind the bar. Nowadays, there is more of an appreciation of the nuances of a good vermouth or an amaro in the use of a Manhattan. And it can be a beautiful thing.

“Whiskey enthusiasts want to be challenged,” said Brian Treacy, Sagamore Spirit’s president, at the time Sagamore Distiller’s Select Manhattan Finish was released, “and we’re always up for a good challenge too. It led us to try something that’s never been done before, which ultimately became Manhattan Finish. The process started with breaking down the flavors of a Manhattan cocktail and then building them back up again. Our distilling team spent weeks testing different combinations of our straight rye whiskey aged separately in cherry brandy, vermouth and bitters barrels to find just the right blend.

“The result turned out to be exactly what we wanted: a full-proof whiskey with character – not a cocktail – and one that was well worth the risk.”

There have been American bourbons and whiskeys finished with vermouth barrel finishes and the like. The same can be said with gins and probably other liquors. It’s fun and can certainly make the production of home cocktails a lot easier. To the credit of Sagamore, it does appear that they have put significant efforts into the production and blending processes for this particular whiskey.

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The Sagamore story began in April of 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. As a still younger distillery in the whiskey world, the team does source two proprietary mash bills out of Indiana where it is then finished on their site. The focus of the distillery is on rye whiskeys and different expressions thereof. Beyond this, you shall find other barrel finishes within their portfolio including a tequila anejo barrel and a sauvignon blanc cask.

Sagamore Spirit Distiller’s Select Manhattan Finish

Sagamore Spirit Distiller’s Select Manhattan Finish (image via Sagamore Spirit)

Whiskey Review: Sagamore Distiller’s Select Manhattan Finish

Vital Stats: 103 proof, 51.5% ABV. A rye whiskey aged 4-5 years and finished in vermouth, bitters, and cherry brandy barrels to blend into this whiskey as a Manhattan style pour. ~$73 per 750ml bottle.

Appearance: A light earl grey tea or honey. In the glass, noticed some light legs.

Nose: Right away, one picks up on some amarena cherry and a touch of heat. Let it settle into the glencairn and nosed it again. This time discovered a touch of baking spices in the background. However, all in all, the nose was simple, but pleasant.

Palate: I was expecting some straight forward flavors but was impressed with the complexities going on. The primary notions were of cherry, toffee, and black pepper. There’s another layer of characteristics including orange zest and the slightest hint of anise. Is it a Manhattan? I’d say it’s pretty close to the mark.

The Takeaway


This was a fun one to try. As may happen with other whiskeys, the first impression from the nose wasn't all that exciting. But you really get into the glass and then things begin to perk up. There's depth of flavor and certainly a tasting experience. It's not quite a Manhattan, but that is merely a speculative notion. One does pick up the cherry flavor intermixed with a certain richness imbued from the vermouth barrel finish.

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It's a solid whiskey, but for the price tag, I may recommend a pour at a bar first and then follow your palate. And then, perhaps get a Manhattan of your choosing for a little taste comparison.

User Rating 3.25 (16 votes)