Whiskey Review: Sazerac 18-Year-Old 2017 - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Sazerac 18-Year-Old 2017

Editor’s Note: This week, we’re reviewing the 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys. Check out our previous reviews as well: Eagle Rare 17

Sazerac Rye is a bartender’s best friend. The standard Sazerac expression from Buffalo Trace anchors Manhattans and Sazerac cocktails around the world, providing the perfect sweet-and-spicy foil for bitters, herbal liqueurs, and other intensely flavored cocktail ingredients.

Paying homage to the classic, each year, Buffalo Trace releases a Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old as part of its Antique Collection. The release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection—BTAC for short—is a hotly anticipated event in the bourbon world, and while the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is a modest $90, most people end up paying a lot more, either because they buy their bottles on the secondary market, or because their retailers mark up the bottles in response to enormous demand.

Each year’s release always has the same five whiskeys: Eagle Rare 17-year-old, Sazerac Rye 18-year-old, William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Hardy Rye, and George T. Stagg. However, each year’s blend is usually slightly different, with barrels coming from different locations in different warehouses.

According to the distillery, this year’s Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old spent a gap year in stainless steel before bottling: “The barrels for this whiskey were filled in the spring of 1998, and then put into a stainless steel tank in 2016 to stop further aging and evaporation,” says the press release. Last year’s batch was also distilled in 1998, which suggests to me that 2016 and 2017’s Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old may be from the same vatting, and that oxidation and evaporation have been responsible for changes in flavor profile, rather than distillation or casks.

Sazerac 18-Year-Old 2017

Tasting Notes: Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old 2017

Vital Stats: 18 years old, 90 proof, distilled in the spring of 1998, tanked into stainless steel in 2016.

Appearance: Amber

Nose: There’s lots of sweetness and spice in this nose, with a very holiday-like bouquet of allspice, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and dried fruit. I also get an earthy, almost musty component—old wood, fresh soil—which conjures up the feeling of celebrating Christmas in an old, drafty manor house. 

Palate: Like last years’, I find that Sazera 18-Year-Old delivers a really pure expression of rye. There’s a slightly green, stemmy note in the entry that builds to a nice bold crescendo of burnt caramel, dried herbs, black pepper, and dill pickle. It’s very sweet and full on the palate, with a filled-out feeling and a dense, mouth-coating texture. Ninety proof feels like the perfect strength. The finish is long and dill-inflected with a lot of mellow, integrated oak spice.

The Takeaway

I wish I’d saved a bit of last year’s Sazerac 18-Year-Old to taste alongside, but I didn’t. Revisiting my tasting notes from 2016, I see the linkages, and I prefer the 2018. The tannin and astringency seems to have mellowed significantly, and graininess has been replaced with a chewy herbaceous quality I really love. Delicious.

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