Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Sazerac. 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.
In a certain sense the Sazerac Company has two storied histories. In the late 19th century, the company grew from its namesake coffeehouse into a major spirits distributor in New Orleans, LA. Today, Sazerac understandably maintains its connection to the Big Easy, but also maintains a portfolio of quality bourbon brands and eight distilleries across North America and operations across the globe.
This brings us to the second story–that of erstwhile distilling giant Seagram Ltd. Seagram’s also traces its history to the middle 19th century, with the establishment of a distillery in Waterloo, Ontario, in 1857. The company and its assets were acquired by Samuel Bronfman’s Distillers Corporation in 1928. Seagrams flourished during the period of prohibition in the United States (in part by taking advantage of the conveniently located French port of St. Pierre in order to direct liquor to northern American cities) and became a household name in the 1950s with Bronfman still at the helm.
The Sazerac and Seagrams companies maintained business ties throughout the 20th century, with Sazerac acquiring several of Seagram’s assets before the company’s demise in 2000. Sazerac has worked to establish a claim to Seagrams’ legacy in Canadian whiskey and recently resumed production of whiskey at the Old Montreal Distillery. This connection is particularly strongly expressed in their annual release of blends named in honor of Samuel Bronfman.
There is some poetry in the fact that the Second Annual Release of Sazerac’s Mister Sam was blended by Seagram’s final master blender Drew Mayville to commemorate Bronfman who, in addition to his business accomplishments, was also the company’s first master blender. The blend comes from Sazerac’s extensive stock of American and Canadian whiskeys and was first released to wide acclaim last year.
Mister Sam blended whiskey (image via Sazerac)
Tasting Notes: Sazerac’s Mister Sam
Vital Info: 122.6 Proof. Blended, no age statement. Suggested retail price $250.
Appearance: There is a deep amber color with a good amount of red tint–I’m stopping just short of describing it as “copper.”
Nose: From my initial notes: “Wait, is vanilla spicy?”. Mister Sam has one of the more complex aromas that I’ve encountered. It’s somewhere between panettone and a freshly opened bag of good tobacco.
Palate: This is relatively high proof but any heat is seriously front-loaded. It comes in hot but opens up into a truly expensive palate of dried stone fruits and candied nuts with just a pinch of cayenne. There is a sweetness that ties these flavors together and facilitates a seamless transition into a finish of toasty flan. Each of these phases unfolds against the steady background presence of very subtle oak, fading into a long tobacco-tannic aftertaste.
I’m truly impressed how many distinct flavors are discernible here without causing a “traffic jam” where they all pile up and become jumbled together. I can understand why master blender Drew Mayville referred to the creation of Mister Sam as a “highlight of [his] career” but at this price point, cost becomes a consideration and this bottle may not be accessible for everybody’s budget. To the frugal whiskey enthusiasts among us: it is absolutely worth shelling out for a glass of Mister Sam if your favorite whiskey bar happens to be pouring it.
Jacob Wirt’s past lives as a cook and cultural studies researcher continue to inform his appreciation of fermented grain beverages- not (only) because these professions might drive one to drink, but because they offer a reminder of the knowledge, work, and history that makes every glass possible. His first love...