Distiller: Buffalo Trace. ABV: 64.6% (2014 bottling). Age: 6 years. Price: $80-400+
There’s something a little cruel in talking up the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, BT’s annual release of the absolute cream of the crop. There are five bottles in the collection: George T. Stagg Bourbon, Sazerac Rye 18 Year-Old, William Larue Weller Wheated Bourbon, Eagle Rare 17 Year-Old Bourbon, and this, the Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye. All cask strength. All among the best in their genre.
Cruel, I say, because they’re so damn hard to find. And when they are, they usually cost 5 to 10 times MSRP.
That said, the Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye is one of those drams you remember for hours. For days. You instantly know why it’s acquired cult status.
Have you tried the 6-year-old Sazerac Rye, a.k.a. Baby Saz? (You should–it’s one of the best sub-$50 ryes on the market.) Imagine that turned up to 11. But subtler, rounder, richer, unfiltered, and insanely drinkable–even at 64.6% ABV. Doesn’t need water. Not a drop.
You know what it’s like? A Christmas orange studded with cloves, stored for a day or two in a cedar box. And a little toasted coconut on the nose. One of the great ryes.
If only I could get my hands on a bottle… – BO
Buy Sazerac Rye online at Mash + Grape
Producer: Sazerac/Buffalo Trace. Distiller: undisclosed. ABV: 40%. Age: NAS. Mashbill: undisclosed (blend). Price: $45-50.
A salute to our friends up North tonight with the Caribou Crossing — billed as Canada’s first single-barrel whisky since the 19th century.
I jumped on this when it popped up at K&L Wines Hollywood a few months back as a way to start expanding my palate for Canadian whisky. Until then, I’d had little, and only truly enjoyed the Lot 40 Rye. (I know some of you will say Green Apple Jolly Ranchers, but I love it.) The Caribou Crossing came recommended by Canadian Whisky guru Davin de Kergommeaux, and got a respectful writeup from Mark Bylok in his fine book The Whisky Cabinet. Good start.
How is it? A very light but enjoyable dram — though not the revelation the Lot 40 was. Nose: Rye, plum, fruitcake, malted milk. Marzipan. Maybe a touch of jasmine. Plus a whiff of neutral grain spirit for the first few drams — uh oh — though this faded with a week or two and 1/3 of the bottle gone. Palate: orange marmalade, with alternating stewed fruits and preserves. Mouthfeel is where it falls down. At 40% ABV, it’s awfully light. The Lot 40 is 40% too, but a flavor bomb. The Caribou Crossing is much shyer. Finish: very little to speak of, just a hint of almond oil and pencil shavings.
As a Sazerac/Buffalo Trace product meant to raise Canadian whisky’s profile in the US — hand-picked from 200,000+ barrels of Canadian juice that Saz/BT has laid up — why play into the American prejudices about Canadian whisky by releasing it at such a low proof?
I’d be quite curious to try a more potent future release along these lines. As for the Caribou Crossing, I’m glad I tried it. But I’m getting another Lot 40 next. – BO
Distiller: Buffalo Trace for the Sazerac Co. 45% ABV. NAS. Mashbill: about 51% rye, with 39% corn and 10% barley.
For under $40, Sazerac Rye–a.k.a. “Baby Saz” (by contrast with the 18-year release and the cask strength Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye)–is my flat-out favorite in the category.
It’s like the Blanton’s of rye: you can find bolder, bigger, wilder, and older, but this is one I’m always happy to come back to. Low rye in the mashbill, interestingly, contributes to the balance.
Or the William Faulkner of rye: full of sweet damp wood, rich Southern soil, surprising spice, and an assertiveness that runs right up to the edge of self-importance, then settles in genuine depth.
Similes aside — nose: fresh cedar, coriander, rye grain, toasted tobacco. Faintly sweet. Taste: follows the nose, with perfect balance, dry spice, corn sweetness, and a medium finish.
You can use it in a knockout Sazerac cocktail or Old Fashioned, but it’s always a sipper for me. Cheers, friends! – BO
Buy Sazerac Rye online at Mash + Grape