Origin: Frankfort, KY (USA)
Type: Straight Rye Whiskey
Ageing barrels: Virgin American Oak
Added coloring: No
Owner: Sazerac Company
Average price: € 55.00
Official website: www.buffalotracedistillery.com
Today I am tasting a whiskey with a legendary name.
The theories about its origin are endless (you can read them on Wikipedia), but to simplify, we can say that Sazerac was the name of a New Orleans bar that served a very successful cocktail based on cognac, absinthe and Peychaud. When Thomas Handy took over the place in 1870, phylloxera had completely destroyed the European vines, making cognac very rare. Handy was therefore forced to replace it with rye whiskey, which he made at home, but in doing so he achieved an American standard that would make cocktail history. So much so that today Sazerac is one of the largest American companies in the spirits world and owns countless brands and distilleries across the country.
Produced in Kentucky at the Buffalo Trace distillery, this bottle is affectionately known as Baby Saz because it’s the regular version of the prized Sazerac 18yo (whose price and availability are now out of reach) and Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey (an unchillfiltered, uncoloured, cask strength version for the Antique Collection line). There are no official production records for this Baby Saz, but unofficially it’s reported to be a 51% rye mash bill for six years of aging in virgin casks.
The whiskey is chillfiltered, while Straight indicates that it isn’t colour corrected.
To the eye it appears crystal clear and perfectly orange.
The nose has a classic rye profile: orange zest and caramel on a fundamentally sweet base, followed later by more spicy notes of candied ginger and cloves.
The palate has a soft, drinkable entry, with a slight savouriness on a creamy base followed by a hint of smokiness: in a word, crema catalana.
The finish is quite interesting with tones of liquorice, anise, vanilla and dulce de leche. The finish is clean but a little weak. Invites you to drink more, but more to make sure there is something left over than for gluttony. It lacks complexity and structure: the aromas are there, but a little watered down. After all, this rye is at its best when mixed more than on its own: a nice sazerac made with all the right ingredients will not fail to satisfy.
As you can see from other people’s reviews, the Baby Saz has itself been a huge success at home because of its great price, pleasant profile, and attractive branding.
As far as I’m concerned it’s a great product, but the European purchase price makes it decidedly less appealing. The rye whiskey world has thankfully produced some very high value gems that are redefining the market and the mere name is no longer enough to justify a high price. Clearly, we are talking about the rye whiskey par excellence here, and the weight of history can be judged by the beauty of the bottle alone, which has now become an icon of American design. Personally, I don’t think it will change your mind about rye whiskey, but for those who are passionate about it, it’s obviously a must-have.
The Whiskey Jug