Class: Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Reviewer: Andrew Owen
Sazerac Rye, perhaps better known in enthusiast circles as "Baby Saz", is Buffalo Trace Distillery's entry level rye whiskey. Remember, Buffalo Trace Distillery is owned by the Sazerac family's company which is based in New Orleans. This whiskey was created to pay homage to the Sazeracs, as well as the famous New Orleans-based cocktail that they played a part in inventing (or at least popularizing).
While this is a Kentucky straight rye, the Kentucky designation is purposefully left off of the front of the label, while Buffalo Trace instead heavily markets it to capture the New Orleans heritage of the cocktail. Here is the description that they give you from their own website:
"The One and Only New Orleans Original. Sazerac Rye Whiskey symbolizes the tradition and history of New Orleans. Rye Whiskey that dates back to the 1800’s, around the time when saloons, veiled as Coffee Houses, began lining the streets of New Orleans. It was at the Sazerac Coffee House on Royal Street where local patrons were served toddies made with Rye Whiskey and Peychaud’s Bitters. The libation became known as the “Sazerac” and America’s first branded cocktail was born. This is the whiskey that started it all."
Now that the potentially-somewhat-factual backstory is out of the way, lets get to the whiskey itself. We call this whiskey "Baby Saz" because it is the younger equivalent of Sazerac 18 Year, the uber limited yearly release that is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection of whiskeys. It is also the non-barrel proof equivalent of another BTAC whiskey, Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye.
- Undisclosed mash bill that is somewhere around 51% rye with the remaining portions comprised of corn and barley. Rumor is that the mash is 51% rye/39% corn/10% barleymalt
- No age statement (purportedly around 6 years old)
- Bottled at 45% ABV (90 proof)
Nose: Caramel, subtle cinnamon spice, faint “old” leather, and sweet candy corn. Sweet and full. After a rest in the glass, some light anise and citrusy lemon notes develop. The sweetness of the caramel and candy corn lead the way, but this is well balanced.
Palate: Sweet and herbal. Licorice, eucalyptus, lemon pledge, malty vanilla, and anise. Overall this is borderline-cloying. The flavors are pronounced, but this is desperately in need of some oak or spice. Luckily, a few drops of water allow some baking spices to surge in and balance things a bit. Medium bodied mouthfeel.
Finish: Malty vanilla, anise, mild oak tannins, and fresh cinnamon. Long.
Buying Recommendation: Worth buying a pour. While I didn't exactly care for the whole malt/licorice flavor dichotomy of this whiskey, it does have an easily detectable level of craftmanship that I appreciated. It's a well made whiskey, which is why I'm still giving it a "solid" score, and recommending that you try it out to see if it hits your sweet spot. Don't believe the hype that some retailers are putting on this now that it is becoming a bit more allocated though; this is a $35 whiskey max, but should more realistically be in the $26-32 range.
The Rating Scale
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: truly exceptional
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