Sazerac Straight Rye review

Sazerac rye, or Baby Saz for those that are lucky enough to get their hands on its higher age statement BTAC bigger brother, is one of those quintessential ryes that everyone says you have to put on your bar shelf. However, is that the case these days? With the rye revolution in the USA firmly underway, where does this one fit now? With so many micro/craft distilleries coming out with so many interesting new or revived takes on rye, where does this one belong?

Personally, I’ve always treated this as a mid-shelf daily sipper with all of the notes that you would expect of a low-rye rye and none that you don’t. But, is that the actually true? Let’s find out!

This being Buffalo Trace, the mashbill is officially unknown, but it is rumoured (and tastes like) their low-rye mash bill. This used to have a six year age statement, but that is now gone. It is rumoured to still be in the 4-6 year age range though. It is bottled at 45% abv.

Nose: This is about a classic a nose as you can get on a low-rye, high-corn rye (if that makes any sense). I find that Sazerac has always been very barrel forward for me and today is no different. Lots of cinnamon, of course, but also a pinch of allspice. Aside from the barrel notes, there’s a good dose of the flesh and zest of a navel orange. There’s plenty of caramel in here as well. As I nose this for longer I get just a hint of cherry. Not 100% sure about that though. I am confident that there is a bit of a roasted peanut thing going on in here. This is a whiskey that has 3-4 very dominant notes right up front and you have to spend some time with it if you want to get more.


Palate: This is like an orange creme brûlée on the entry for me. Some caramelized sugar, vanilla cream and a little bit of orange zest stirred in. As much as I got a good dose of the barrel on the nose, there is a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel right from the get-go. That sweetness carries over into the development and, with cinnamon, clove and a pinch of nutmeg, it’s giving me a nice spice cake vibe that I love. The oak starts to creep into the experience during the end of the development, but there is enough of everything else that it stays in the background. When I smack my lips a little to let in some air, I definitely get that peanut note I got on the nose.


Finish: This is a decent medium finish that manages to stay fairly well-balanced throughout. The oak becomes a little more dominant, but there are enough baking spices and sweetness from elsewhere in the experience to help to tamp this down a shade. The creaminess does start to fade here and it becomes a little more drying.

With water added…

As soon as I add water to this, I get a bit of a herbal note right off the bat. A bit of slightly stale dill and flat leaf parsley. It fades away significantly if given a few minutes to settle. Other than that, I find that there is less citrus and more oak and baking spices. The caramel seems creamier this time. Like those soft Kraft caramels from my childhood (are these still a thing?). OK. Right on the beginning of the entry, this is Kraft soft caramel city. The other notes take over quickly, but there is no mistaking it. After that, I’m getting a little bit of that creme brûlée that I got without water, but the increased and earlier presence of oak is drying the experience out a little. That spice cake note has gone, but I’m getting a stronger peanut taste, almost bordering on sweetened peanut butter. The finish is a bit more drying and I’m getting more nutmeg and even some cracked black pepper.

Conclusion

I have always treated this as a daily sipping whisky and have never really concentrated on the experience up until now. I was really expecting to just give this an average review and say that there’s better out there. I firmly believe that the latter is true, but there is nothing wrong with this dram. Because of its balance, I can see why it is so popular with bartenders as a base in cocktails. I will never be able to get my hands on “adult” Saz, but this “baby” is alright by me.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Taconic Straight Rye Whiskey – Barrel Strength review

This was the one Taconic release I was most excited about when the initial announcement was made by PWS Imports that they were going to be bringing the Taconic core range to us in Alberta.

I’m always wanting to try different rye whiskeys released from different areas to see if there is a difference. I have found that there is definitely a difference between southern and northern rye .This bottle, which is being produced in upstate New York could fall somewhere in the middle. Only one way to know, so let’s dive in.

First thing I noticed is the beautiful colour of this whiskey. It falls more to the reddish side of the spectrum than the yellow which was a surprise. Maybe not being proofed down with water keeps it way darker. Either way, it’s impressive and stands out in the glass but more so in the bottle.

A quick swirl to check viscosity and I was almost about to type that it has no legs at all…oh they are there. It just took a while for them to even start to drop. A nice, thin, long steady drop down the glass shows promise. You can almost tell just with a swirl how oily this whiskey is.

Nose: Immediately the rye grain note is noticeable as it should be. A bit of rye spice warms up the nose hairs, but surprisingly for a barrel proof this doesn’t nose hot. The spice gives way to a beautiful floral sweetness. Fruit orchards in the spring in BC during an unseasonably hot day. Apples and pears just starting to fill out after fruiting from their blossoms. There’s another floral note I can’t quit pin down. Like fresh tulips or marigolds basking in the sun. I absolutely love this nose and my mouth is watering already.

Palate: Oh baby! This coated my entire mouth instantly. That rye spice comes out large on the entry. Baking spices with cinnamon, but almost as if it’s cinnamon and sugar mixed and sprinkled across a warm buttered rye bread slice. The sugar sweetness fades back into rich fresh fruit notes. Couple that with the nutmeg, a touch of black pepper and some vanilla and honey and this is beautiful. There’s a touch of a wood note, a slight touch of butter tannin just before the finish begins.

Finish: Medium in length, but heavy on flavour. An almost maltiness shows up in the finish with more vanilla and a sort of apple skin note. There is a little flare up of pepper/spice midway through the finish and it just seems to prolong the finish a bit longer.

With water added…

With 5 drops of water into an ounce pour.

Nose: Ooooh this is all rye reminiscent of some of the heavy hitters now. But still unique. The spice has disappeared but the full flavour rye notes are more powerful. Almost a dusty grain note, like a farm on a hot day with a warm wind swirling the air around the grain bins. I find an almost fake banana flavouring note now. And the sweetness is a lot more butterscotch or even a touch nutty like cracking open a fresh bag of peanut brittle and inhaling deep.

Palate: Pow. That beautiful rye character just again wakes you up. The sweetness immediately feels cranked up with water. Still coats the mouth well and the banana note is there again. Like overripe bananas used in baking before they go full off. And wow, the spice and cinnamon return much later with water and stick around longer in the finish too. There’s still a nice flavour spot on the very back of my tongue that won’t fade completely away. Almost like I have a tiny spot of chewy caramel candy stuck to my tongue that won’t go down no matter how hard I try.

Conclusion

Overall this whiskey surpassed even my expectations. It’s mature beyond its years and tastes better than a lot of ryes double or triple its age. The rye spices mixed with the fresh fruit and wood influence all compliment each other amazingly and never try to out do one another. This is a must have for any rye lovers out there. Oh and that spot on my tongue is still giving off flavour.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Taconic Founders Straight Rye Whiskey review

Today, we’re taking a virtual trip over to the east coast to the Hudson Valley region of New York to review the second bottle in Taconic Distillery’s core range: their Founder’s Rye

Rye whisky production is experiencing a bit of a revival these days. Although still bourbon’s little sibling in terms of production, the rye renaissance is being driven by a renewed interest amongst bartenders and consumer alike.

Most mass produced rye still leans towards a mashbill that hues close to the legal minimum of 51% rye. The large proportion of corn in these mashbills gives these ryes a sweeter flavour so as to appeal to the everyday bourbon drinker.

In terms of “high rye” rye, Midwest Grain Products of Indiana (aka MGP) and Alberta Distillers Limited are the largest producers. Their whisky, in turn, is bottled by them under various brand names or shipped to other distilleries for blending and bottling under their own labels.

Lately, craft distilleries have tried their own hand at rye distilling using high-rye mashbills. This leads us back to Taconic, whose Founders Straight Rye Whiskey has a mashbill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley. It’s aged for at least three years in virgin American oak barrels and bottled at 45% abv.

Nose: this is quite floral and herbal right off the bat. I had to sniff around my spice and dried herb bottles a bit before I settled on ground coriander seed. It’s a little bit sour and floral at the same time. The floral note isn’t very strong and it’s not pungent like a rose. I’m trying to tie it to something in my garden. A faint whiff of Peony, maybe? I’m getting rye bread in here for sure. Not surprising, I guess! Some brown sugar and toffee bubbles up as it sits in the glass for a while. Definitely cinnamon and allspice as well. More than a hint of peach and orange comes up from the glass. Interesting sweet and sour combinations going on here.

Pallet: That interplay between sweet and sour continues during the entry. Orange, vanilla cream, toffee and a little bit of milk chocolate. It’s not super creamy, but it’s enough to coat the mouth. The transition into the development is gentle and not super spicy either, but it’s enough to make the tongue and gums tingle a little. Cinnamon is joined by a pretty decent amount of ground cloves. The oak starts to come into play towards the end of the development and is pretty tame. Especially when I smack my lips, that orange note from the entry is turned up. Sponge toffee is definitely there from the mid-development onwards along with a bit of cracked pepper.

Finish: The finish is medium, I would say. The oak ever so slightly wins out over the citrus to make this mildly drying. The sponge toffee gently fades away. A little bit of old leather and a tiny bit of dark chocolate linger at the end.

With water added…

The nose is a little more oaked and the cloves I got on the development are here now. A little bit of cocoa powder is in there for sure. This is more sweet and less sour on the entry and development now. I was worried that this might be over oaked, but thankfully that’s not the case. Lots of light brown sugar and the custard of a creme brûlée are in the entry. It’s a little more spicy in the development and that helps to cut through the added sweetness. It’s the same cinnamon and clove mixture as before. The finish isn’t that much longer than without water, but that added sweetness gives me a nice spice cake kind of feel that slowly fades away.

Conclusion

This was really nice both with and without water. Having reviewed a few craft whiskies over the summer, there was a tendency for them to fall apart a bit with a few drops of water. This whisky was having none of that. If you like things a little sweeter, try water. If you like a herbal, slightly citrusy and sour rye, take it without.

Taconic’s Double Barrel Maple Bourbon seems to be their top seller due to it’s unique flavour, but their ryes are legit. If you want to know what the barrel strength version of this tastes like, PWS’s own Sean Kincaid will provided you with the answer on Friday.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Lot 40 – 11 Year Cask Strength

Nestled in the cold Alberta plains where rye is born, the next bottle to make our tasting line up is a Canadian masterpiece, Lot 40 Cask Strength, aged 11 years. This limited release cask strength is quintessentially Canadian and has become the country’s darling within the whiskey community. The 100% Rye, aged in new oak is once again receiving the highest of praise across the country and internationally. It’s 2017 predecessor is almost impossible to find only a year later and I can only assume this bottle will follow suit. Snag one while you can before its too late. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a few home grown beauties like this on the shelf to demonstrate some nationalistic pride. Canada still occasionally punches in a high weight class but never seems to get the attention it deserves in the whisky community.

ABV – 58.4% / Age -11 years / Mash – 100% Rye / Region – Canada / Cask – New Oak

With Scotch and Bourbon as kings, Rye whisky seems to patiently sit in the back seat waiting for its opportunity to shine. Problem is though, there is a lot of rye out there that’s kind of flat and boring outside of their typical spiciness. This particular release by Lot 40 though is so full of flavour and wonderfully well crafted that once you have warmed up your palate with a couple sips and ease past the cask strength rye spice, your tongue will roll with pleasure.

NOSE – A big bold portrayal of its flavour bursting with overwhelming rye spices with hints of apple, butterscotch, and a slight smokiness.

PALATE – The spicy boldness increases as the aromas transition to a savory blend of cinnamon, vanilla, pepper and a strong oak influence emphasizing the strength of this expression.

FINISH – Leaving a lasting impression, the high proof is quite evident. The palate carries itself through the finish with less spice and a very slight trace of menthol as it dries out before finally fading out.

This whisky will not be for everyone and will impress the connoisseur more than the casual carouser. Cask Strength whiskies can be a lot to endure and this rye is one of the more boldest I have tried. Spicier and stronger than it’s 12 year predecessor that was bottled in 2016, the 2018 release is still something pretty special so I am looking forward to the continuation on this series. My personal rating was 8.5/10.

Ratings varied across the group for this one which was kind of expected. With a heavy scotch influence among the boys, not many of them frequent a bottle of good rye. Collective rating for the bottle is 7.3/10.

  • Review by Steven Shaw