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.
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.