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This bottle was bought and opened mid June of this year. It was over half empty by mid July. I have tried to leave it alone to let oxygen work its magic. This is a combination of two reviews (one in mid July – score 85 and one in mid September – score 85.5) both remarkably close. I score out of 5 categories. I am actually very surprised I was so consistent with both scores. It tells me no real change.
Nose: This is much sharper and more juicy then the Sazerac. It is also much fruitier – almost like a red jolly rancher. There is so much more spice, zip and life then the Sazerac. Wow – much more power and intensity: this almost feels like 50% to the Sazerac being 40% - but they are both 45%! Rye is way, way stronger. I’m smelling that distinct rye smell along with leather, grains, and a strong sweetness I associate with my Grandpa’s barn feed. Ah, there is that classic “mint” note from LDI. I enjoy this, but only in a punishing kind of way. There are moments of this being magical . . . but it is just so young. There is a burned tire quality, charred metal and logs. However, there is an interesting sweetness behind all that burnt stuff: a nice sweetness that works very well. That has much more depth and full bodied-ness to it then the Sazerac. There is a whole lot going on here.
Taste: You get that same burnt metal quality on the front. Then it fades to a decent blend of sweet and sour mix. More sour on the tongue then the Sazerac. Still it is smooth on the tongue with a much stronger rye note then the Sazerac. You are not mistaking this for anything but Rye! Sour and rye bread with salt and fire.
Finish: Big sharp attack . . . it backs off and then strikes again. Leaves a nice rye trail with some mint and sea salt. The sharp sting of Rye cuts right through you. It hits you and then take a giant breath . . . salt water licks the inside of your mouth. As you swallow you force more salt and singed wood into your mouth. Not so much a wave as a cavernous waste where your mouth use to be. Still this is all glass-coated rye stinging your mouth.
Complexity, Balance: Far more complexity then the Sazerac. I find it much deeper and much spicier all around then the Sazerac. But the Sazerac has a nice balance that makes it an easy sipper . . . this not so much. It is almost punishing to drink.
Aesthetic experience: This is also trying to do the old time-y thing with the old school bottle. But I like it way less then the Sazerac. I do like that they tell you the mash bill (95% rye here). I wish Sazerac did this.
Conclusion: To me this is much more of a classic rye whisky then Sazerac. I also like it better as a Manhattan. My grade for the balance and aesthetic experience really brought it down from the simple taste enjoyment side (I actually do grade on the aesthetic experience of a bottle). @Victor has told me that this really gets good after 6 to 8 months of being open. Sadly, my bottle won’t last that long. I am now down to two fingers. I’ll be buying another soon.