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Sazerac Mister Sam

BTAC style with Canadian whisky

6 697

@JasonHambreyReview by @JasonHambrey

1st May 2019


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

This whisky has been released by Sazerac, who have quietly been picking up old Seagram's brands including 15 brands last fall (including Seagram's VO, Five Star, and '83). They've been establishing a bit more of a Canadian presence in the last few years with their Royal Canadian and Caribou Crossing brands, and have now nearly completed the construction of a medium-sized distillery in Montreal. Now, they've released a blend developed by Drew Mayville, the Canadian master blender of Buffalo Trace who was also the last master blender of the once-world-leader Seagram's before its collapse. Art Dawe, Seagram's previous master blender and Mayville's mentor, was also involved in the release.

Bronfman was a Canadian whose family became established initially through real estate but then through the liquor industry right before and through prohibition, particularly establishing prominence through a significant partnership with the massive Scottish Distillers Corporation Limited. Prohibition was a challenging time for the Canadian whisky producers, despite what media might suggest, as the supply chain was cut off. The bribes to customs officials and the smuggling tactics became increasingly less useful, particularly toward the end of the US prohibition. Bronfman, however, kept producing and aging whisky and was able to buy up US distilleries and equipment, flooding the market with mature whisky, both Canadian and Scottish, when prohibition collapsed. At the time, the American producers had been (largely) completely cut down with prohibition regulations, and could not compete. Bronfman was a legendary figure, for business acumen and his temper - but was also incredibly picky about quality control, often testing batches of the whisky himself. He made sure that his predecessors knew how to blend whisky, not just run a business.

Bronfman's Seagram's company grew to be the largest beverage company in the world, owning everything from soft drinks, wine, champagne, and whisky companies. Seagram's also became the majority owner of Dupont. However, the company collapsed as Sam's grandson, Edgar Jr., turned his interests (and investments) to the entertainment industry in Hollywood. The company collapsed, and, now, Diageo and Pernod Ricard hold most of the remnants.

The whisky is bottled at 66.9%, but, sadly, we don't know much about the composition unlike the other prestigious Sazerac releases (i.e. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection). Also, unlike Sazerac's relatively cheap MSRPs, this one costs $250. It is a blend of Sazerac American and Canadian whiskies. What we do know is that it is "blended with the finest whiskies possible", so, I suppose, we don't really know anything about the composition. 1000 bottles.

So, my review:

What a nose! What a nose! I’ll do my best not to be too wordy, but even at first whiff I know that will be difficult.

Sweet oaky caramel, rich deep oak (mossy, old, but very sweet like a damp bourbon warehouse), spicy rye, but it’s balanced with the nicest set of light fruit like white grapes and white mulberries. It is very reminiscent of good, cask strength Buffalo Trace compared to a cask strength blended Canadian whisky with less of a focus on oak. It reminds me, of course, of the Buffalo Trace antique collection.

But, back to the nose. It shines through incredibly with water – it seems to transition from an American style to a bit more of an oaky Canadian style with water (without too much rye). Fruits emerge – candied, dried – but also rich baking spice, fresh strawberries, cherries, praline (hazelnut and almond), dried chanterelle mushrooms, wintergreen, and the corn/rye grain character comes out richly. It has a really nice “dusty” rye characteristic, which I love - I haven't found this in other Sazerac products. The nose really evolves, with more and more dried fruit (prunes, then dried apricots, then dried peaches) with time. This is all tempered by massive oak.

The palate is quite oaky, but surrounded at the edges by rich dried fruits, white pepper, and grapefruit skin (including pith). We also have cherry, dried ginger, dried apricot, dried peach, fresh plum, sweet creamy corn, mixed baking spices, and tobacco. These notes converge into a complex dose of baking spices and creeping tannins. The finish is dry, with toasted baking spices, sweet oak, cherry, dried apricot, corn husks, caramel, and tobacco. The finish is deep and long.

Heavier, oakier, richer, and much deeper than Little Book Chapter 02 (can you believe it?), which has a very different presentation of rye and has a light, vibrant fruit characteristic not present in Mister Sam (similar to the Jim-Beam-owned Alberta-distilled Canadian Club 100% rye). I love that Little Book whisky too. A better comparison is the William Larue Weller I have in my cabinet from 2015. That one is sweeter, with more almond, maple, and a heavier portrayal of corn – the Weller is a bit lighter, and less complex than this stuff which is focused more on deep fruits, nuts, spice. The Weller, notably, has a bigger finish. If the Weller is a peach galette with some slivered almonds on top, this is a spiced blackberry+plum+peach cobbler, sprinked with baking spices and baked a deep brown. Some, no doubt, will prefer the style of the Weller. But I like this stuff more.

This is extremely pleasant at 53.5%, the nose is best a bit lower ABV, but it is still awesome for its sheer power at 66.9%. It’s one of the most dynamic whiskies I’ve ever encountered in terms of how it changes with ABV. The drinking experience changes, but does not suffer with added water, even down to 23%.

This is probably in the top 6 whiskies I’ve ever tasted (I've tasted over 1000), and it beats out the 6 BTACs I've tasted.

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Nozinan commented


2 months ago 0

Astroke commented

Should be interesting to see how well this sells at that price point. Are we talking $250 US or Canadian? Little Book II is a somewhat decent deal at around $125 to $140 Canadian to go along with transparency in the blend less the percentages.

Great review and you make a good case to splurge.

2 months ago 2Who liked this?

JasonHambrey commented

USD, although I am still hoping it won't amount to a $350 bottle in Canada.

2 months ago 0

Nozinan commented

@Astroke $125 to $140? For LittleBook?

I found it at Zyn for $100.90. And I thought that was a reasonable deal.

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

Astroke commented

@Nozinan So did I ($91 on sale), but sold out now at Zyn and that was the best price in North America I believe. My last bottle came from the LCBO at $140 so if purchasing now you would be paying $125 ish (Alberta) to $140 (KGBO). Just keeping it current I guess.

2 months ago 2Who liked this?

paddockjudge commented

I know a guy who reviewed this one wink He said "this makes Little Book taste like a juice box, and I like Little Book!"

You know it's gonna cost a lot more than $139.95

2 months ago 0

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