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This review is an update and a supplement to my review entitled Old Saz 2010. It is an interesting and sometimes mysterious thing how the 'living things' that are whiskies have a life of their own and actively evolve after the bottles are open. Bourbons, especially, and rye whiskeys as well, frequently, usually, I would say, shift flavour profiles in the weeks, months, and, yes, definitely, even years after a bottle is first opened. In the case of bourbons my experience is that this shifting, in the first year or two at least, is almost always toward an opening up, a filling out, or a rounding out of flavours which results in an improvement. I wrote a review of Old Charter 8 yo in which I commented that I would have graded it at 72 when I first drank it, but a full year later it had very substantially changed and was now worth an 80 to me. NO, my tastes had not changed in that time with respect to that whiskey, nor had I only tasted it one or two times previously--it had changed a lot, and for the better. So too, I was very surprised and unhappy with my first bottle of Elijah Craig 12 yo because it had, for the first 6 or 8 times I sampled it over months of time, that kiss of death for me: a soapy finish. Two full years later-- 2 YEARS-- I took a taste and...the soap was COMPLETELY GONE. This was now a brand new whiskey for me to try, one that I had not experienced before, and one that it turned out I liked very much. This review is of that well known hallmark of ryewhiskeydom, Sazerac 18 yo, from the Sazerac Antiquities Collection. Because Rye Whiskey is my favourite flavour profile whiskey, I had eagerly anticipated this bottle when I acquired it in October 2010. When I tasted it I found myself severely disappointed, since, as I reported in my previous review, even though there are nice refined flavours present, they did not seem to come together to me at all, nor did they shine in any way. I sampled the whiskey for review with the bottle open 4 months on Feb 4, 2011, and at that time it had the same basic flavour profiles I had observed in October, with the exception that it had started to open up its flavours a little bit. I rated it at an 87, which is quite good for whiskies in general, but which is a severe disappointment for what was anticipated to be a '95-class' whiskey. Now, at 5 months with the bottle open, I am happy to report a most surprising and delightful development: the flavours have, for the first time, jelled together in a way that makes this bottle of whiskey work!
Nose: fragrant, rather floral rye spice, hint of grapefruit, moderate intensity
Taste: this is more fruity in the mouth than in the nose, with cherries, pears, and a nice mixing of high, middle, and bass notes. This opens up after 3-4 seconds into an almost startling sweetness. At 4 months of open bottle, this had just started to open up, but the rye spice seemed disjointed from the wood flavours. Now, at 5 months there are additional bass notes from the wood in evidence, and the wood and rye spice flavours have come together to form a delicious coherent fabric of flavour. ("rye spice", for me, approximately = black pepper+cloves+cinnamon+ginger)This is more of a middle and bass notes rye than its sibling the 2010 release Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, which has more soprano and tenor high and middle notes in emphasis. This is not surprising by virtue of the deep wood flavours acquired after 18 years of new oak aging, compared to probably less than half that length of time in wood for the Handy
Finish: long, spice remains until the end, until after the fruit has departed
Balance: This works very well now as a top-quality rye whiskey, and the kinsman of the 2009 Release of the Sazerac 18, which Jim Murray named 2010 World Whisky of the Year