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I love rye grains in my whiskey, beer, and bread so when I seek out rye imbued products my biggest concern is that you know without hesitation that it is indeed RYE. The Sazerac 18 year old Rye delivers on all fronts and should NEVER be served cut with H20 in my opinion. (Note that the "baby" Sazerac does a darn good job on reflecting the Rye character as well... review sometime soon).
Nose: Full frontal assault of rye greets you and never let go much like the heavy peated Islay scotch does in its own right. Think toasted pumpernickel bread with an undertone of apple and grapefruit, acidic sourness, leather, toffee, cinnamon, white pepper, mint, and grains of paradise vapours as well. Unlike it’s younger sibling the oak and tannic aromas are actually less despite increased time in the barrel but you do pick up more char and ashy earthy and tobacco esters.
Palate: Sweet undertone of caramel and oak is found under the unabashed spicy rye kick in the face. This is one of the few times you will enjoy getting your tongue abused. An earthy roundness and simple light fruit is around to play in the fertile rye fields. Some nutty, vanilla, oak, tawny molasses and burnt sugars show more towards the finish.
Finish: Dry and ashy but highly aggressive and quite long with a moderate warming character, actually cleaner than you would initially figure upon. After a full dram of this elixir you might want to grab a pint of fresh cold water to provide relief from cotton mouth. Did I say the finish is quite long?
Mouth feel: Medium to full bodied, with a dry spicy overtone, brash and aggressive (but less than the “baby” Sazerac). The dram is bold, robust and not for the faint of heart.
Overall: Simple a fine display of the grain and the barrel, a masterpiece and a fitting tribute to the first distilled America spirits. At this moment I can’t think of another American whiskey I would rather have.
(Original review date: 09 March 2009)