Update 7/4/2022: I’ve revisited this review 10 full years later. I’ve left the old one below for comparison.
Sazerac is a word with many definitions. Originally the name of a bar in 1860s New Orleans, Sazerac became the name of its signature cocktail, a mixture of cognac and bitters. Later, when cognac became scarce the recipe was changed to use (probably Canadian) rye whiskey. Thomas Handy, the bar’s proprietor, began importing liquors and founded The Sazerac Company, which today owns (among others) industry bigs like Buffalo Trace, Pappy Van Winkle, and Barton Brands. Its Sazerac Rye brand is a reminiscence of that earlier time, and the “official” rye for use in Sazerac cocktails. An 18 year-old version of this recipe is part of Buffalo Trace’s popular annual Antique Collection release. Unlike the Antique Collection expression, this non-age-statement bottling is a basic rye with mass-market sensibilities intended for mixing into cocktails. See my notes below.
Nose: Bourbon nose. Sweet corn and corn syrup. Black pepper. Cherry pits, nutmeg and cayenne. Fair bit of that bourbon new-plastic smell. Heavy nose prickle.
Palate: Smoky black pepper up front, woody and charred. Resolves into sweet cherry syrup and spice notes. Rye, but still bourbon-y (corny?).
Finish: Long, and very oaky. Some nice grilling spices, mulled cider, and smoky hardwood chips.
Overall: Not bad. A lot more corn than I usually like in my ryes, but flavorsome and smooth. No doubt the large majority of this rye’s production is used for making cocktails, as there are much better sipping ryes available (personally for the money, I much prefer Rittenhouse 100, when I can find it). I would therefore say this is ‘Not Recommended’ unless you’re making cocktails, for which Sazerac is well-suited. Kudos to the company, however, for keeping this at 90 proof instead of the more-common anemic 80.