Monday, September 21, 2015

Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey

- $35
- 90 Proof
- NAS (6 years)

Two posts in a row are dedicated to ryes, here. Perhaps I've just been in a mood for a little more spice lately. This time I grabbed the bottle of Sazerac Rye (or "Baby Saz" as it is frequently called) for one main reason -- despite the positive reviews that it consistently receives, I've never actually had it before. That needed to change.

While visiting Portland last week, I grabbed the bottle to share with my brother-in-law over the course of what would be a few very difficult days. Sazerac was there, though, to provide some momentary enjoyment during an otherwise somber visit.

The first thing I noticed with this rye was not the flavor, but just how smooth this rye is. Ryes typically come with a bit of a bite, which is why they are not for everyone. Sazerac is one of the most drinkable ryes I've ever tried, though.

The burn is minimal from the start, which allows Sazerac to be a more mellow rye compared to others. The fact that it is mellow, though, does not make it a lesser rye by any means. In fact, I believe quite the opposite is true.

This is a sweeter rye, strong in cherry and cinnamon flavors (reminding me somewhat of cherry pie). The sweetness is enhanced a bit by a strong brown sugar flavor that creeps in a few seconds later.

It still retains its traditional rye spice, providing a decent enough kick after the up-front sweetness. It is not as strong of a kick as other ryes, but it is still there, and there is no questioning that this is a traditional rye whiskey.

It's just done a bit differently, and, in my opinion, it's done better. I should have grabbed a bottle or four of this a long time ago. Sazerac has immediately found a place among my favorites, and is probably only second to the Willett 8-Year that I reviewed a few months back.

Grade: A

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Templeton Small Batch Rye Whiskey

- $30
- 80 Proof

We planned a backyard fire the other day, s'mores, hot dogs, the whole bit. And as with every other time, just the thought of cooking over the fire had me wanting a glass of rye. I don't know what it is, but for me the two frequently go hand-in-hand.

I picked up a bottle of Templeton rye knowing, just from word of mouth, that I was getting, at the very least, a solid rye whiskey. I also knew that it was coming from just across the Mississippi River in Iowa, and I'm always happy to give a local distillery a try (although this whiskey was distilled by MGP in Indiana). Templeton advertises this as a "prohibition era recipe." I'm not sure what makes it different from other rye recipes, and it may just be a marketing gimmick, but it sounds nice and adds an appealing, old-timey label.

As with any rye, Templeton provided heavy spice both in the nose and on the front end, hitting the tip of my tongue. It was a slightly different spice, however. It was like a spicy burnt orange flavor, followed by a light smokiness that I really liked.

It otherwise had the standard rye flavors and spices that I've come to expect, with notes of cloves and vanilla and a mild hint of cherry.

The body was on a bit of the watery side. I tend to like my ryes a bit more viscous, but that's merely a personal preference. Otherwise, this whiskey stands up very well against the other readily available ryes that are on the shelves.

Although nothing in particular stands out (though I really am a fan of that smokey orange flavor), this is nonetheless a rye that will not let you down. The next time I plan a backyard fire or a camping trip, I won't hesitate to grab another bottle of Templeton (then again, maybe I will, as discussed in the comments below).

Grade: B

Friday, September 11, 2015

Four Roses Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon OBSF - Binny's Private Selection

- $60
- 108.4 Proof
- 11 years, 6 mos.

Once again I had the pleasure of enjoying another private selection of Four Roses Single Barrel, this time going with the OBSF recipe. I purchased this quite some time ago, but only recently got around to popping the bottle open. I'm not really sure why I waited this long. My only excuse is that I had other bottles waiting to be opened as well, and I knew it'd be opened eventually.

This recipe is a 35% rye mashbill, and it was very noticeable even on the nose. This bourbon has some wonderful, familiar scents of cinnamon, vanilla and a slight hint of orange. It was a very nice bouquet of smells, and it had me salivating for that first sip.

At 118 proof, it definitely had a strong burn to it, which was seemed to be made even stronger by the heavy cinnamon flavors that dominated on the front end. The rye spice dominates throughout, making this bourbon less sweet than the norm and a bit more on the peppery side. There was also a very distinct cherry flavor that permeated as well.

It wasn't until the back end of each drink that the more traditional vanilla and toffee flavors really came through, but they stuck around and lingered at the back of the throat after each swallow. They weren't strong, just strong enough to be noticed.

While the burn came through initially, it did die down a bit toward the end. As it did, the more earthy, herbal flavors came to the foreground, pushing the sweeter flavors even more into the background. What once had rough edges due to the burn cooled down significantly into a smooth, easy to drink bourbon, even if it wasn't as sweet as most.

Grade: B+