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Sazerac 18 Year Head to Head - Tanked 2010 vs 2020 Rye Whiskey Review

Updated: Sep 3, 2022

The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection needs no introduction in today's whiskey world. One of the lower-yield releases that very few end up getting their hands on each year is the Sazerac 18 year release. I don't personally own a bottle of this stuff, but I have two great friends who do and they were kind enough to share a sample with me.

Big thank you & cheers to Eric (@ra1nmannn) and Alan Starr for being pillars of the whiskey community!

Buffalo Trace describes some history behind the release here:

The famed Sazerac Coffee House was founded in 1850 on Exchange Alley in New Orleans, Louisiana and soon gained fame as the home of “America’s First Cocktail” known as the Sazerac. Using rye whiskey in place of the French brandy, a dash of Peychaud Bitters, and Herbsaint, what eventually became the official cocktail of New Orleans was created. This straight rye has a mellow spice and dry sweetness that dances on the tongue, giving pure delight that is worthy of the Sazerac name.

Check out the information letters for both releases below; there's some really cool information that gets released in those.

2010 Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old
Download PDF • 424KB
2020 Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old
Download PDF • 2.42MB

Now let's get into some tasting!


2010 Sazerac 18 Year Rye Whiskey

Company on Label: Buffalo Trace

Whiskey Type: Straight Rye Whiskey

Mash Bill Percentages: Undisclosed majority rye mash; in descending percentages: Minnesota rye, Kentucky corn, and North Dakota malted barley

Proof: 90°

Age: 18 Years

Further identification: This 2010 vintage is known for being part of the legendary 'tanked' run of Sazerac 18 which was a master batch that ran from the 2006 through the 2015 release; so this was technically 'dumped' in 2006 and the barrels used were distilled somewhere between Spring of 1985 and 1988 that aged in Warehouse K

2020 Sazerac 18 Year Rye Whiskey

Company on Label: Buffalo Trace

Whiskey Type: Straight Rye Whiskey

Mash Bill Percentages: Undisclosed majority rye mash; in descending percentages: Minnesota rye, Kentucky corn, and North Dakota malted barley

Proof: 90°

Age: 18 Years

Further identification: This 2020 vintage is all fresh Buffalo Trace new make compared to the tanked batch; it was distilled and barreled in the Spring of 2002 and aged its 18 long years on the third floor of Warehouse K


2010 Sazerac 18 Review

Nose: Citrus mint greets me upfront. Cardamom, lemongrass and lovely creamy cantaloupe sweetness jump out early. Black pepper takes over after a short while and a highly expected barrel funk permeates throughout the nose-feel without coming across over-oaked (which was Buffalo Trace's whole intention of tanking these barrels). I get some of the same pre-fire Heaven Hill vintage whiskey vibes, with my only reference point being a 23 year Elijah Craig bourbon that was barreled in 1991. I like what I am smelling so far - it's overall quite light in intensity on the nose before I've had any sips. Yum - with some extra time a big Madagascar vanilla note builds up in the glass alongside perfumed floral sweetness. Lilac blooms alongside lavender. I find just a hint of medicinal cherry but you'd easily miss it if you weren't digging hard. I'm ready for a sip here.

After a sip some of that 'vintage whiskey' magic seems to be reborn with the barrel funk, grapefruit rind and salt water taffy dominating. I find myself inhaling quite deep to keep pulling these aromas off the glass as they reluctantly oblige. Traces of butterscotch and tiramisu can be found later in the glass. Returning after a break in the action with the glass of the 2020 release shows off an orange creamsicle sweetness. A swirl turns this glass incredibly bright - similar to the experience I mentioned in the tasting of the 23 year Elijah Craig - it's like looking into a bright light bulb, but for your olfactory sense. Nearing the bottom of the glass the barrel influence reaches its crescendo. It's deliciously creamy with notes of Hawaiian roll, walnut, cranberry and mint. The empty glass smells of dark walnut, sandalwood and tobacco.

Palate: My first sip is soft with lovely strawberry flavors popping up early followed by lemon tea soaking with a vanilla bean and a sweet spearmint. Another sip adds a light cinnamon, a touch of clove and orange zest. The linger is definitely touched with a lot of tea notes; it's almost as if different 3 varietals are coming together in delicious and intriguing swirls. I find a light cola characteristic underneath everything but this drinks like an incredibly well crafted whiskey upfront. Mmm. The sweet bready notes marry perfectly into the tea and mint here. It makes me feel like I am in a fancy ballroom with fine china and crumpets are being served with all kinds of jams. It's delicious and marvelously fanciful. Sweet cranberry sauce, black pepper and anise dance on my last sip of this glass. The linger is medium with orange peel, cherry skins and mint tea.


2020 Sazerac 18 Review

Nose: Ooooh - this is a much different whiskey to the 2010 release; I immediately find distinct rye overall with flashes of crushed mint leaves, big woodworking shop aromas, and a dusty bubblegum note. Like the 2010 it is quite light on the nose; I couldn't imagine smelling anything here out of anything other than a glencairn. I get a really fun cloth note that reminds me of running through and hiding in between shirt racks at the Salvation Army as a kid. Wow. This pour is opening up marvelously now... Candied pear, lychee and soft floral lily smells start to build in intensity. Honey wheat bread and sweet oats find a home nestled amongst other vague fruit cereals. Time for a sip.

Returning to the nose shows that this is a delectable powerhouse of sweet florals, level oak, and balanced spices. Black pepper entwined in rich leather is a notable testament to a well-aged whiskey. As I get closer to the bottom of each glass the 2020 release is getting harder to distinguish as the potency of the 2010 builds. I look forward to possibly revisiting the second ounce of this I have left at a later date perhaps! The glass nearing empty falls into a category of non-descript goodness for me. It's plenty nice to experience but doesn't leave me finding much in the way of individual notes. The empty glass smells of faint cherry.

Palate: Oh wow. This pour feels much punchier in the flavor department. Upfront I find a raisin tartness and cherry hots. It settles towards a nutmeg spiced honeysuckle flavor. It sat sharper on first sip but the linger shows off a long wave of sweet bubblegum. Another sip brings in more spice surprisingly as tarragon, black pepper and some peach cobbler meld on the tongue. There is a distinct mint coming forward in the gums as I can feel them tingling against the cooling feeling it creates. This mint here comes off more as a wintergreen mint rather than the spearmint note the 2010 elicited. Returning to this glass I find a more plain sweetness with less layers than the other glass produced. My last sip of this glass produces a well balanced profile of molasses, black pepper, bubblegum and a bit of black tea. The linger is medium with mint and oak sticking up in my gums.


Final Ranking: 2010 Tanked Saz 18 > 2020 Saz 18

2010 definitely takes this one by a slim margin just due to its extra depth of flavor. The tanked Saz is apparently the real deal! I definitely was less impressed than my first ever tasting of the 2020. I remember the flavors being bigger, but not all days are created equal in the ways we experience whiskey. Anyone got a lead on some tanked stock? I'd like to keep this one AmongstTheWhiskey. Cheers!



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