weller antique 107 review
Sagamore Spirit Barrel Select (Ryan's Barrel for DC Costco)
Distillery: Sagamore Spirit
Type & Region: Rye whiskey, Indiana / Maryland, USA
Composition: Blend of MGP’s 95% rye and 51% rye mashes. Likely around 73% rye, depending on the volume of each barrel
Aged: 6 years in virgin American white oak
Color: 1.3/2.0 on the color scale (russet muscat)
Price: $40 (750mL)
From the Sagamore Spirit website:
“Fueled by Maryland’s great veteran distillers, we forged a new path to define cask strength rye whiskey. There are no shortcuts here; no dilutions or alterations – simply a splash of spring water and a time-honored tradition of patience and purpose. Aged fully, and exploding in color and flavor, it’s a spirit that connects us to a storied past only Maryland Rye Whiskey can claim. These are our deepest roots, distilled.”
sagamore spirit barrel select review
Sagamore Spirit, founded by Under Armour’s Kevin Plank, is a Baltimore-based distillery that currently sources their rye whiskey from MGP while they distill and age their own stock. Unlike other “craft” distilleries that often make a range of whiskeys, Sagamore Spirit only sells rye whiskeys (albeit often with interesting finishes), including the Sagamore Spirit Moscatel Finish I previously reviewed. In this review, I dive into Sagamore Spirit Barrel Select, this one selected for Costco in Washington DC.
This particular Sagamore Spirit “Ryan’s Barrel Select 2019” comes from barrel 71 at location F6/R3. At 55%, it’s also nearly cask strength, with many of the standard Sagamore Spirit Cask Strengths clocking in around 55-58%. One misconception is that “barrel select” means single barrel. This in fact is not a single barrel rye whiskey.
I asked Sagamore Spirit and they said that Costco selected 1 of 4 high rye (95% rye) barrels that was then blended with a “mid rye” (probably 51% rye) barrel, making this a ~73% rye mash depending on the proportion of liquid in each barrel. In this case, “Barrel Select” means that one of the barrels in the blend was selected. Anyways, let’s find out if Ryan did a good job picking one of the barrels in this Sagamore Spirit Barrel Select review.
* April 2020 update: Sagamore Spirit Barrel Select (but not this particular one) won double gold at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for my reviews and comparisons (because they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass, Set of 6, Clear, 6 Pack. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.
sagamore spirit barrel select smell
Sagamore Spirit Barrel Select immediately inundates me with a rush of dark and dense honey, dill, fennel, anise, and licorice from the rye. The abundant sweet and herbal characteristics leave no doubt that this barrel select comes from a rye-heavy mash. It smells a lot like mukhwas (description of that here), the breath freshener you sometimes get at Indian restaurants.
Getting past the rye, I smell a thick spread of dried cherries and berries, maple syrup, wood, and cinnamon on top of grain. Given how spicy this whiskey is, it surprisingly doesn’t have that much wood, cinnamon, or clove. It’s primarily rye driven. The alcohol adds to the overall spice and intensity, going back and forth from being moderate to strong.
Sagamore Spirit Barrel Select Straight Rye gets hotter after swirling, signaling some relative youth. Letting it settle re-releases strong dill, anise, and licorice with a little mint, as well as darker honey, maple syrup, and vanilla custard. The rye is also a little vegetal and earthy like spring mix. Again, there are dried berries, orange peel, wood, and cinnamon underneath, but it really is rye dominant. There is some corn in the mash, but I only start to smell musty corn after the glass is empty.
Overall, the nose is incredible and rich, wonderful for any rye whiskey lover.
sagamore spirit barrel select taste and aftertaste
Just like in the nose, Sagamore Spirit Barrel Select has a huge surge of honey, licorice, anise, fennel, dill, peppermint, and dried citrus peel. It’s a wonderful explosion of sweet and herbal rye flavors. Past all the rye is some roasted oak and cinnamon spice as well as pancake-y maple syrup. The rye adds a lot of spice, but the wood doesn’t seem to do the same. The alcohol is also quite potent, adding a solid fire to my mouth.
“Chewing” brings out more of the honeyed licorice, anise, dill, and fennel with mint, cinnamon, and vanilla. It’s crazy herbal and vegetal, again reminding me of mukhwas breath freshener. Digging deeper, I find charred wood and chocolate that add a darker note, as well as a solid alcohol kick that challenges my taste buds.
Sweet honey, anise, licorice, and pepper (notice the trend) introduce the finish, followed by just a little wood that’s not particularly bitter. With “chewing”, alcohol tingles my tongue with anise, black licorice, honey, and just a little mint that lasts a long time. Ryan’s Select Sagamore Spirit Barrel Select is full of delicious rich and herbal flavors that will appeal to those who love powerfully herbal rye whiskeys.
Whiskey is also for sharing, so I use Vivaplex, 12, Amber, 2 oz Glass Bottles, with Lids for smaller samples and Vivaplex, 12, Amber, 4 oz Glass Bottles, with Lids for larger ones. Full transparency – This is an Amazon affiliate link so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else. Regardless, I actually use these myself.
Place on the Whiskey Shelf
This Sagamore Spirit Barrel Select is just awesome and delicious. It’s likely the rye-iest rye whiskey I’ve ever had, surpassing the 100% Canadian rye WhistlePig 10 and 95% MGP rye Bulleit 12 Year. Ryan’s Barrel Select is a sweet black licorice, dill, and anise bomb of scents and flavors that highlight everything great (or terrible if you hate rye) that high rye has to offer. In some ways, the herbal and vegetal traits in Sagamore Spirit, Bulleit 12 Year, and WhistlePig 10 are just as polarizing as the earthy smoke, sulfur, and brine in peated Scotch.
This particular Sagamore Spirit is certainly an acquired taste, but a real treat for rye whiskey lovers. For me, it’s an automatic buy at $40, especially when high proof and age-stated rye whiskey are becoming more expensive to buy and/or more difficult to find. Pikesville Rye, also a 6 year rye bottled at 55%, can be found for $45-55, but it offers a completely different experience. With the 51% rye mash, Pikesville drinks more like a bourbon than a rye. I also can’t forget Thomas Handy, but that’s $100 at retail and easily $300+ on secondary.
Ryan’s pick of Sagamore Spirit Barrel select for DC Costco is an excellent rye whiskey and one of the steals of the year.