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Sagamore Spirit Small Batch Rye Is a Stellar Craft Whiskey: Review

Sagamore Spirit Small Batch Rye Is a Stellar Craft Whiskey: Review

Many distilleries start out by sourcing whiskey instead of actually making it, and there’s nothing wrong with that—this is a practice that has been around since the start of the American whiskey industry. The problem, at least in many consumers’ eyes, has been a lack of transparency. After all, people like to know where what they are eating or drinking actually comes from. One distillery that has been open about sourcing whiskey from the start is Baltimore’s Sagamore Spirit, but the newest release is an exceptional rye whiskey that was 100 percent distilled in-house.

Sagamore Spirit was founded by the former CEO and founder of Under Armour, Kevin Plank, along with some business partners over a decade ago in 2013. The distillery makes one thing: rye whiskey (well, along with a few one-offs like a rye-based amaro). In this case, “makes” means it has been distilling whiskey onsite since 2017, but also contract distilling at MGP, the massive Indiana distillery known for making the whiskey that goes into other brands like Bulleit Rye and Brother’s Bond. Sagamore Spirit uses a blend of high and low-rye whiskeys for its core product: a “barely legal” rye with 52 percent rye grain in the mashbill, and the 95 percent rye/5 percent malted barley rye that MGP is most famous for, each aged for about four to six years. The new Small Batch Rye Whiskey is a blend of those same mashbills aged for the same amount of time, but this whiskey was 100 percent distilled in Baltimore, and it’s a good one.

This isn’t the first time that Sagamore Spirit has had an in-house produced rye, however. The distillery already released a few bottled-in-bond ryes in select markets that were made onsite, but the new Small Batch Rye is the first one that will be available globally. The main differences are that this whiskey is a blend of ages (four to six years) bottled at 93 proof, as opposed to whiskey from one distilling season bottled at 100 proof as is required by the Bottled in Bond Act. While the term “small batch” has no legal definition, according to the brand this release is blended in 20-barrel batches, and it is triple distilled and non-chill filtered. Most importantly, this rye is very tasty.

I really like that Sagamore uses a blend of two mashbills for this, because sometimes a high-rye whiskey can be a bit too fruity and spicy, and other times the Kentucky-style “barely legal” rye doesn’t pack enough punch. This is a happy medium, with a nose that leads off with rich caramel and black pepper notes. The palate delivers follows through on this potential, with flavors at the forefront like dried apricot, red apple, blackberry, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a hint of menthol on the finish. Rye lovers will enjoy this new whiskey, but I think those who prefer bourbon will too.

Not every distillery that sources whiskey is going to transition to distilling in-house, and many that do will never give up that part of their business for certain SKUs, which makes sense for consistency’s sake. According to a rep for the brand, Sagamore will eventually make all of its whiskey in-house, although it will take years before that happens. But this release, following the BIB expressions over the past few years, is proof that Sagamore Spirit is the real deal, and has become a contender for being one of the top new rye whiskeys distilleries in America.

Score: 89

  • 100 Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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