Booze | December 15, 2022 6:49 am

Review: The World’s Best Rye Whiskey Just Got a Sequel

Sagamore Spirit’s Port Finish Rye Whiskey won major awards in 2019. For a follow-up, the Maryland distillery tinkered with the finish.

A bottle of Sagamore Spirit Port Finish Rye Whiskey
Sagamore Spirit Port Finish Rye Whiskey won big awards in 2019. Will the 2022 version do the same?
Sagamore Spirit

What we’re drinking: Sagamore Spirit Port Finish Rye Whiskey

Where it’s from: Sagamore Spirit, founded in 2013, is based in Baltimore on a beautiful five-acre waterfront property. Their rye is a blend of high- and low-rye mashbills proofed down with Maryland limestone spring water and, sometimes, finished for several months in different barrels.  

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Why we’re drinking this: The 2019 iteration of this bottle won the World’s Best Rye Whiskey in 2019 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. 

That said, this version is a little different. While the last one was a blend of straight rye whiskeys finished for six months in port wine barrels sourced from both Portugal and Maryland-based Boordy Vineyards (then bottled at 101-proof), this one uses barrels exclusively from Boordy…and the rye is now finished in those for two years and six months, then bottled at 103-proof. 

“We’ve always wanted to bring back a version of our Port Finish Rye Whiskey — one that gives just enough of a taste of the earlier liquid while giving people something wholly new to discover,” says Brian Treacy, Sagamore Spirit co-founder and president of distillery operations. “Our distilling team nailed it by letting let this batch age longer in American oak casks, then longer in locally sourced port wine barrels.”

The combination of port barrels and rye whiskey works, Treacy says, because “the barrels pick up just enough of the port’s sweetness to complement and balance out the spice in our rye whiskey with subtle fruit notes.”

Should Sagamore Spirit have changed its winning formula, or did the extra time in the port barrels bring out new flavors? Let’s check it out.

How it tastes: A lovely burnt umber in appearance, this 103-proof rye has a lot of dark fruit, raisin, cloves and honey notes, with a lot of allspice/nutmeg on the finish. It’s a dry, spicy number that should appeal to anyone who loves a bold rye with complexity (I’d also love this in a Manhattan).

Fun fact: Last year Sagamore Spirit had its first release that was entirely distilled in Maryland. It, too, won a Double Gold at the SFWSC. The second release of this Bottled in Bond Straight Rye Whiskey was just released — initially only at the distillery, but moving out nationwide this month. 

Where to buy: The 2022 version of Sagamore Spirit Port Finish Rye Whiskey is a distillery exclusive for now, with a nationwide rollout happening in early 2023.