Sagamore Spirit’s New Rye Whiskey Is a Deconstructed Manhattan in a Bottle

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There are plenty of bottled cocktails out there to try these days, from Margaritas to Negronis to Old Fashioneds. The latest release from Baltimore distillery Sagamore Spirit is not one of these premixed classics, but it is an interesting interpretation of a Manhattan cocktail created by using different types of barrel finishes.

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Sagamore Spirit was founded in 2013 by Under Armour’s Kevin Plank, with Bill McDermond as a minority owner, and has operated using a model of both contract distilling and producing whiskey in-house (Italian company Illva Saronno Holding S.P.A. acquired a majority stake in the distillery in 2023). The core expression is a blend of two rye whiskey mashbills distilled at MGP in Indiana that are aged about 4 to 6 years, one with a higher percentage of rye than the other (rye whiskey must legally contain at least 51 percent rye). In 2021, Sagamore launched its first whiskey that was entirely distilled in-house, a bottled-in-bond rye—at least four years old, exactly 100 proof—that has been released in new batches over the years since it first came out.

There are also several cask-finished whiskeys that have been released as part of Sagamore Spirit’s Reserve Series, including expressions that spent time in barrels previously used to mature rum, tequila, port, and sherry. The new Manhattan Finish is the latest in the series, and it’s actually the second time this particular whiskey has been released. “The original idea for Manhattan Finish back in 2020 challenged us to fully deconstruct the flavors of a Manhattan to create a full-proof whiskey that leaves you with a parting kiss of the cocktail,” said Ryan Norwood, VP of operations at Sagamore Spirit, in a statement. “Manhattans have become even more popular since then, so we knew it was time to bring back this delicious, limited-edition rye expression.”

The base whiskey in the Manhattan Finish is a 4-year-old rye distilled at MGP and in-house that was spent at least 20 months in three different types of barrels—vermouth, bitters, and cherry brandy. That’s a fairly long amount of time to pick up these individual flavors, which are also the key ingredients of a Manhattan (sweet vermouth, bitters, and a maraschino cherry garnish). The end result doesn’t drink like a bottled version of this cocktail, but all the elements are there with notes of baking spice, black pepper, vanilla, red berries, and, of course, bitters and cherry.

This is not the only whiskey you can find with a deconstructed Manhattan finish. We reviewed the excellent Select Four Grain from Pennsylvania’s Manatawny Still Works a few years ago, a whiskey made from a mashbill of 80 percent malted barley finished in cherry brandy and vermouth barrels. That bottle was only available in Pennsylvania, but fortunately Sagamore Manhattan Finish Rye Whiskey (SRP $80) is can be found at select retailers nationwide. (ReserveBar currently has the previous release available to purchase.)

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