Rye whiskey is synonymous with the Sazerac Company, becoming the key ingredient in the Sazerac cocktail which they sold at their eponymous coffee house in the late 19th century. The coffee house was run by Thomas H. Handy until his death in 1893. His former secretary, C.J. O’Reilly, took over the business and it was he who named it the Sazerac Company. The new company marketed a Sazerac rye whiskey for the first time, producing it up until Prohibition closed the Sazerac Coffee House down.
When the Sazerac Company acquired what is now called Buffalo Trace distillery in 1992, one of their long-term intentions was to see the eponymous rye brand return. They began distilling it for the first time in 1998, and introducing the modern version of the Sazerac Rye in 2006.
Prior to this however, a Sazerac 18 year old was launched in 2000 as part of what is now the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. These were bottled from a legendary batch of rye whiskey distilled by Schenley at Buffalo Trace when it was still known as George T. Stagg. It was distilled in the early 1980s with the intention of releasing a rye line for its popular Cream of Kentucky brand. The company lost interest in this however, and the casks were left to age far beyond the normal period for such whiskies. To the surprise of many, it turned into an exceptional product and has produced many legendary bottlings. In addition to these, it was also blended through the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye in 2004, and a number of barrels also ended up in the warehouses at Willett, where Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD) used them for a number of brands, including the Willett Familty Estate, Black Maple Hill, and early examples of the Michter's revival.