Here you go, whiskey lovers, your annual fall tease begins as our home-grown Kentucky distilleries begin the avalanche of releases you’ll likely never sip. Today’s tease is the announcement of the 2016 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection release, a five-item lineup of old and powerful whiskeys that will command some startlingly high prices on primary and secondary markets.
There’s no small irony in the fact that these are distilled and aged at Buffalo Trace, for every one of them will stampede across your palate like a herd of bison. They’ll also lay waste to your wallet if you’re a drinker of modest means like me. In fact, I’ll probably be an antique before I can afford to buy some Antique.
But enough faux-poetic and pathetic commentary. Read more from today’s news release to see the distillery’s notes on these new whiskeys.
George T. Stagg: The powerhouse favorite of the Antique Collection, George T. Stagg weighs in at a hefty 144.1 proof this year. Past releases of this uncut and unfiltered bourbon won many top awards, including twice named the number one spirit in the world by F. Paul Pacult’s The Spirit Journal. This year’s release contains bourbon from barrels filled in the spring of 2001. This batch contained 142 barrels, but not as many bottles as expected, due to some very greedy angels! Storage location of these barrels varied across warehouses M, N, H, L and K. Finding a bottle this fall will be difficult due to the low yield. This whiskey tastes of dark chocolate, coffee and vanilla.
My comments: The first time I had George T. Stagg I dubbed it “a mean whiskey” due to its high proof and dominating heat. I’m telling you, it’s dog-kickin’, window-breakin’, preacher cussin’ hot. It took me a solid 45 minutes to get through what surely wasn’t a full-ounce pour from a generous friend. But good garsh there was incredible flavor and complexity behind that burn.
William Larue Weller: The Antique Collection’s uncut, unfiltered, wheated recipe bourbon is William Larue Weller. Previous editions of this wheater have won many accolades, including the “Bourbon of the Year” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016 edition. The 2016 offering was distilled in the spring of 2003 and aged on the third and sixth floors of Warehouses D, K, and L. This bourbon registers in at 135.4 proof – one of the stronger Weller releases. The bold flavors include plum, figs and vanilla.
My comments: I’m cracking up at “one of the stronger Weller releases,” the grandest of understatements. The nearest Weller to that is the 107 proof Antique. The difference is profound.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye: Thomas H. Handy is the uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey. The 2015 edition was named “Best American Rye Whiskey” at the 2016 World Whiskies Awards. This year’s Handy was distilled in the spring of 2010; aged on the fourth, fifth and seventh floors of Warehouses I, K, and M, and weighs in at 126.2 proof. The flavor has been described as toffee and cinnamon.
My comments: Never had this one. Will seek it out.
Eagle Rare 17 Year Old: The previous edition of this bourbon was honored with a Silver Outstanding Medal at the 2015 International Wine and Spirits Competition. The 2016 edition has been aging on the first, second and third floors of Warehouses H and K. This 90 proof bourbon was aged for seventeen years and tastes of leather, vanilla, tobacco and toffee.
My comments: Some kind soul wasted a pour of an earlier release on me years ago. Un. Be. Lieve. Able. Still, I’ve always wondered that this rare Eagle Rare isn’t released at higher proof as part of this collection. Surely there are more flavors to mine from that age (says the guy who never distilled anything).
Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old: Last year Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old was named the Best Rye Whiskey 11 Years and Older by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016 edition. This 2016 straight rye whiskey release has notable flavors of smoke, clove and all-spice with a dry finish. The barrels for this whiskey were filled in April of 1998, making them the first “new” batch in years not drawn from the stainless steel tank as the previous past few editions have been. From this year onward, this whiskey will be drawn directly from barrels put away for 18 years, versus using any tanked whiskey.
My comments: Notice those last two sentences? That means these and all future releases of this whiskey will be more highly sought than ever. Lucky me if I ever get one. I sipped a 2013 once that was superb.
You don’t want to miss this hilarious closer in the news release: “The 2016 Antique Collection whiskeys will be available in limited quantities starting in late September or early October. Suggested retail price is $90 each.”
Ninety bucks? Hardy-har-har-har! Expect a pour of some of these to be at least half that—and maybe more—when they start appearing on bars around the country.
Last note: Here’s a great Antique Collection geek link to all past proofs, bottle yields, etc., since Buffalo Trace began releasing it. If you like details, this has ’em.