The highly anticipated Buffalo Trace Antique Collection represents an annual object of desire for fans of American whiskey. While list prices remain a modest $99 each, there is little likelihood of finding the whiskeys at this price—if at all. Of the five limited-release whiskeys, the most notable change is to Eagle Rare 17 year old, which sees the 90 proof of recent releases increased to 101.
This year’s range was tasted and scored blind by multiple staff tasters. Scores were generally consistent, with some divergence surrounding Thomas H. Handy, with some tasters noting its apparent youth and others enjoying its verve. George T. Stagg and William Larue Weller achieved the highest scores, consistent with previous releases. If there is one bright spot, it’s that these are also the largest production—284 barrels and 149 barrels respectively.
William Larue Weller 12 year old Straight Bourbon
96 points, 62.85% ABV, $99
Tilled earth, tobacco, and leather meet clover honey, maple syrup, and pecan pie sweetness. It pours broad and mouth-coating across the palate, with a lovely softness and pervasive vanilla and apple sweetness, gently tugged at by oaky tannins and more tobacco leaf. A touch floral and gently spiced, with cinnamon leading the way. Overall, this exudes beautiful balance right through the long finish that resonates both prettily and powerfully with dried citrus.
George T. Stagg 15 year old Straight Bourbon
95 points, 62.45% ABV, $99
This offers up warming ginger, candied orange, and wisps of furniture polish. The lavish and leathery oak flavors are apparent but don’t overwhelm the abundance of zippy, bright citrus—orange oil and yuzu—as the palate unleashes wave upon wave of spices that keep you guessing where it will head next. In the end, more lingering ginger and dusty cocoa.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye 6 year old Straight Rye
93 points, 64.4% ABV, $99
Cereal grain notes and fresh-cut oak suggest some youthfulness here, but the stone fruits and hot caramel sundae appear dense and richly layered. On the palate the big, up-front sweetness evolves into nougat, marzipan, and caramel-covered apple, sprinkled with root beer spices, before more grain and pastry notes appear on the finish. Powerful and vibrant stuff.
Eagle Rare 17 year old Straight Bourbon
92 points, 50.5% ABV, $99
An intriguing nose features cherry cough drop and horehound, with hints of mint, crushed herbs, and dried flowers. The palate crackles with candied peanuts, lush spices—pepper and allspice—and oozes with some molten licorice. The oak-driven finish shows exquisite maturity, while keeping the wood in check.
Sazerac 18 year old Straight Rye
92 points, 45% ABV, $99
This elder rye shows fine craftsmanship, balancing touches of toasted-spice and floral aromas, with dried herbs, candied orange peel, and mature varnish notes. It’s big on the palate, with heaps of molasses, creamy vanilla sweetness, and orange Creamsicle that lead to pleasing cedar and sandalwood oak, with zesty grapefruit notes. The medium finish is satisfying and well balanced.