Whisky Advocate

Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (2009 release)

October 13th, 2009

Once again, the Antique Collection is really impressive. Compared to last year’s release, I’m seeing improvements across the board, with the exception of Eagle Rare.

(I previously reviewed the Eagle Rare and Sazerac Rye live on Twitter over the past two weeks and also posted up those reviews on WDJK. I’m including them here again, along with the three new reviews, so you have my reviews of the entire collection in one location.)

96 William Larue Weller, 67.4%, $65
This whiskey has improved greatly over the past two years. (I thought that the 2007 release was almost too easy-going, as some wheated bourbons can be.) A little more oak spice has added balance, complexity and depth. Very clean on the palate. Layered sweetness (toffee, caramel, maples syrup, elegant rum) provide a foundation for warming cinnamon, bramble, blueberry tart, sultana, light candy corn, herbal tea and subtle marzipan. A soft, dry, polished oak finish ropes in all the sweetness, keeping me wanting more. Excellent!

95 George T. Stagg, 70.7%, $65
Like the William Larue Weller releases a couple years back, I felt like the Stagg releases (after you brought them down in strength) were almost too easy-going. And like the new Weller release, this bourbon is had improved greatly to classic status. Clean, balanced notes of toffee, molasses, nougat, polished leather, dates, roasted nuts, cinnamon, subtle summer fruits, teasing mint, ground coffee, nutmeg, and a hint of tobacco. Long, balanced finish. An outstanding bourbon!

92 Thomas H. Handy, 64.5%, $65
Distilled in 2002, this is the youngest of the Antique collection, allowing the vibrancy and boldness of the rye grain to shine through (and an interesting comparison to the Sazerac 18 year old). Lush fruit, Seville orange, gin botanicals, fresh mint, golden raisin, dried pineapple, coconut, and honeydew melon, tamed by soothing caramel and vanilla. Lingering dried fruit and spice finish. Not excessively aggressive like some young ryes I’ve tasted. I really like the dark sugar notes and lushness in this year’s release that provide balance. One of the best Handys.

91 Sazerac Rye 18 year old, 45%, $65
This whisky has been getting intermittently softer, less vibrant since the 2005 release. Additionally, this new release is slightly sweeter on the palate too, when compared to last year’s release. Is this good or bad? That depends on how you like your rye whiskeys. Personally, I’d like to see more rye zing, but the pleasing, soothing nature (for a rye) in this new release makes up for it. Notes of toffee, cinnamon, creamy vanilla, date, mocha, bramble, glazed citrus and soft mint, and dusty spice (nutmeg, cocoa), with a dry, polished leather finish.  I like it slightly better than last year’s release, which I rated an “87.” That was my least favorite vintage over the past five years. This new vintage is still not in the class of those classic Sazerac 18’s bottled in the first half of this decade (which I consistently rated 95 and higher).

84 Eagle Rare 17 year old, 45%, $65
Dry, spicy, and leathery on the nose, with candied fruit and toffee. Similar on the palate, but the dryness takes a more demonstrable role, especially towards the finish—leather, dried vanilla, warming cinnamon, brittle mint, with some candied fruit, toffee and molasses struggling to prop it all up. Bottom line here: this year’s offering has less of the richness, fullness, lush fruitiness and sweetness that balanced all the dried spice and leather notes the past two years (which I rated both a 94). Still a nice bourbon, but a slight setback for Eagle Rare 17 yr. old.

24 Responses to “Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (2009 release)”

  1. lawschooldrunk says:

    Thanks for the review, John.

    I purchased 6 bottles of the stagg but now I may just go back for the weller! I have last year’s eagle rare 17 and will probably use that to hold me over until the 2010 release.

  2. Jeff H. says:

    Glad to see you enjoyed the WLW so much. I picked up a bottle and it’s the best bourbon I’ve tasted to date…by far! Not that I have that much bourbon experience (I’ve only tried like 9 expressions). My previous favorite was 2008 Stagg.

    This Weller is the first bourbon I’ve had that I would put right up with some of my favorite single-malts from Scotland. Amazing balance, with just the right combination of sweetness and spiciness.

    Big kudos to Buffalo Trace for putting out these brilliant uncut/unfiltered expressions at an accessible price!

  3. JW says:

    How were y’all already able to purchase bottles? The stores around me (I’m in Texas) are telling me late October/early November but no guarantee that they will get any bottles. What states do y’all reside in?

  4. Jeff H. says:

    JW – BevMo in AZ got most of the expressions in last week. Not all expressions in every store, and not very many bottles, though. They’re charging $87. I talked to somebody at a local specialty liquor store, and he said he has no idea if/when he’ll get some, but he’s hoping for first week of November.

    I guess BevMo is big enough to have worked something out with the distributor.

  5. Adam says:

    They have been out in MN for about a month now. They are $67 or $60 depending on where one looks.

  6. John Hansell says:

    LSD, Jeff H., wise choices, indeed!

  7. Louis says:

    Hi John,

    I picked up the Thomas Handy (for $70 at Warehouse Liquors, NYC), as well as the conventional Sazerac Rye. The TH definitely has a fantastic nose undiluted, but when I add enough water to make it drinkable, it tastes very similar to the Sazerac. Not really a problem, except for the 40% greater proof for a 250% higher price. Have you tried the latest Sazerac Rye recently?

    Louis

  8. John Hansell says:

    Louis, I haven’t tried the Baby Saz this year. Sounds like a good idea, though. Too many whiskeys, too little time…

  9. Texas says:

    John,

    Don’t know if you saw, but Serge is venturing out. he just posted notes for several ryes including WT, Sazerac 18, and Thomas H. Handy. He liked the Handy the best.

  10. Louis says:

    Well, Buffalo Trace is on a roll with their regular lines too. The Sazerac is a really nice dram, fresh and pristine. And I sampled an absolutely stunning Eagle Rare 10 a few weeks ago as well. With both priced in the mid $20’s, certain distilleries, conglomerates, bottlers, and importers should take note.

  11. John M says:

    I’d love if we could get these in Ireland, but the selection is very limited over here. I’ll have to see do any of these stores post to Ireland.

  12. Todd says:

    The BTAC release is always a highlight of the year. I saw in NYC last week, but no room in my luggage. I will have to get some elsewhere. Love a good wheater, Todd

  13. John Hansell says:

    These really are great whiskeys if you can find them. That’s the challenge.

  14. Gary says:

    I just bought a bottle of the Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye and I am impressed. Very smooth for an uncut whiskey. I think I will grab another bottle before they are gone.

  15. [...] For the bourbon lovers, John Hansell reviews the entire Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. [...]

  16. Texas says:

    Spec’s here in Texas has the collection in stock as of today. I am going Saturday to pick up my Christmas present..have not decided on which one yet), then my wife will put it away and wrap it for me.

  17. Texas says:

    Well we decided Christmas could come early so I cracked open the Weller. Fantastic!! Just stunning. Hard to believe something that is 134 proof is so incredibly smooth, delicious, and sippable.

    It does bear a similarity to the Old Weller 7 year/107.

  18. Charles says:

    A buddy of mine and I took a fast trip to Bardstown from North Central Ohio last Friday and I was lucky enough to pick up a bottle of the GTS. Wow! I had never tried one before and I am amazed. What an awesome taste. My friends all love it and they are all on the hunt for their own bottle.

  19. Gary Curts says:

    I had several stores in Louisville hold the Antique Series for me until I could get there. I live in Mt. Vernon, Ohio and just picked up the Thomas Handy, William Larue Weller, and the George T Stagg. They are unbelievable!!!!!! The Weller has such a great taste, this wheated bourbon in the best I have ever had!! The Stagg is simply nectar, it is soooooo good.!!!! I got two of the Handys and they are sensational. I already had the Sazerac (2005 and 2008) The O5 is unbelievable!!!!! I have two of the Eagle Rare 17’s, the 07 and the 08. I have only opened the 07 but it is super. The Sazerac 17 year (2005) is tremendous. I visited New Orleans last March and tried several Sazerac cocktails. They were tremendous!!!!!!! I’m going to buy the bitters and the licorice spirits that go into the cocktail and start making them. The Antique Series is the quintessence of Bourbon and Rye Whiskey making!!!!! Get them all!!! Gary

  20. [...] Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) – For the bourbon and rye whiskey lover in your life, any of the five BTAC releases will be a slam dunk. These are limited bottlings release each Fall, and usually sold out by Spring. William Larue Weller is one of the top two bourbons I’ve tried. $65 – $85. [...]

  21. [...] entire (soon to be released) Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2010 release side-by-side with the entire 2009 release to see how they [...]

  22. Thomas H. Handy Sazerac is a seriously lively whiskey! Very Classy. Long Finish, really redefines Rye whiskey for me. A real eye opener! Drinking this brings to mind a diamond shell of crystallized rye that melts into a dream of warming fruits, caramel, beautiful rye

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