Whisky Advocate

Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (2010 Release)

January 6th, 2011

I think this might be the best annual release of these five whiskeys so far. All are classics, or very close to it.

96 William Larue Weller, 63.3%, $70

Very similar to last year’s release. (A good thing, since it was wonderful!) Very smooth, with layered sweetness (toffee, fig cake, nougat, maple syrup), dark fruit (black raspberry, blueberry), cinnamon, and polished oak on the finish. A whisky of elegance and sophistication.

95 Sazerac Rye, 18 year old, 45%, $70

This was my second lowest rated whiskey from the 2009 Collection (a 91 rating). This one is an impressive whiskey, and an improvement from last year. It’s soft (for a straight rye), well rounded, and easy to embrace, with tamed spice (cinnamon, mint, vanilla, mocha), nougat, toffee, fruit (bramble, subtle citrus), subtle date, and polished leather on the finish. Buffalo Trace is playing a shell game with this aged rye (being stored in stainless steel tanks over the past several years until new stocks mature), but in this instance there seems to be a prize under every shell. Well done!

94 George T. Stagg, 71.5%, $70

Very close to last year’s release in personality, with great balance between the sweetness, spice, and fruit. Nicely structured, with clearly defined notes of toffee, molasses, cinnamon, vanilla bean, dried citrus, brittle mint, roasted nuts, tobacco, and polished leather on the finish. A great value too, considering it’s almost the equivalent of two bottles of bourbon.

93 Thomas H. Handy Rye, 63.45%, $70

One of the best Handy offerings yet. Very vibrant with dynamic spice (firm mint, warming cinnamon, allspice, hint of clove) and lush fruit (citrus, orchard fruit, golden raisin, brandy, and teasing coconut), all tamed by a bed of soothing caramel and honey. It’s not easy for a whisky to come across as excitingly youthful, yet nicely matured. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, and this whiskey finds that balance.

93 Eagle Rare, 17 year old, 45%, $70

The only setback from last year’s Antique Collection release, when I rated it an 84 because it was showing too much wood (especially compared to the 2007-2008 releases). The 2010 release is back on track, with great balance, and showing very traditional notes of vanilla toffee, rummy molasses, dusty corn, soft summer fruit, and a sprinkling of spice (cinnamon, mint, cocoa), with oak resin to balance out the sweet notes.

72 Responses to “Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (2010 Release)”

  1. Gal Granov says:

    Wow.

    also good prices.

    i need to try those…

    • Outside the US they are much more expensive. Prepare to spend at least 100 Euros for the bottle.

      • lawschooldrunk says:

        Even in the US, this is basically an imaginary price- you have to get your hands on one first. Sure, a store can list it at $70, but chances are you won’t get it because it’s been sold out/spoken for 10 months earlier! Rather, the resell price from the ones who do get it is the more realistic price. On average, I’ve seen it being resold for around $90-$95.

        • Texas says:

          I guess we are fortunate here in Houston. It always sells for around $70, and when it is gone, it is gone., and there is usually a limit of 2 bottles per person. When the supply gets really low you have to ask for it by name, and they will go an get it for you…but it is still $70-ish.

          • Eric says:

            The store I went to (in Minnesota) had a nice display highlighting the entire collection and it looked like it hadn’t even been touched.

            All of them were $65 too. I guess I should go back and stock up. The only one I bought was the WL Weller.

          • PeteR says:

            Also from Minnesota, likely another store carried the range for $60. I learned my lesson last year when I was only able to purchase the Handy and Eagle 17. I started asking for it every week starting mid October. Week before Thanksgiving I was rewarded by 2 phone calls (Surdyk’s and Blue Max both had them). I got the Weller, Stagg and Handy. I love all 3 of them. The Stagg and Weller are the best Bourbon’s I’ve ever tried, and the Handy is second only to Old Portrero which I have to have family mail to me.

        • Ryan says:

          While I agree that these are quick sellers, and that aspects of their annual allocation are maddening, I completely disagree that their retail price is, “basically an imaginary price.” For the past three years I have seen multiple stores offer the complete BTAC for $59-$67 a bottle. Of course the BTAC is well-known for selling-out quickly, but one positive that has emerged from the increased demand is that an increasing number of retailers now stipulate first-come-first-serve only, and then limit purchases to one bottle of each of the 5 types available… per customer. This year especially, I noticed more-and-more retailers being proactive about eliminating the possibility for individuals (the dreaded hoarders or resellers) to waltz-in and snag every bottle in stock.

          • lawschooldrunk says:

            Okay. My experience, however, is that so many stores list it on their website as in stock for a low price (I presume to draw in traffic) and low-and-behold, when you inquire, it’s out of stock and they can’t get it. Every brick and mortar to which I’ve visited (many!) is sold out, but they list the price at, i.e. $70. If I had a shop, just for kicks, I’d put up a new sticker on the empty shelf after it sells out saying $40. What I’m getting at with “imaginary price” is that it doesn’t matter how low a store sells it if they don’t have it and you can’t get it.

            For those to whom the BTAC is available, power to you, you lucky people!

          • Ryan says:

            I feel your pain:-) But paradoxically–where B&M stores are concerned–it appears that the more popular these BTAC brands become, the more I see retailers setting puchase limits… I suppose to avoid or alleviate customer service headaches. Is my hypothetical micro-trend broad enough and consistent enough to benefit everyone immediately? Nope. But, in my view, it is a welcome change and a good indicator that more retailers are responding to their customers by making efforts to equalize access. Let’s hope such trends eventually go macro and benefit you too!

        • Jimmy says:

          In San Francisco, I haven’t seen increases quite so large as 90+. I did pay 85 for the Saz18, but that particular store is routinely 5-10 higher than a couple other places in the city that stock BTAC. I’ve seen bottles for 75 before.

          I don’t know how this happened, but at BevMo, a local chain liquor store, I found a Pappy 15yr for 55.

          • I sold through our Weller, Stagg, & Eagle Rare 17 yr. before the holidays were over & we were selling it for $59.99. I still have 2 bottles each of the Thomas Handy & Sazerac Rye, also at $59.99. 3 bottles each of the Pappy 20 & 23 year olds at $99.99 & 193.99 respectively also in the Buffalo, NY area. I loved them all and agree with John on their classic status.

  2. I wish those were more available in Europe, and had comparable pricing to yours. Here they start, if you can get them, at 100 euros, which is close to 135 dollars. I might have to stock up if I get to the States sometime…

    • John Hansell says:

      That’s if you can find them here when you come. They don’t last very long in most places.

      • Indeed… I hope to find one in some remote town that has the state supplying the shops… Guess that’ll be my best chance.

        Might have to settle for some European priced older editions ;-)

        • Karl says:

          If you’re considering flying with these, please also be aware that the George T. Stagg can and likely will be seized from checked luggage (and is, of course, not allowed in carry-ons either). It’s not legal to transport liquids over 140 proof (70% alcohol) on airplanes (in the US, at least). It’s technically considered hazardous material and should not even be driven through tunnels for that matter.

          • lawschooldrunk says:

            Truly a Hazmat!

          • John Hansell says:

            I just shook my head when I read Karl’s note (in disgust). Oh, and not like anyone really cares, my “real job” before doing booze was as an Environmental Scientist. I helped to consult on HazMat esposure and disposal. So, his comment (ironically) hits home.

          • lawschooldrunk says:

            Very cool, John. Did you have to know RCRA laws or just NHTSA? I’m an environmental lawyer, not that anyone really cares.

          • John Hansell says:

            RCRA, and then CERCLA (Comprehensive Environment Response, Compensation and Liability Act–yes I still remember…). Can you say Superfund? :)

          • John Hansell says:

            Forgot to mention that I was a CIH (Certified Industrial Hygienist) and CHMM (Certified Hazardous Material Manager), and was about to get my cert as a CSP (Certified Safety Professional) when I decided to go the booze route. BS at Penn State. MS at Drexel in Philly. That was in a previous life (or so it now seems).

          • Karl says:

            Sorry to create such negative vibes in a very up beat thread. I love me some BTAC, but wanted to make sure no one found about the airline restrictions the hard way. I, too, have successfully transported 140+ proof in checked luggage, but I believe it’s becoming more of a point of concentration these days, especially abroad. I believe the EU must have recently introduced/strengthened similar transport bans, because one of the most famous 70%+ ABV European products (Elixir Végétal de la Grande Chartreuse) was reformulated from 142 proof to 138 last year.

          • Jon W. says:

            Before I knew of this rule, I flew from Chicago to Philadelphia with 2 bottles of Stagg in tow (checked baggage). They made it through with no problems. I think this was March 2007.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Hansell, Pete LaVerghetta. Pete LaVerghetta said: Buffalo Trace Antique #Bourbon Collection (2010 Release) http://bit.ly/hF4dEU I'll take one of each, please. My 50th b-day is this year. [...]

  4. Vince says:

    I was able to get my hands on the WLW, Sazerac Rye and Eagle Rare 17. I have only opened the Eagle Rare and I completely agree with John. Its much better than last year’s. Very well balanced. I have been tasting the Eagle Rare 10 year old (90 Proof) with the Eagle Rare 10 year old (101 proof) and then the 17 year old. The 101 proofed Eagle Rare is quite great, the 10 year old 90 is good but the 17 year old has much more complexity and much more balance. The 90 proof 10 year old drinks much bigger to me (meaning I would think it was a higher proof because of the explosive finish). The 17 year Old doesnt give you the explosion but provides better balance and a longer finish.

  5. ps says:

    I was able to grab 2 Staggs and 2 Sazeracs (a bottle for now and a bottle for this summer), both are really great. I paid $60. I loved last years Weller but since then I’ve been content with the Weller Antique for 1/3rd the price.

    I appreciated the early quick reviews on these in October, John. (I bought them soon after).

    • Texas says:

      I received the Stagg as a Christmas present from my wife ( I asked her to pick one). Fabulous, fabulous stuff. I pour about half the amount I normally would and then add one small ice cube and let it melt. I had the Weller last year, and even though it’s very good, I find that the Weller Antique 107 is amazingly close given the age and price difference.

      • sam k says:

        Weller 107 is a tough bottle to beat, but it’s been discontinued here in PA (land of governmental oversight that’s GOOD for you!)

      • Vince says:

        Weller Antique 107 is the best valued bourbon out there. It is great!!

        • Texas says:

          I sincerely believe Texas (the state, not me :)) would attempt to revert back to being it’s own country if the feds started mandating that every state was like PA when it came to liquor.

          • MrTH says:

            The feds don’t do that. The states do. Yeah, I know that’s obvious, but what you’re actually complaining about is the individual states exercising their rights.

          • Texas says:

            I regret saying that, since this leans towards politics (swear I won’t do it again John)..but just to clarify. I am fully aware that certain states chose to have state controlled liquor, without anyone from the federal gov’t telling them to. However, with the nanny state movement in full force I can easily see the feds either requiring or putting pressure on all states to do the same. Without someone putting a stop to all this, we’ll have regulations down to what color socks you can wear on Wednesdays. Sorry for taking the thread on a tangent.

    • Ryan says:

      Second that appreciation for your 10/15/10 BTAC comments, John. After being turned-off by the wood-drenched flavor of last year’s ER17 (and underwhelmed by several of the previous Saz18s) I was dead-set against purchasing either of them from the 2010 BTAC release. But your early informal tasting notes really softened that position and left me open to the possibility of trying them. So when (by pure chance) I found myself inside a store with multiple sets of the entire 2010 BTAC line-up available for $66/bottle, I felt at ease picking-up two of the W.L.W., and one of everything else. And yes, the 2010 ER17 and Saz18 are (were:-)) very good! I sure hope whatever they did to improve these older whiskies becomes a trend. Oh, and the 2009 and 2010 W.L.W. and G.T.S. are some of the best whiskies that I have tasted… I hope B.T. keeps that trend going too!

  6. sam k says:

    They’re $60 here in PA too, but they only ship us Stagg and Handy in any (small) quantity. There were literally about 12 bottles statewide for Weller and Eagle Rare this year, and no Sazerac.

    • Ed in PA says:

      I’m in PA too – there’s a store about an hour away that got two 3 case (9 bottle) shipments or WLW – but they were sold and not available when the store openned (I was there) the day after the shipments came. I’ve noticed this one store getting a lot of Stagg too (I was able to get a bottle the day after a 3 case shipment came in). Those in PA should probably try to find out how to get these shipments redirected – 18 bottles of WLW to one store and then have none of them available for anyone to buy is raising my blood pressure… I know in my heart there’s a profiteer at this one store reselling these bottles.

  7. Bob Siddoway says:

    I have bottles of both the new Stagg and Weller, paid $62 a piece. The Weller is pretty good, but like others have said the Weller Antique 107 is a much better bargain and fairly close in quality and taste. The Stagg on the other hand is amazing, just like every other year. Stagg continues to be tied for my favorite bourbon. I have yet to try the Handy.

    • James K says:

      Is the Weller Antique 107, really that close (in quality) to WLW? Why does the pessimist in me have a hard time believing this?

      • sam k says:

        It’ll only cost you somewhere in the mid-to-low $20s to find out! Go buy one (unless you live in PA, of course).

      • Texas says:

        To my taste the WLW tastes exactly the same as Antique 107 only left in the barrel 5 or 6 years longer. I am not saying it is an equal, but if you have the two side by side (which I did many times last year), you will look at the WL Weller and ask yourself why you paid $72 bucks for this. It’s not that the WL Weller isn’t very good, it is just that for the price the Antique 107 is amazingly good.

  8. Brandon D says:

    Glad to see the William Larue Weller getting recognition. It always seems to get overlooked in favor for the Sazerac 18 and George T. Stagg. Every time the liquor stores in my area get a new stock of the Antique Collection, a week or so later, all are gone except for William Larue Weller.

    A wonderful whiskey!

    • timd says:

      Here in MI, we can find Handy & ER17 almost year round – but the Stagg, Saz & WLW are gone almost instantly. WLW is actually typically the hardest to find – in fact this is the first year I’ve been able to buy some – I’ve had some of each of the other offerings each year previously, but not the WLW.

      FWIW: The Handy is always my fave. It’s like Ardbeg SuperNova but for Rye lovers… But the are all outstanding.

  9. Matthew Soutar says:

    Here in British Columbia if you get any bottle of the BTAC you count yourself lucky and then thank the government for taxing the S**t out of them! Draconian liquor taxation running at over 150% make being a whisky lover difficult here……regardless, the BC LDB do get 9 bottles (limit 1 pp) of each, they sell out in less than 1/2hr and if you’re not at their main store when the doors open at 9.30am (I was there with many others just after 8am!) on the day they’re released, you lose out. I managed to get both the WLW and the Sazarac 18, both wonderfully different to each other, enough to make up for the C$150-170 price tag.

    • Henry H. says:

      I live just below British Columbia in Washington state and get up to Vancouver for music from time to time. I’ve complained here many times about the control state situation where I live, but that is NOTHING compared to what Matthew has to suffer through in B.C.

      I cannot believe the degree to which the remnants of the temperance movement persist in the prices and regulations up there. If the objective is to reduce the volume of alcohol consumed, it must work extremely well. The prices are OBSCENE. And if your bar server exceeds the regulated amount of the pour, I’m pretty sure they’re shot on sight!

      I hope like hell it changes for you soon, Matthew. I vow never to complain again. (And if you believe that…)

  10. mark davis says:

    does anyone know where to find them in new york?

    • Ryan says:

      The same place they are found everywhere else… in moments of good fortune.

    • lawschooldrunk says:

      email me at lawschooldrunk1@gmail.com for a possible NY location.

    • mattz says:

      Every October I start popping into Warehouse on Broadway/Astor every few days. I don’t think they do a waiting list…just first come first served. I’ve been lucky enough to catch a few bottles there each year. But not convenient if you don’t live or work near there.

  11. MrTH says:

    Given the lack of availability, it seems obvious that the retail price is far too low.

    • Ryan says:

      Given the lack of availability, it seems obvious that the production volume is far too low. But I suspect the Sazerac Company, Inc. would prefer your appraisal.

    • sam k says:

      Mr TH, please don’t say that great whiskeys, reasonably priced and sold at less than the distiller could get based on demand, should be more costly. We hear so many negative comments here about the prices of limited release whiskeys from other companies; please don’t encourage a conscientious distiller who cares about their customer base to follow suit. I’m sure the rest of the industry would be more comfortable if the Antique Collection were to be pricier, because this proves that in many (most?) cases, relatively ridiculous profits are being made elsewhere on similar bottlings.

      If anything, we should hold Buffalo Trace up to the rest of the industry, both foreign and domestic, as an egalitarian example that others should emulate, not the other way around. I (heart) Buffalo Trace!

      This is also proof positive that even great bourbon and rye need not be drinks with an elitist bent…they always have been, and hopefully always will be, for the people. Or in this case, at least for the people who can get them!

  12. H.Diaz says:

    I have a couple of bottles (Stagg and Larue) from quite a few years back when the entire line sold for $45 here in Texas and were all readily available.

    Which reminds me, wouldn’t it be nice to easily know what year a particular BTAC bottle was released by reading the label? I mean, there are times when a shop will have a bottle or two but I will have no idea when it was released. Was it this year, last year, three or more years ago, you know, without having to memorize all the abv’s for each release? How about a born-on-date or something for the BTAC line, BT?

    A born-on-date would be even nicer for Scotch. All the time I will read good things about a particular release in Malt Advocate magazine or what does John know?, but I will wonder if the bottle I am staring at in the shop is the same release I just read about. I know the industry strives for consistency year after year after year, but I would like to know what year. Was it this year?

    • ps says:

      My Sazerac 18’s say ‘Bottled: Fall 2010′

    • Josh West says:

      The barrel strength bottlings (Thomas H. Handy, William Larue Weller, and George T. Stagg) always list the % alcohol and proof. The bottles brought down to 45% (90 proof) list the bottling season and year instead. The barrel strength bottlings I find that with a quick bit of research, I can determine the release year. Usually this blog is the first search result :-D But if you want to keep your own records, perhaps ask the liquor store from where you purchase, for the notes that ship with each case of the BTAC bottles. They contain all of the details from the year distilled and bottled, to the % lost due to the angel’s share (evaporation) and the type/seconds of char on the oak barrels used for aging.

  13. Chris says:

    I was lucky. I live in Seattle, and thanks to pestering managers at various liquor stores around here I was able to find out exactly when each store would get its shipment from the distribution center. As a result, after a few hours of driving around to various stores, I now have 4 of the 5 (just not the Saz) of the BTAC 2010. I haven’t been able to bring myself to open one just yet, but I’m excited. As for the price, I paid (including all taxes) $74.99 per bottle, which seems especially reasonable since we in WA have the highest markups and taxes in the country.

  14. JWC says:

    i was able to get the entire set the past two years. agree that the wlw and gts the past 2 years have been tremendous. the er – 2010, i would have rated it lower than john did. the 2009 was not very good – AT ALL. the 2008 was pretty good (better than 2010). like the others, i really appreciated the early preliminary write up john – it enabled me to make decisions regarding my purchases.

    john, i believe you wrote that the 2009 wlw was a benchmark for wheated bourbons. numerically, wasn’t 2009 also a “96” in your rankings? if i interpret your write up correctly, despite the same score, it appears that you have a slight preference for the 2009 wlw over the 2010, correct?

    amazed at the low prices (compared to texas) some of the posters have been able to purchase the btac for. here in houston, it was $70-72/bottle. the saz was $80 (and the store i got it at only got one bottle of that). i believe the wlw had the smallest run of any of the btac but here in houston, at least for the early birds, the wlw was much easier to acquire than the saz. er and tth are the easiest (relative term) ones to get in texas (usually the last btac left on the shelf).

  15. [...] Advocate Magazins und Betreiber des dazugehörigen Blogs What does John know? hat kürzlich seine Reviews zur 2010er Serie veröffentlicht. Zusammen mit den Reviews auf Drinkhacker und den zahlreichen Meinungen in Foren, [...]

  16. Gary says:

    Got my hands on 2 bottles of the William LaRue Weller. Going to crack one open when I finish my month on no drinking.

  17. Jason says:

    I got my Stagg back in November and have been afraid to open it! I feel there has been so much hype I need to wait until the birth of my first child or something amazing to happen.

  18. Jason says:

    How does the STAGG get to be 70% ABV? I thought whiskey came off the still at around 62%. Do they distill it multiple times?

    Thanks!

    • Karl says:

      It was aged over 17 and a half years. Over that time, the volume of liquid in the barrel shrunk and the ABV went up. The angel’s share is a good part water. Decent explanation here.

  19. Eric says:

    I just picked up a bottle of Stagg for $60 to complete my collection.

    I now have all 5 bottles, sitting on my counter unopened, mocking me on a nightly basis. Is it worth keeping them all in that state for the purposes of re-sale a few years down the road? I’m no liquor investor, but it seems like a possibility with this collection. If there is no probable gain, I’ll gladly enjoy them all over the next few years.

    • Jason says:

      Hi Eric – I don’t know if it would be worth keeping. I have seen some older bottles for sale on eBay for slightly higher prices but nobody is buying them. I think unless the antique collection gets retired, there are too many bottles out there to make anything highly demanded. They are already pretty marked up if you think about it.

      Just my 2 cents.

  20. Jason says:

    Hi Eric – I don’t know if it would be worth keeping. I have seen some older bottles for sale on eBay for slightly higher prices but nobody is buying them. I think unless the antique collection gets retired, there are too many bottles out there to make anything highly demanded. They are already pretty marked up if you think about it.

    Just my 2 cents.

  21. [...] This year, though…the stars are aligned, and you’d better get out your checkbook. This is probably the strongest Antique Collection as a collection since Buffalo Trace started sending out allocations of these five excellent spirits. Weller: layers of lusciousness. Stagg: finely-carved power. Eagle Rare: beautifully balanced corn and oak. Handy: barely-restrained youth. Sazerac: smoothly spicy. (See full tasting notes here.) [...]

  22. [...] This year, though…the stars are aligned, and you’d better get out your checkbook. This is probably the strongest Antique Collection as a collection since Buffalo Trace started sending out allocations of these five excellent spirits. Weller: layers of lusciousness. Stagg: finely-carved power. Eagle Rare: beautifully balanced corn and oak. Handy: barely-restrained youth. Sazerac: smoothly spicy. (See full tasting notes here.) [...]

  23. Sam says:

    I don’t know what it is about where I live (Tampa) but apparently people don’t appreciate good bourbon. There’s a liquor store near me that has the last three years of the BT Antique Collection backstocked, all for $70 a bottle, complete with a layer of dust. They still even have 6 bottles of Evan Williams Single Barrell vintage 2000 for $20 a pop.

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