Whisky Advocate

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “American Whiskey of the Year”: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (2010 Release)

February 18th, 2011

Roll these names off your tongue: Stagg. Handy. Weller. Sazerac. Eagle Rare. Now wrap it all up with Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Collectively, these are the bottles that American whiskey lovers go nuts for every year, tracking them down on shelves three or four states away, swapping and trading for them.

They drink them, they don’t just collect them, because these are really good whiskeys. Any one of them — three bourbons, two ryes — has the potential to snag this award in any given year, and some years they have. But one’s usually a lot better, and sometimes one is under par that year, and that’s kind of good: you don’t have to buy all of them.

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.)

Can we pick five whiskeys as “best”? Of course we can. When they’re all this good, when the Collection comes together like this, how can we do anything else?

photo courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery

The “Canadian Whisky of the Year” will be announced tomorrow. Stay tuned!

36 Responses to “Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “American Whiskey of the Year”: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (2010 Release)”

  1. sam k says:

    Well deserved, and an interesting choice. What a beautiful bunch of bottles!

  2. dbk says:

    BTAC: always a great choice in my book!

  3. Gary says:

    Have had the pleasure of enjoying a bottle of the Weller. Looking to add to my collection. Great
    choice(s) John!

  4. JT says:

    I would love to agree with this choice, but I doubt I’ll ever get to try any of them unless I:

    a) buy a liquor store & stash them for myself (which I think happens more often than not).

    b) pay 3x the retail on eBay.

    Neither of which are likely to happen…t’would be wonderful if BT expanded their distribution in the coming years, but I won’t hold my breath.

    • PeteR says:

      JT,
      May be too late this year, but many retailers will ship to you (if the state liquor laws allow). I was able to find them for ~$60, though I checked regularly after release until my metro area received them (and then I got calls from a couple of retailers). I suggest you look at the Malt Advocate’s listing of larger whiskey retailers and check with them.

  5. Jason Pyle says:

    For me the Stagg and Weller are class of this release each year. The Stagg was fantastic this year. I wasn’t able to get a hold of the Weller sadly.

    The puzzler for me almost every year is Eagle Rare 17. Very good whiskey but not in the same class with the others. For me, it usually wins the “One of these is not like the other” contest.

    • John Hansell says:

      Eagle Rare has been variable over the years, as I have many times stated. Some years it has come across as too tired and woody. But when it’s on, it’s as good as the rest of the collection.

    • Vince says:

      Jason:

      I agree that the eagle rare 17 can be inconsistent but the 2010 release is fantastic! Great balance of flavors. It truly measures well to the others in the collection

  6. PeteR says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with your choice. John, many thanks for reviewing these in the past years as that is how I came about them in the 1st place and it is this collection that has opened my palate up to American Whiskeys more than anything else.

  7. ps says:

    I picked up Stagg and Saz 18 this fall…both of which are great. The other 3 are still available. I think I’ll pick up a Handy tonight or tomorrow.

  8. Mr Claw says:

    Not tried these yet.

    Have had the pleasure of trying the George Stagg 2009, Saz 18 2009 and the Thomas Handy 2008.

    All were excellent (although I particulary liked the Saz 18). I imagine these are of similar quality.

    I’m flying back from New Zealand through LAX in a few weeks. Hopefully (and if they stock this sort of thing at LA duty free – anyone know?) I’ll see if I can pick some up – getting good US whiskey in the UK is hard and expensive!

  9. Texas says:

    Almost a nobrainer..fantastic stuff. The Stagg is just about gone in my cabinet.

  10. Lew Bryson says:

    Wow, up for two hours and no one has cursed us for making these even harder to find and purchase yet. Cool.

    • John Hansell says:

      Have a look at J.T.’s comment (@4). Oh, you’re right. He didn’t say we are making it harder. He’s saying it’s already nearly impossible. :)

    • Texas says:

      I realize I make few friends by damning the Kilchoman pricing..but I really just don’t see how anyone could condemn the Stagg especially. At 140 proof, essentially getting 2- 17 year old stupendous bourbons for $72. I don’t think there is anything anyone could say that would make this stuff harder to get. No wonder it flies off the shelf.

  11. Lee B says:

    Great call. These are tough to beat. I’m always sad when I drink my last of each before the winter ends.

    • Texas says:

      ..I have just enough left in my bottle of Stagg for one drink. I managed to stretch it for 2 months. Very sad indeed that there will be no more until November.

  12. AaronWF says:

    It’s the unfiltered, barrel-proof expressions that really take my breath away. (Though the end of my first bottle of Handy stained my tongue for a week; I can’t imagine it’s a good thing to drink those charred wood morsels!) I’m in love with the idea that all the thought for the final product went into the Stagg, Weller and Handy before they were put in the barrel (not to minimize barrel placement).

    I wish there were more barrel-proof ryes out there. I haven’t met anything close to a match for the Handy when it comes to a balance of youthful energy and wise complexity, and the 2009 was even more layered than the 2010.

  13. JWC says:

    was expecting one whiskey but can’t argue with the btac as the choice. as for making it more difficult, yes, it’s getting more difficult for those who appreciate the btac to get our bottles but the distillery should be rewarded for its efforts. i still remember when i could purchase bottles for less than $45 and be able to replenish my bar easily throughout the year. now, in houston, you have to scramble the first week of release or you are out of luck. the saz is the most difficult to get here in houston. thomas handy and eagle rare are, relatively speaking, easier to get.

    i agree with everything you said about the btac except for getting out the checkbook: unless you go on ebay, it’s too late for the 2010′s in houston. i got my bottles. strangely enough, the weller was supposed to be particularly limited this year but i was able to stock up. my preference this year: stagg, weller, sazerac, er and thomas handy.

    looking forward to the canadian. will buffalo trace get another notch or will forty creek come out ahead? i’m betting my money on forty creek.

  14. Joshie says:

    An easy choice and a good one. I don’t remember when they were available for $45 a bottle, but I do remember when they were $65 a bottle and I was able to actually find them on shelves. My current opinion on the BTAC phenomenon is summed up in the following calculations:

    For $354.85 I can get
    1 Full set of BTAC
    2.5 cases of Evan Williams
    2.4 cases of Very Old Barton, Bottled in Bond
    ‘Nuff said.

    • I would be delighted to find the BTAC at such a price in Europe. You have to be prepared to pay $150 a bottle over here :(

    • JWC says:

      Joshie, about 10 years ago BTAC was readily available for that price. I got the first releases of the ER, Sazerac and WLW when they first came out. If I knew then what the going price for a bottle of the WLW would go for NOW, i would have bought a few more bottles to save. i really enjoyed the first ER and Sazerac release and remember them as being superior to what is being released now but memories do that to us yes?

      our livers would appreciate us buying the btac rather than either 5 cases of Evan Williams or 4 cases of Very Old Barton, Bottled in Bond.

    • JWC says:

      Joshie,

      our livers would appreciate us buying the btac rather than either 5 cases of Evan Williams or 4 cases of Very Old Barton, Bottled in Bond. ;)

      • Joshie says:

        Nobody says you have to drink them fast JWC! :) I guess my point is that while the BTAC is tasty, without a doubt, my buck goes much further with the many quality value American Whiskeys that are everywhere.

  15. Eric says:

    I’m lucky enough to have the whole collection waiting to be cracked…it looks just as beautiful on my counter as it does in that picture. I’m almost scared to open them at this point. :)

  16. James K says:

    Anyone near Waltham, MA can still get the Handy for $55! Too bad I’m 3000 miles away.

  17. Louis says:

    John,

    You ought to mention the runner up, because it’s going to be very hard for anybody to top the BTAC, but we don’t want them to stop trying :)

    Slainte.

    Louis

    • JWC says:

      Louis, GREAT idea! John, what abour naming the runner up in all the categories?

      • Chris says:

        I third the motion, especially if John explains why he chose the one over the other. As for the BTAC, with a bit of persistence I was able to get 4 of the 5 this year. Still haven’t opened any of them, just need to find some time when I can appreciate them properly.

        • John Hansell says:

          There wasn’t really a runner-up for the American whiskey category. The BTAC was a slam dunk. And for the value pick, it was a tie–one was a runner up, but we couldn’t decide which, so we gave the award to both.

          If there is a runner up worth mentioning, we will.

  18. RegularChumpington says:

    Great pick. I finished off the last ounce of my Sazerac and Thomas Handy last night and am looking forward to the Weller, next up. It’s a really great set and glad to see them get their due (again).

    For those who haven’t, try and find them. I’ve still seen everything but the Saz 18 on shelves with a bit of effort. Saz 18 was hard to track down but WORTH IT.

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