Whisky Advocate

Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2011 Edition

November 1st, 2011

We still have no power at the Whisky Advocate offices in PA, thanks to the record-breaking snow storm. But, since tonight is WhiskyFest New York, we are in New York where there is power, Internet access, and WHISKEY! So, I am finally able to post a review.

The eagerly awaited annual release from Buffalo Trace distillery is out. Last year’s release was one of their best. This year is a repeat performance. Well done!

Sazerac Rye 18 year old, 45%, $70

Very similar to last year’s release. Well rounded, with a gently sweet foundation (toffee, vanilla taffy), pleasant spice (cinnamon, mocha, soft evergreen), date, glazed citrus, bramble, and a gentle finish for a rye. A classic ultra-aged rye whiskey.

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

William Larue Weller, 66.75%, $70

No age statement, but distilled in 1998. The only wheated recipe bourbon in the bunch, and a very good one at that. Higher in strength than last year’s offering (which was 63.3%), but very similar (and equally as impressive). The most elegant and smoothest of this collection, with layered sweetness (honey, caramel, marzipan, maple syrup), fig, blackberry preserve, hint of green tea, and just the right amount of spice for balance (nutmeg, cinnamon, cocoa).

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

George T. Stagg, 71.3%, $70

At this strength, it’s almost like getting two whiskeys for the price of one. A great value, considering its age. (It’s not identified on the label, but was distilled in 1993.) Try to find a great 18 year old, cask-strength single malt scotch for this price. Very mature — with a good dose of oak — but not excessively so. Notes of toffee, tobacco, dark molasses, roasted nuts, dried vanilla, leather, and a hint of dusty corn. Dry on the finish, with lingering leather and tobacco.

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac, 64.3%, $70

The youngster in the family. One taste and its relative youth is confirmed. (But no worries; it’s mature enough to enjoy neat or with some water (and would be a killer in cocktails). This is rye whiskey in its most vibrant, masculine, and purest form. Bold spice (fresh evergreen, warming cinnamon), honey-coated orchard fruit, golden raisin, caramel, and brandy with a crisp, clean finish. The American equivalent to a young, cask-strength, smoky Islay whisky.

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

Eagle Rare 17 year old, 45%, $70

The most underrated of the five in the collection, but this year’s release (like last year’s) is very lovely bourbon. Perhaps just a bit softer than last year, but with a similar profile: very even keeled and nicely balanced, with sweet notes (vanilla, toffee, añejo rum) peppered with soft orchard fruit and spice (cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, hint of mint), polished oak, and subtle tobacco.

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

16 Responses to “Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2011 Edition”

  1. John Parker says:

    Great reviews, I have gotten 2 bottles of the Weller and 2 of the Stagg, so I was thrilled this past weekend–Maryland seems to get these and always make my Halloween an enjoyable night. I had the Weller on Monday night and think it is almost the same as last year, I actually poured a glass of last years and tasted it next to this years, I personally couldn’t tell much difference, but both classics in my mind.

    Thanks for the reviews, and if anyone can find these, BUY EM because they will be gone soon.

  2. SnowPyramid says:

    John (or anyone else):

    As a whiskey “newbie” I’m interested in why you would compare the Thomas Handy to a to a young, cask strength ,peated islay malt. Aside from the youth and the cask strength in this particular bottle, I’m wondering why people sometimes refer to Rye as the American equivalent to Islay malts. I don’t taste a ton of smokiness in Rye (or rather, definitely not as much as in the peated islays), although it could be my faulty memory ;) . Is there another aspect of the flavor profile or perhaps Rye’s position in the market?

  3. Dave Baxter says:

    I would so love to be able to purchase this collection :)

  4. Greg Adams says:

    This is the first year I have been able to score a bottle. I got a George T. Stagg and it should arrive in a few days. I live in southeast New Mexico and this collection never makes it down here.

    I’m looking forward to having a pour.

  5. mongo says:

    binny’s has them (or did this morning)–but you have to call. i got a bottle each of the sazerac 18 and the stagg from the party source in kentucky–they were cheaper than binny’s but are sold out now of everything but the stagg.

  6. Scribe says:

    So I’m at WhiskyFest New York last night — one of the best in my years of going — and I walk up to the Buffalo Trace table. “Are you pouring any of the Antique Collection?” I ask. “No, we’re not,” the man behind the table said, with a smile on his face. “Too bad — I think they are terrific and have enjoyed them in the past!” “Which are your favorite?” he said, and I responded that the Handy and the Stagg took top honors for me. “Which would you like to try if you could?” he said, to which I replied, “Boy, I’ve always wanted to try the Sazerac Rye.” He reached under the table…out came that Sazerac Rye…and I was tasting one of the best pours of the evening for me (along with, IMHO, the Old Pulteney 21). Now, I’ve just got to find full bottles for purchase!!! John, a great event — well done by you and the team!!! (Sorry for the tangent!)

  7. Bob Siddoway says:

    I agree with you totally, John. Another great set of releases!

    Personally, I found this year’s Weller to be better than last year’s by a ways. But like always, they are all very great whiskeys. And who doesn’t love the Stagg?

  8. OudErnest says:

    Hopefully I’ll have a bottle of the Saz 18 in my hands this week through a friend. I wanted to second the comments above regarding Whiskyfest. It was my first but I have to say it was one of the greatest events I’ve attended. The entire Samaroli line was a real eye opener for me. Exquisite and also powerful depending upon the release. I walked by the BT table but didn’t see any of the BTAC so didn’t stop. If I only knew!

  9. Vince says:

    I was lucky enough to get two bottles of the entire collection except the WLW. Always fantastic Whiskey’s and very reasonably priced for what you get IMHO!

  10. [...] there’s george t. stagg bourbon, part of buffalo trace’s antique collection. arguably one of the finest bourbons obtainable. it’s a high proof (the 2011 bottling is [...]

  11. mikesway says:

    I was lucky enough to acquire some Stagg, WLW and Eagle Rare at the downtown Binny’s, but last time I looked they were completely out. But by chance, I checked out the new Binny’s in Arlington Heights, IL which just opened a couple days ago. All they had was about 7 bottles of ER2010 and an unbelievable 30 bottles of Handy 2009/2010 mix! All just sitting on the shelves! Too bad they weren’t Staggs or WLW, or I’d be taking out a loan. So check it out if you’re looking for some Handy!

  12. [...] H. Handy Rye, and the William Larue Weller Bourbon; and this year’s release was met with some tremendous reviews from bourbon enthusiasts. I was lucky enough to get my hands on exactly one bottle of this [...]

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