Most bourbon lovers, myself included, believe the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is near the top as far as bourbon unicorns go. Each bottle in the collection is near perfect most years, and the chances of you getting your hands on one of these are slim to nothing.
If you’re not familiar, the Antique Collection — abbreviated BTAC by us bourbon nerds — includes George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Handy, Eagle Rare 17 and Sazerac 18. The line came out more than two decades ago and pays homage to some great distillers and bourbon industry pioneers.
The big news this year is that George T. Stagg returns after being held back last year because he did not pass his tests. Really! The powers that be at Buffalo Trace decided the barrels selected for Stagg just weren’t ready yet, so back in the rick house they went. This year’s bottle features uncut, 15-year-old Stagg bourbon that has an impressive proof of 138.7.
Suggested retail for these is a laughable $99. Again, if you ever find one for that amount, you should run out and buy a lottery ticket immediately. On the secondary market, these range from $800-$3,000. Buffalo Trace notes that they’ll be hitting the market in mid-November.
Below is a description of each whiskey pulled from the press release:
George T. Stagg Bourbon
Created in 2002 at the request of a fan for a well-aged and barrel strength whiskey, George T. Stagg bourbon is well respected amongst bourbon connoisseurs and spirit judges. This year’s offering was distilled in the spring of 2007, making it 15 years and 5 months old at bottling. The proof is 138.7, the highest proof for this whiskey in the past six years. This year’s barrels were aged in warehouse K. Tasting notes for this bourbon call out toasted pecan and chocolate sauce on the nose, a rich blend of baking spice, vanilla and cherry pie on the palate, and a robust finish of black coffee, molasses and oak.
William Larue Weller Bourbon
The Antique Collection’s uncut, unfiltered, wheated recipe bourbon is William Larue Weller. The previous release of this wheated bourbon was honored with a Double Gold medal at the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The 2022 release was distilled in the spring of 2010 and barrels were aged in warehouses C, K and N. This bourbon registers at 124.7 proof. A nose of toasted coconut, butterscotch and caramel, followed by a touch of mint, dark cherry and molasses on the palate and a full-bodied finish with hints of leather, nutmeg, toffee and vanilla can be found in this year’s offering.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye Whiskey
Thomas H. Handy is the uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey. Last year’s release earned 97 points and was named in the top 100 spirits by judges at the 2022 Ultimate Spirits Challenge. This year’s Handy was distilled in the spring of 2016; aged in warehouses I, L and M and weighs in at a hearty 130.9 proof, the highest proof for this whiskey since 2012. The flavor profile includes a nose with floral notes, anise, marmalade and meringue, followed by a palate with baking spice, a burst of orange peel and subtle dark chocolate, and a long finish of cinnamon, praline and candied orange.
Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old Bourbon
This 101-proof whiskey was distilled in the spring of 2005 and barrels were aged in warehouses H, K and L. The 2021 Eagle Rare release was honored with the Chairman’s Trophy at the 2022 Ultimate Spirits Challenge. This bourbon has a nose with a hint of tobacco, chocolate covered cherries and a touch of oak, followed by caramel, vanilla bean, dark chocolate and oak on the palate and a full-bodied finish with baking spice, vanilla and butterscotch.
Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old Whiskey
Previous releases of Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old were named in the top three finest whiskeys in the world by the “Whisky Bible.” This 2022 straight rye whiskey release has a nose of orange peel, lemon zest and molasses, a palate with a bold blend of black pepper, coriander seeds and maple syrup, and a well-rounded finish with mint, tobacco leaf and oak. The barrels for this whiskey were filled in the spring of 2003 and 2004 and rested in warehouses K, M and P. It is bottled at 90 proof.