Every fall, Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Ky., releases its Antique Collection, five extra-aged, limited-edition premium bourbons and ryes that consistently win national and international acclaim. The suggested retail price for each is $70/750ml; Buffalo Trace kindly sent me small samples for review. Today we’ll explore the bourbons in the collection; later this week, we’ll pick up the ryes.
Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old (90 proof)
The 2013 edition was distilled in the Spring of 1993 and has been aging on the 2nd, 3rd and 6th floors of Warehouses I and K. The barrels selected for this batch were actually aged for 19 years.
Aroma: Oak, butter, caramel; a hint of spearmint. Very sweet.
Taste: More oak, caramel corn, lightly spiced throughout with a sweet finish.
Verdict: While this wasn’t the most complex bourbon I’ve tasted, I did enjoy it more than last year’s Eagle Rare, which had a lot of tannin in the finish – surprising, since this year’s was aged longer.
George T. Stagg (128.2 proof)
This uncut, unfiltered bourbon was distilled in the spring of 1997 and aged on the lower floors of Warehouses I, K and Q, which accounts for its relatively lower proof (last year’s Stagg was 142.8 by comparison). But don’t let that fool you.
Aroma: Lots of alcohol burn up front and lots of wood, along with some char.
Taste: This one packs a punch right out of the gate, but then mellows with notes of dried fruit – think figs – and has a nice, long finish.
Verdict: This year’s Stagg may have a lower proof than usual, but it is still a bold whiskey. I recommend adding an ice cube to this one to take the edge off and bring out those fruit notes.
William Larue Weller (136.2 proof)
Weller is the uncut, unfiltered wheater of the Antique Collection. The 2013 iteration was distilled in the spring of 2001 and aged on the third and fourth floors of Warehouses M and P.
Aroma: Birthday cake, light baking spices, a whiff of tobacco
Taste: Wood on the front (more than you might expect from a 12-year-old), quickly replaced mid-palate by caramel and banana sweetness. Short, dry finish.
Verdict: All the action here happens on the mid-palate, a contrast to last year’s edition, which had a warm, lingering finish.
Up next: Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old and Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye.