Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Pt. 2 – the ryes

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. Buffalo Trace kindly sent me small samples for review (suggested retail price for the 750ml versions: $70 each). Earlier this week I reviewed the bourbons; today we take on the two rye whiskeys.

Sazerac Rye Whiskey (90 proof)

Last year’s release was awarded a 95 rating and Liquid Gold Award in Jim Murray’s 2013 Whisky Bible. The 2013 release was aged in Warehouse according .

Nose: Sweet caramel, but tinged with that slightly flat, metallic edge that some ryes pick up.

Taste: Lots of baking spices, burnt caramel, sorghum – again, sweetness with an edge.

Verdict: For me, this falls in between the 2011 version, which I loved (and bought and guard obsessively), and last year’s Sazerac, which I found to have a dry, short finish.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye (128.4 proof)

This rye whiskey is uncut and unfiltered. The 2012 version was named “World Whisky of the Year” in Jim Murray’s 2013 Whisky Bible. This year’s was distilled in the spring of 2007 and aged on the seventh floor of Warehouse K. At 6 years old, it is the youngster of the Antique Collection.

Nose: Baking spices, notably cloves; raisins; cedar.

Taste: Peppery spice on the front gives way to sweetness with an edge – much like a gingersnap or gingerbread. Long, sweet finish.

Verdict: I enjoyed this much more than the 2012 version, which had a lot of wood influence despite its relative youth. I’ve heard master distillers say that ryes don’t age as well as wheated bourbons; here is some proof of the wisdom of cutting it off sooner. 

Overall verdict: This year’s winner – for me, at least – is the Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, followed by the George T. Stagg.

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