It’s pretty much a given that if you come across a bottle from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection at or near suggested retail pricing, you’re gonna buy it. These whiskies are among the distillery’s most popular annual offerings, so much so that they’ve been increasingly difficult to find.
That said, I’m going to change up my format slightly for this look at 2020’s bottlings. Instead of sharing my thoughts at the end, I’ve decided to tell you right up front to just buy the darn things. Look, both you and I know these are delicious whiskies that, for the most part, stay consistent in aromas, flavors, and quality from year to year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the Antique Collection is a chance for Buffalo Trace Distillery to show us some their best work. Suggested retail pricing is $99 per bottle. Good luck on your hunt.
GEORGE T. STAGG – The king of the Antique Collection. The 15-year-old bourbon comes in at 130.4 proof this year, its highest since 2016. I always describe Stagg as a bruiser of a bourbon. This year is no different. It’s dark and bold on the nose, with hints of dark chocolate, ripe red fruit, toffee and sweet, old oak. Those notes carry over onto the palate. Creme brûlée and espresso meet dark caramel, cinnamon, and oak. The finish is expectedly long and warming.
WILLIAM LARUE WELLER – Twelve years in the barrel is certainly the sweet spot for Buffalo Trace’s wheated bourbon mashbill. The 2020 edition of Willam Larue Weller is bottled at a hearty 134.5 proof. A splash of water helps Weller become one of my favorites in the collection. Sweet fruit notes intermingle with a touch of cinnamon on the nose. Taste-wise, we’re in familiar territory – lots of vanilla, caramel and fruit and a sprinkling of cinnamon. The sweet-ish finish sees nougat and more caramel.
EAGLE RARE 17-YEAR-OLD – The best decision Buffalo Trace made in the last couple of years was to increase the proof of this whiskey from 90 to 101. The extra alcohol helps deliver flavors more boldly. At 17 years of age, Eagle Rare plays it even dark than Stagg, with hints of dark toffee, an abundance of baking spices and dusty old oak rounding out the nose. The palate sees a dark caramel, vanilla, burnt orange peel – typical bourbon flavors. However, they all sit nicely on a bed of sweet oak and baking spices. A slight creamy bitterness pops in on the back of the palate – think dark chocolate. The medium-dry finish balances between sweet, herbal, and oaky.
THOMAS H. HANDY SAZERAC RYE – The youngest of the collection sees its best bottling in years. At 129 proof, the 6-year-old Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye showcases its grain notes in a spectacular fashion. Brown sugar, vanilla, cloves, and rye spice are the dominant players on the nose. Taste-wise, sweet caramel and spicy toasted rye bread complement cinnamon stick. The finish is warming, with lingering notes of fresh mint and spice.
SAZERAC 18-YEAR-OLD RYE – The oldest of the collection, Sazerac 18-year-old rye happens to be a favorite of mine. Sweet dark caramel, spice, oak, and dark roasted coffee are featured on the nose. Oak provides a dryness and pepper spiciness that add complexity to dark caramel, vanilla, and tobacco found on the palate. The long, dry finish adds a hint of coffee and spearmint.
Thanks to Buffalo Trace Distillery for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.