buffalo trace

Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (2019)

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery

It’s that time of year, folks. I’m referring to the release of the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. As always, there’s not a lot of this stuff floating around, and even less at the suggested retail pricing of $99. In my humble opinion, this collection represents some of the finest whiskey from Buffalo Trace. This year’s bottlings were mostly as great as expected. There was one stellar standout and another that didn’t quite hit the mark.

GEORGE T. STAGG

Generally my top choice of all whiskies in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, George T. Stagg sees its lowest proof ever this year at 116.9 proof. This is due to a large percentage of barrels coming from lower warehouse floors, which, due to its higher humidity, causes alcohol to evaporate faster. The 15-year-old bourbon also saw a high evaporation rate of 56% percent for this year’s batch.

The nose instantly takes me back to classic Stagg with hints of demerara sugar, figs, oak spice, dark chocolate and nougat. Taste-wise, dark brown sugar kicks off a loud rock concert on the palate. Vanilla, mocha, and cinnamon have their amps cranked up to eleven. The finish features slightly burnt caramel, pepper, and toasted oak spice. Dark, loud, and brooding – it’s what George Stagg is supposed to be. Don’t let the low proof fool you. This is one not to be missed. 9.5/10

WILLIAM LARUE WELLER

One of the most popular selections among bourbon fans, William Larue Weller features Buffalo Trace’s wheated mash bill. This batch was distilled in 2007, making it 12 years old. It is also this year’s highest proof whiskey in the collection, clocking in a 128 proof.

Hints of caramel and freshly baked coffee cake register on the nose, with sweet corn and roasted coffee bean undertones. The entry is a touch hot but still approachable at 128 proof. It’s also on the sweeter side, with big caramelized sugars, vanilla, and brioche notes. A touch of earthiness and baking spices on the back palate adds a bit of complexity. The finish is long and warming. I’ve never been let down by a WLW release, and the 2019 entry continues that streak. Bold, sweet flavors… what’s not to like? 9/10

EAGLE RARE 17-YEAR-OLD

Last year, Buffalo Trace decided to raise Eagle Rare 17’s proof from 90 to 101, a nod to the bottling proof when the brand was launched in 1974. It was one of the best decisions they ever made. At 17 years old, a bourbon’s oak flavors can completely take over. Not the case here. This year’s batch was distilled in 2002 and has matured on the first floor of Warehouse P.

If Stagg is dark and brooding, Eagle Rare 17 is refined and stately. Dark toffee, dusty oak, and dark chocolate define the nose. On the palate, we’re treated with hints of dark chocolate covered orange, cocoa, vanilla extract, toffee. A drying toasted oak note lingers throughout the palate and into the long, dry finish. We’re left with subtle hints of oak spice and caramel. From memory, last year’s Eagle Rare stood out from past bottlings. The 2019 edition continues to improve the brand’s flavor profile by ever so slightly toning down the oak notes and allowing other flavors to shine through. This is a case of my wishing the sample size was a full bottle. 9/10

SAZERAC RYE 18-YEAR-OLD

The oldest whiskey in the Antique Collection, Sazerac 18-year-old rye whiskey has long been a favorite of mine. There’s something exquisite about older rye whiskies. This batch was distilled in 2001 and matured on the second floors of Warehouse K and L.

On the nose, mellow rye spice meets hints of dark brown sugar, dried basil, and toasted oak. The palate kicks off with hints of vanilla and cocoa. A development of astringent toasted oak and baking spices appear soon after. Official tasting notes mention black pepper and spearmint on the finish, and they’re spot on. This year’s batch of Sazerac 18 is nice enough, but doesn’t quite hit the complexity of past releases. 8/10

THOMAS H. HANDY SAZERAC

We go from oldest to youngest. Thomas H. Handy Sazerac rye is 6-years-old, distilled back in 2013. This batch was, as always, bottled at cask strength. In this case, that’s 125.7 proof. The flavor profile of this rye generally favors the spirit versus Sazerac 18’s strong barrel influence.

The nose is fresh, featuring hints of buttered rye toast, vanilla, and cinnamon. Rye grain is the featured player on the palate. The entry kicks off with waves of caramel and sharp rye grain. Butterscotch and black peppercorn develop mid-palate. The long finish sees lingering notes of creamy caramel and a sprinkling of oak spice. This year’s batch feels vibrant and seems to showcase rye grain over past releases. Nicely done. 8.5/10

Buffalotrace.com

Thanks to Buffalo Trace for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bourbon Review

EHT Four Grain

The newest limited edition bourbon from Buffalo Trace is Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain.   It’s a 12-year-old bottled-in-bond bourbon made from corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley.  Most bourbon is made with three grains consisting mostly of corn with a flavoring grain and a very small percentage of barley.  That flavoring grain is typically rye, though some producers use wheat.  This bourbon isn’t the first to feature four grains in its mash bill, but it could go on to become one of the most noteworthy.

“We wanted to extract everything we like from both the rye and the wheat mashbills we currently use and combine them to see how they react,” said Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley in the press release.  “Not surprisingly, it added complexity to the finished product.”

I’m a big fan of the Colonel E.H. Taylor line, from its Small Batch and Single Barrel releases to the recent limited edition Cured Oak.  Last year’s Seasoned Wood was nice enough, but I sadly wasn’t able to get my hands on a bottle.  That’s the problem with limited releases these days.  One thing that might help here is that Buffalo Trace has also announced a bottling of Four Grain to be released next year.  I hope that’s a sign that this whiskey may become a semi-regular addition to the Taylor lineup.  So, how’s the whiskey?

The nose is rounded and sweet, with an initial wave of spiced caramel and vanilla alongside hints of orange jam and herbs.  The entry is initially sweet, with notes of caramel and vanilla.  A small amount of spice comes through.  I’m assuming that’s the rye grain at work.  I also pick up some wonderful candied fruit buried somewhere in the mix.  Some sweet oak adds a touch of astringency on the backend.  The finish is long, sweet and spicy.  Interestingly, a small sip of water afterwards leaves the mouth a bit dry.

All in all, Four Grain is a solid bourbon, but not a particularly memorable one.  I thought a four grain mash bill would lead to a really complex bourbon, and in that regard my expectations weren’t quite met.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice.  The flavors in the bottle play well together, but it left me wanting a little bit more.  That said, I’d gladly pay retail ($69.99) for a bottle, but not a penny more.  8/10

Thanks to Buffalo Trace for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Blanton’s Bourbon Review (Acquistapace’s Barrel 39)


Earlier this year I was thrilled to have been asked to help with some barrel selections for Aquistapace’s Covington Supermarket.  Adam Acquistapace and I tasted our way through some barrel samples for private bottlings of Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare and Blanton’s.  In the case of Blanton’s, we ended up choosing two barrels.  The first barrel was delivered a couple of months ago and flew off the shelves before I had a chance to review it.

Adam Acquistapace pouring some samples.

Luckily, Adam has stocked his newly opened store in Mandeville with the second barrel.  Since the store opened this past week, I thought I’d go ahead and post some tasting notes for it.  Like all Blanton’s releases, this whisky was matured in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouse H.  This particular barrel (no. 39) rested on Rick No. 14.

Onto the bourbon…

The nose is full of big butterscotch notes, along with hints of maraschino cherries, wood spice, and vanilla bean.  Taste-wise, there’s an initial light hit of spice followed by big waves of light brown sugar and butterscotch.  Some red fruit develops in the midpalate alongside spiced corn and sweet oak.  The medium-long finish leaves behind a sweet caramel followed by slightly astringent oak and a touch of mint.

A pour of Buffalo Trace bourbon from a barrel sample. For each private barrel, Buffalo Trace Distillery sends a sample from three different barrels for you to choose.

This was my favorite of the two Blanton’s barrels we picked.  I love the way the fruit, butterscotch and spice compliment each other here.  Acquistapace’s is selling these for $51.99 each. Great price if you ask me. At the rate folks are buying this bourbon, I don’t expect this to be on shelves long after Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanks to Adam for asking me to help him with these barrel selections.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.