Antique Hooch Show
Forget Beaujolais Nouveau, the Antiques have arrived! Each fall, Kentucky’s Buffalo Trace Distillery releases 5 limited edition ryes and bourbons known as the Antique Collection. For whiskey aficionados, these are some of the most sought after releases of the year, and tend to disappear faster than you can say, “mashbill.” The Fab 5 whiskeys are the George T. Stagg, William LaRue Weller and Eagle Rare 17 Year bourbons, as well as the Thomas H. Handy and Sazerac 18 Year ryes. All were distilled by Buffalo Trace and stored in their various warehouses, which differ by release.
We were extremely lucky and honored to get a sneak peak this year, just in time for Bourbon Heritage Month! Here’s the breakdown:
George T. Stagg: This uncut and unfiltered bourbon is always bottled at an ultra high proof and probably has the biggest cult following of the entire collection. This year it clocks in at 138.1 proof, distilled in the spring of 1998. Barrels were selected from warehouses C, H, I, K, L, P and Q. The flavors of this one are super concentrated. People think they need to “man up” to drink it at full proof, but you’d be missing out on its full taste potential if you don’t add a couple of drops of water. Then flavors of dried dates and figs, very dark chocolate, vanilla, molasses and ultra ripe cherries melt in your mouth. Let that happen with the water. Your mouth will thank you, even while your throat still burns a little.
William LaRue Weller: This wheated recipe is named for the first known distiller to use wheat instead of rye in the bourbon mashbill. It was distilled in the spring of 2002 and aged on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th floors of warehouses D, K and L. It’s the highest proof release of this whiskey to date - 140.2! I do feel the higher proof somewhat mutes what are usually smoother and more pronounced flavors and textures, but it’s still a handsome drop.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye: This is my hands down favorite of the bunch this time. (Usually that honor goes to Mr. Weller. Sorry, fella!) It was distilled in the spring of 2008 and aged on the 5th floor of warehouse M. It’s quite the hotness at 129.2 proof, but the flavors of sweet spice, apricot, malted chocolate and breakfast tea shine with a drop or two of water. This one had the longest lingering finish, which is fine, since it sure is a sweet sorrow from which to part. Thomas Handy, by the way, was the first bartender in New Orleans to use rye in the Sazerac cocktail instead of Cognac.
Eagle Rare 17 Year Old: Amazing how different this bourbon is from its perennial sibling, with absolutely no hard edges. It was aged on the 2nd, 3rd and 6th floors of warehouses I and K. As classic as they come, with flavors of oak, cinnamon, sweet smoke, red apples and caramel. A pleasant leathery finish rounds it out. 90 proof.
Sazerac 18 Year Old Rye: This rye is named for the New Orleans coffee house credited with being the first to serve the Sazerac cocktail. It was aged in warehouse K, bottled at 90 proof. Super spicy on the palate with both sweet and hot notes, then a bit of molasses. An ever-so-faint hit of peppermint and thyme help dry out the finish. Just as Eagle Rare 17 is to the bourbon, Sazerac 18 is to its younger sibling, showing off what a bit more maturity can do.
Happy hunting, whiskey lovers! You're in for a treat!