September is an important time in the American whiskey world, between the celebration of Bourbon Heritage Month and the near-constant stream of new fall whiskey releases. And if this is whiskey season, then the release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is the solstice.
The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is one of the most-anticipated annual releases of rare whiskeys in Kentucky and, well, the world. The five bottles have usually included members of the Eagle Rare, Weller, Sazerac, Stagg, and Handy families, and for the most part they’ve all had similar ages, proof points, and flavor profiles year after year, in small quantities.
All five of these whiskeys are (traditionally) incredible—we ranked last year’s releases here. They’ve won countless awards over more than a decade, and truth be told, no one bottle really stands out as the best of the bunch.
Each bottle is supposed to retail for around $100, but secondary market demand and price gouging could easily mean four to five times that, so be warned that you might be paying more to track one of these down. They can certainly end up costing more than Van Winkle releases, and since they’ll be released over the next few weeks, they’ll all likely be gone by mid-October.
George T. Stagg
This year’s George T. Stagg is bottled at a record low proof point of 116.9, which might make you wonder what the record high proof is. What you should be wondering is whether this will be the best release of the group. It’s over 15 years old, uncut, unfiltered, and composed of whiskeys distilled in spring 2004 and aged across five warehouses. The whiskey is said to be full of vanilla and toasted oak notes, with a hearty finish of coffee, cherries, and black pepper.
William Larue Weller
Arguably the best wheated bourbon made by Buffalo Trace, William Larue Weller is the top tier of the Weller bourbons, and the underappreciated mashbill cousin of the Van Winkle bourbons. This year’s release is uncut, unfiltered, and bottled at a massive 128 proof. It’s just over 12 years old, and according to Buffalo Trace, tastes of vanilla, caramel, coffee dark chocolate, and cherries.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye
This beastly rye whiskey is once again bottled at barrel proof and unfiltered. It won several awards last year, and this year’s release sounds on track to do the same from how Buffalo Trace describes it. The whiskey was distilled in 2013, aged in three warehouses, and is being released at a massive 125.7 proof. It has notes of spearmint, creme brûlée, butterscotch, and vanilla. In other words, delicious.
Eagle Rare 17 Year Old
Eagle Rare 17 was released at a surprising 90 proof last year, but for 2019 it’s back up to its typical 101. They’ve said this “will continue forward.” This year’s whiskey was distilled in 2002, and has aged on the first floor of a single warehouse, leading to more floral, lighter flavors due to cooler temperatures. Buffalo Trace says it tastes “of cocoa, caramel, and oak.”
Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old
The 2019 release of this award-winning rye has “flavors of vanilla and maple syrup, with a finish of black pepper and spearmint,” according to Buffalo Trace. The 90 proof rye whiskey is chill-filtered, and the barrels are coming off the second floors of a couple of the distillery’s warehouses, meaning this should be a soft and easy-drinking rye.
We’ll share our favorites in an upcoming list, but in the meantime, good luck hunting.
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