Kentucky bourbon distillery Buffalo Trace announced they will not be releasing a batch of George T. Stagg bourbon this year as part of its much-anticipated Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.
The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is one of the most coveted collections of whiskey released each year, and the five bottles it comprises (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, Eagle Rare 17 Year Old, and Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old) are among the most award-winning, in-demand whiskeys in the world, second only perhaps to the Van Winkle family of bourbons, also produced by Buffalo Trace.
For the whiskey world, this is a huge deal. So what happened?
According to Buffalo Trace, this canceled whiskey release is due to a concern over quality standards with the whiskey set aside for this year’s George T. Stagg release. The blending team must ensure each year’s new batch matches ones from previous years. That means ensuring the flavor profile is similar, the barrels have aged adequately, and the whiskey is “good” enough.
“Quality is always paramount for our products,” Buffalo Trace master blender and director of quality Drew Mayville said in a press release. “If the taste doesn’t match our expectations, then we will not release it to our customers. And unfortunately, this year’s yield of George T. Stagg did not meet our expectations. Good news is, we’ll have the barrels we put up in 2007, which are on track so far for a 2022 release, barring any unforeseen changes.”
How often does something like this happen? More often than you’d think.
Jim Beam, for instance, will vary the number of Booker’s batches released each year depending on how many barrel lots meet its standards. Michter’s regularly withholds annual releases of its 10, 20, 25, and Toasted bourbon and rye whiskeys if they don’t meet profile standards.
Typically, the problem stems from barrels that may have reached the desired age on paper, but don’t taste age appropriate in a glass. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options for dealing with this issue. Buffalo Trace might have been able to release this whiskey in the spring of next year, but there’s no guarantee this whiskey is that close to “ready.”
Whiskey flavors can fluctuate month to month, quarter to quarter, and at a certain age they can even change week to week. But if it’s game time and the team isn’t ready to take the field, there aren’t many options left.
Dipping into barrels allocated for the 2022 release would just mean less whiskey available for next year, and a decrease in the whiskey’s age this year.
What’s likely to happen is that (assuming these barrels need a few more years to age), we will see them again, likely in the form of a much older, one-time release. The barrels in question were filled in early 2006, meaning that as of this week they’d be around 15 years old. It’s possible some of this could end up as a 20-year-old release later this decade.
The other four whiskeys will release later this month, ostensibly with a high standard of quality applied. It’s too bad Stagg won’t be joining them—in previous years, we’ve selected it as our favorite release of this collection.
The limited quantities of the other four whiskeys will be hitting shelves this month in many places—and while the suggested retail price for those is $99 across the board, expect to pay more in most cases.
With 20 percent of the collection’s volume not releasing this year, it’s going to be a free-for-all.
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