As trees begin to change and the air starts to chill, lines starts to form and phones start to ring; bourbon season is a beautiful thing! It's that time of year, and the Buffalo Trace Antique collection has been released to distributors around the world. Similar to last year, below are tasting notes for each of the 2016 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys as well as a ranking.
2016 Sazerac Rye 18
24 barrels selected
Nose: Loaded with mint and pine trees. It's sweet and has a heavy dose of herbal tones.
Taste: Much spicier than the previous vatted expression. Allspice, pepper, and oak are dominant on the palate. Vanilla crackers, mint, and molasses hide themselves under the spice.
Finish: Long with an oaky and dry finish.
Rating: B+ (Very Good)
Past years of Sazerac 18 have been pulled from a vatted supply of rye being stored in stainless steel tanks to prevent further aging. This is the first "new batch" of Sazerac 18 which no longer uses that supply; bottled right after resting 18 years in the warehouse. This 2016 expression is much sharper and has way more spice. It's a very nice whiskey, but doesn't seem quite as special when compared to the vatted expression.
2016 Thomas H. Handy Rye
6 years and 3 months old
61 barrels selected
Nose: A sweet bouquet recminicent of a bourbon more so than a rye. Vanilla cream, caramel candies, butterscotch, and baking spices.
Taste: Pleasant, with an elegant dose of pink rose. Up front lays a healthy amount of spice, cinnamon, and clove. The sweetness peaks on the midpalate with toffee and vanilla then fades quickly.
Finish: Smooth and medium in lenght. At 126 proof, there's just a faint trace of spice.
Rating: B (Good)
2016 George T. Stagg Bourbon
15 years and 4 month old
142 barrels selected
Nose: Chocolate covered cherries, vanilla, barrel char, rolled tobacco, maple syrup.
Taste: A burst of fudge and dark chocolate. It's complex with tobacco, vanilla, coffee, and charred oak. The proof may detract from the flavors slightly however with time I think this will open up nicely.
Finish: Deliciously long! Fudge and tobacco linger.
Rating: A (Great)
2016 Eagle Rare Bourbon
17 year old
32 barrels selected
Nose: Vanilla, toffee, and leather.
Taste: This is the most one dimensional expression of Eagle Rare 17 that I can remember in recent years. The sweetness is subtle compared to the leather and tobacco.
Finish: Medium and unremarkable, you are left with a dry mouthful of sweet tobacco.
Rating: B (Good)
2016 William Larue Weller Bourbon
12 years and 7 months old
145 barrels selected
Nose: Burnt sugars, red hot candies, dark fruits, and an intense bouquet of baking spices.
Taste: Very thick mouthfeel, with a sweet spiciness throughout. Vanilla, dark fruits, molasses, sweet spices, and toasted oak.
Finish: Long with a delicately sweet and spicy warmth.
Rating: A (Great)
In conclusion, George T. Stagg and William Larue Weller are the clear cut winners from my initial tasting. The Eagle Rare 17 and Thomas H. Handy are bland compared to previous years, but I would imagine they should open up nicely with time. Sazeac 18 is loaded with spice but falls short of the vatted expression. It's worth mentioning that the suggested retail price has increased to $89, but good luck finding any at MSRP. Here is my ranking:
1st: George T. Stagg
2nd: William Larue Weller
3rd: Sazerac Rye 18
4th: Thomas H. Handy
5th: Eagle Rare 17