Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2012 Edition

There are a few things you can count on in the whiskey world, and one of them is the annual release of Buffalo Trace’s always-anticipated Antique Collection, a compilation of five very old and very rare American whiskeys that pretty much sell out immediately once they land on store shelves. (I’ve seen bars where these whiskeys are locked up behind iron grates.)

Here’s how the five whiskeys of the 2012 Collection stack up.

Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old – Big rye on the nose, with some honeysuckle in the mix. The body is sweet, with touches of tobacco. More wood develops with time in the glass, and a splash of water. Lots of tannin on the finish, all that time in wood leaving behind a lot of dusty sawdust character. Water helps. 90 proof (as always). 90 proof. B+

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Bourbon – Very sweet, almost no woodiness for a 17-year-old Bourbon. Quite a bit of citrus under the caramel notes, I don’t get the “dry and delicate” character that the distillery describes in its official notes, but rather a classic whiskey with just a touch of tawny port character on the finish. Scarily drinkable though less complex than I might like. 90 proof. A-

George T. Stagg Bourbon – Chocolate and coffee notes a-plenty in this classic heater — 142.8 proof this year. Plenty of wood on the mid-palate, but it’s not overly hoary like the 2011 edition. A warming, sweet finish brings everything together. Make no mistake, this is hot, old whiskey — 17 years old for the 2012 bottling — but complex, burly, and quite delicious. A-

William Larue Weller Bourbon –At “just” 123.4 proof, this year’s Weller is a lower-proof baby compared to previous renditions. Less exciting on the nose, this wheated Bourbon is mild, ultimately exhibiting some licorice and nutty, tree-bark flavors. Tannic and drying on the finish, even with water. 12 years old. B

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye – Definitely my least favorite of this year’s collection. The nose is innocuous, hinting at dark cherry character alongside cinnamon and some cocoa notes. The body, however, veers into somewhat overpowering astringency. Though just 6 years old, the woodiness is pungent and overbearing, leaving behind an oily, sawdust-driven finish that hangs around for a long, long time. It opens up with time in glass, but the overall effect just doesn’t come together the way it should. 132.4 proof. B-

about $70 each / greatbourbon.com

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2012

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10 Responses to Review: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2012 Edition

  1. Very cool collection. Do they sell this as a set or do you have to go in and buy each one individually? I’ve seen the Stagg, and the Sazerac, but not many of the others. A little disappointed with the B- on the Thomas Handy though, I was looking forward to trying that one.

  2. Eric – these are typically sold separately

  3. Surprised no “A’s” this year.

  4. Quite a bit better overall than 2011 though. I’d easily jump for a Stagg this year.

  5. Given that Jim Murray rated the Handy rye and the Weller wheated bourbon as the two best whiskeys of 2012, one has to wonder just what you were thinking, Mr. Null.

  6. Jim – I think Jim Murray is off his rocker, that’s what I’m thinking. Have you tried them? What do YOU think?

  7. While some people hold Murray in the same company as a Jackson or Parker when it comes to whisky, this one made me scratch my head a bit. He may have positioned himself as a statesman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean his word is gospel down from mount sinai when it comes to a concrete definition of what “the best” is. Interestingly enough John Hansell over at Whisky Advocate just posted his top rated whiskies of the year, and Handy was the *only* one of the Antique Collection *not* to make the cut.

    It’s all a matter of taste.

  8. Jim Murry’s Whiskey of the Year award was for the Fall 2011 Thomas H. Handy (128.6 proof). It really doesn’t say in the Whiskey Bible which year he is referring to, but you can figure it out by the 128.6 proof. The 2012 release was 132.4 proof and probably hadn’t come out in time for the new book release.

  9. Pingback: Drinkhacker Reads – 01.23.13 – The Rise of Stagg Jr. | Drinkhacker.com

  10. I have had the Stagg, Weller, and Handy. I really enjoyed the Handy. I tasted all of them before I read any reviews. I was really surprised with the B-. After searching the web and reading the “expert’s” reviews of this years collection, most are more than favorable. A definite “A” from me.

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