In one of Bourbon Hunting Season’s most eagerly anticipated moments, Buffalo Trace Distillery has announced its 2021 Antique Collection of uncut and unfiltered whiskeys.
This year’s lineup does not include the traditional George T. Stagg bottle. This 15-year-old whiskey lacked sufficient barrels to meet the distillery’s standards for a 2021 release.
“Before any barrel can be dumped and bottled, it goes through rigorous testing procedures numerous times to ensure it is meeting the quality standards set forth for that brand,” says Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley. “Unfortunately, this crop of barrels earmarked to be Stagg back when it was put in the barrel in 2006 did not meet the Stagg profile today.”
“We discussed at great length how to proceed, and ultimately decided we did not feel right about lowering our standards or the age, by dipping into next year’s supply of barrels,” he adds. “We know fans will be disappointed, as are we, but we could not release a bourbon that we did not feel was up to par with the flavor profile expected of George T. Stagg.”
There are various measures of quality tests administered to all Buffalo Trace whiskey. Everything from checking turbidity and testing samples using gas chromatography. A team of taste testers also must pass the release. If one taster disagrees, the barrel goes back to age longer, according to the company.
“Quality is always paramount for our products,” explains Drew Mayville, master blender, director of quality. “If the taste doesn’t match our expectations, then we will not release it to our customers. And unfortunately, this year’s yield of Stagg did not meet our expectations.”
“Good news is, we’ll have the barrels we put up in 2007,” he adds, “which are on track so far for a 2022 release, barring anything unforeseen changes.”
The four remaining members of the Antique Collection — William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, Eagle Rare 17 Year Old and Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old — will arrive at retail later this month.
William Larue Weller
The Antique Collection’s wheated-recipe bourbon. The 2021 release was distilled in the winter of 2009, and aged in Warehouses C, D, K, L and Q. 125.3 proof. A nose of crème brulee, followed by cherry and toasted graham crackers on the palate, the company says, and a finish of coca, herbs and oak.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye
The collection’s straight rye whiskey. This year’s Handy was distilled in the spring of 2015. It aged in warehouses I, L, O and K, and weighs in at 129.5 proof. The flavor profile includes anise and cinnamon with a finish of spearmint and chocolate, the company reports.
Eagle Rare 17 Year Old
This 101-proof whiskey was distilled in Spring of 2002 and aged on the first floor of Warehouse P. This bourbon has a nose of ripe cherries, vanilla cream and oak, the company reports, followed by a taste of caramel and coffee and a finish of oak, pepper and fresh herbs.
Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old
This straight rye whiskey has flavors of bright apples and herbs, the company says, anise and maple syrup on the palate, and a finish of cocoa, coffee and dates. Barrels for this whiskey were filled in the spring of 2003 and rested on the second and fourth floors of Warehouses K and P. 90 proof.
The Antique Collection first launched more than two decades ago, and has become one of the most hotly sought after and collected whiskey series in the world.
The 2021 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) whiskeys, minus George T. Stagg, launch in limited quantities in late October.
Suggested retail price is $99 per 750-ml. bottle.