On last week’s episode of Expression Session on @UPROXXLife IGTV, we covered one of the most coveted lines in the bourbon and rye-loving universe. Yes, folks — we had the chance to taste the new release of Buffalo Trace’s 2020 Antique Collection. A yearly drop that greatly contributes to the enormous mythology around the famed Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Each year, Buffalo Trace releases the oldest (and, in their opinion, best) iterations of their Eagle Rare, Weller, and George T. Stagg expressions, along with two Sazerac ryes. The bottles are very hard to find, even when they first hit the market. If you do find them, you’re going to pay dearly for each bottle — hundreds of dollars, at the very least (though to be fair, the MSRP on each of these bottles is only $99).
But are they really that good? Are they worth the hype and price?
Well, we sat down with Bourbon Pursuit’s Kenny Coleman — beloved bourbon podcast and YouTube host — to answer just that. And also to dive into what’s really going on in the taste of these ultra-rare, complex whiskeys.
The whole episode is below. In the meantime, here’s what I thought of Buffalo Trace’s 2020 Antique Collection.
George T. Stagg
Average Price: $500
We started off with the biggest whiskey of the line-up. This juice is distilled from Kentucky corn, Minnesota rye, and a touch of malted barley from North Dakota. The whiskey then spends 15 years and four months in oak in three different warehouses on three different floors. Over that time 59 percent of the whiskey is lost to the angels, leaving a high-proof bourbon.
Wow, this is bold. Spicy cinnamon and oakiness dominate on the nose. The sip leans into the oak with a smoky edge as the spice really warms your senses. This is an eye-opener of a sip with an underbelly of rich and creamy vanilla to mellow the dram out. A little water reveals light cherry and a note of bitterness.
The sip lingers. The fade is warming, soft, and long.
This bourbon is not for the faint of heart. The boldness really demands a little water to open up the softer and fruitier nature of the sip. Overall, this is the bourbon to give someone a taste of as an example of the heights the style can achieve while still feeling familiar.
Sazerac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey 18 Years Old
Average Price: $800
This iconic rye pulls the focus from the Kentucky corn and places it on that Minnesota rye. The juice then spends 18 long years mellowing in heavily charred oak on one floor of one warehouse at Buffalo Trace. 76.9 percent of the whiskey is lost to evaporation over that time, leaving a concentrate that’s then filtered down to 90 proof.
The sip greets you with a note of apples nestled in dry straw. The dryness carries on through sip with a nice echo of the oak adding warmth and a touch of mustiness. A little water brings about a dark chocolate bitterness that accentuates the straw and fruit.
The finish pops — with a hint of black pepper, more fruit, and a final note of that dry grass.
This year’s Sazerac is probably the most surprising of the whole Collection. It’s shockingly easy to drink with a few drops of water and that’s dangerous at this price point.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $650
This is the youngest release in this year’s line up. The juice only spends six years and two months in the barrel. The difference from the bottle above is also that those barrels live in three warehouses on three different floors. The final blend is unfiltered and bottled at cask strength.
This is floral from the top, with stone fruit and cherry lightness. A velvet nature greets you on the sip as classic rye spices — cinnamon, anise — warm your senses with a slight honey sweetness lurking in the background. The end is brief and full of those floral touches with peppery rye and final flourish of pine resin.
This tasted like rye through and through. It was great but hard to justify at this price point beyond a single tasting. It’s also the bottle I’ll likely go back to least.
It’s still great, don’t get me wrong… It just didn’t grab me like the others.
William Larue Weller
Average Price: $700
This wheated whiskey from 2008, eschews the more common rye and adds in North Dakota wheat. The juice is then barreled and stored in two warehouses where 73 percent of the whiskey is lost. The juice is then bottled untouched and unfiltered.
There’s a welcoming nature to the nose here as hints of creamy bourbon vanilla mingle with caramel, oak, and a concentrated nuttiness. The palate opens up with an almost coffee bitterness next to that vanilla as hints of cherry arrive with the addition of water. The oak kicks in late as the sip slowly warms your senses on the fade with a little hit of dark chocolate on the very end.
This is just freaking great. Speaking personally, this is probably the only bottle on the list that I would consider buying outright for my collection and enjoy a dram every year or so throughout the next decade or so.
Eagle Rare 17 Year Old
Average Price: $600
We kind of come full circle with this whiskey. It’s largely the same juice as George T. Stagg. Except these barrels spend 18 years and three months in Warehouse P on the first floor, where the juice loses 59 percent of its volume. The bourbon is then blended, filtered, and bottled at a very accessible 101 proof.
There’s a matrix of cherries, vanilla, and oak up front. The sip delivers on those promises with the addition of caramel sweetness, oaky spice, and a touch of bitterness with the application of a few drops of water. A slight pepper warmth arrives late as the oak lingers on the slow and gentle fade.
This is solid all around. Though as someone who enjoys a nice dram of Eagle Rare 10, the price difference is just too massive to make it worth it unless money is no object to you. I’m fine with Eagle Rare 10. Yes, this is superior… but not by too much.
You can check out the whole episode below!