Advertising
Advertisement
BTAC

Each year Buffalo Trace releases the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC), which represents a cross-section of American whiskeys spanning a wide range of ages, proofs, and styles. In the bourbon industry, BTAC is widely revered as some of the absolute best and most highly sought after American whiskeys released each year, setting the bar high for competitors as well as subsequent releases of each expression within the Collection itself. While the expressions remain relatively consistent from year to year, each year’s vintage brings with it unique nuances relative to previous releases. Because demand for these whiskeys has greatly outpaced supply, bourbon enthusiasts frenzy to get their hands on these whiskeys each year.

One particularly interesting aspect of BTAC is the Fact Sheets Buffalo Trace releases each year. The fact sheets include the kind of information bourbon enthusiasts hunger for - year of distillation, recipe details, distillation details, storage location, evaporation loss, and more. Starting in 2019 however Buffalo Trace stopped providing the number of barrels picked. This means that unlike In years past, we aren’t able to estimate the approximate number of bottles released for each brand. That said it’s safe to assume that even without knowing how many (or how few) bottles are being produced, these will all be extremely hard to find, especially at MSRP.

So just how does 2020’s Antique Collection fare? Our tasting notes and overall thoughts on each will be presented one per day over the course of the week. Enjoy and happy hunting!

Thomas H. Handy

Classification: Straight Rye

Company: Sazerac Company

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Release Date: September 2020 (Annual release)

Proof: 129 (Barrel Proof)

Age: 6 Years, 2 Months

Mashbill: Undisclosed

Color: Dark Copper

MSRP: $99 (2020)

Official Website

Fact Sheet


Nose: Bubblegum | Cherry fruit snacks | Black currant | Fruit-forward and quite sweet | Fantastic

Palate: Baking spice | Raisin | Orange | Fruit punch | Mid-palate cinnamon | Straightforward

Finish: Cherry | Light cinnamon | Minor lingering anise aftertaste | More sweet than spicy | Warming

Often leaning heavily on spice and heat, this year’s release finds a way to balance its spice by countering it with a perfect amount of fruity sweetness. At the same time, it forgoes its standard jetfuel-like temperament and is warming instead of hot. Despite the sip being straightforward and not overly complex, the highlight of this whiskey is that it is amazingly balanced. Those are two words I thought I’d never use to describe Thomas H. Handy, but it absolutely nails its intensity of its fruity sweet flavors against its typical cinnamon-forward profile. There is no doubt in my mind, this is the best Thomas H. Handy in a long, long time - possibly ever. -Eric

Sazerac 18 Year


Classification: Straight Rye

Company: Sazerac Company

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Release Date: September 2020 (Annual release)

Proof: 90

Age: 18 Years

Mashbill: Undisclosed

Color: Light Copper

MSRP: $99 (2020)

Official Website

Fact Sheet


Nose: Summer fruits | Apricot | Baking spice | Rye spice | Aged oak | Light overall intensity | Classic Sazerac 18 nose

Palate: Aged oak | Cherry | Musty | Caramel | Buttery mouthfeel

Finish: Rye pop with lasting intensity | Cinnamon | Allspice | Brown sugar | Musty oak

The 5th release since the last of the legendary tanked batch, this year's Sazerac 18 echoes the tanked batch's greatness. At 18 years old, aged oak is the highlight, though it's surprisingly mild in intensity. A playful mix of sweet and spicy notes play their part in keeping the oak in check, and at times even overpower it. This is the most notable difference compared to the tanked batch, which is more complex and oak forward throughout than the 2020 release. Still, while it does not live up to its former greatness, this might be the closest Buffalo Trace has come yet to matching it. -Nick

George T. Stagg


Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Sazerac Company

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Release Date: September 2020 (Annual release)

Proof: 130.4

Age: 15 Years, 4 Months

Mashbill: Undisclosed

Color: Dark Mahogany

MSRP: $99 (2020)

Official Website

Fact Sheet


Nose: Burnt caramel | Dark chocolate | Cigar box | Charred oak | Stewed apples | Rumtopf | Light before becoming potent

Palate: Spice | Vanilla | Leather | Straight-forward | Rich but not overly bold

Finish: Vanilla | Caramel | Graham cracker | Slight mustiness | Dry | Flush of heat before subsiding | Cinnamon aftertaste | Long & complex

After dropping to its lowest proof ever in 2019, Stagg returns to its usual 130 proof range. Interestingly, the usual robustness typically associated with Stagg doesn’t return with it to the same degree. Out of the gate, its nose is light, requiring extra time and a swirl of the glass to open up. Its palate follows in much the same way, lacking the typical Stagg bearhug that has come to define the brand. Spice is the showcase of the palate, overshadowing its medium-intensity vanilla and leather notes. It’s in its finish that the whiskey turns itself around as it grows in complexity and intensity, making for an exceptional finish. Far from being flawed, the 2020 Stagg struggles to reach the amazing heights of years past throughout its entire sip. It’s a solid drinker overall that at times is overshadowed by the company’s own ever impressive Stagg Jr. and its competition that have stepped up their game, offering comparable and worthy Stagg alternatives. -Eric

Eagle Rare 17 Year


Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Sazerac Company

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Release Date: September 2020 (Annual release)

Proof: 101

Age: 18 Years, 3 Months

Mashbill: Undisclosed

Color: Mahogany

MSRP: $99 (2020)

Official Website

Fact Sheet


Nose: Warm notes of aged oak | Baking spices | Hint of brown sugar | Dark fruits | Fresh baked vanilla cake | Complex & inviting

Palate: Aged oak | Dark fruits | Rye spice | Baked pie crust | Creme brulee | Berries and oak on the backend

Finish: Aged oak | Light leather | White peppercorn | Whisper of rye spice | Aged earthy flavors that show its true age

This year’s release of Eagle Rare 17 Year again sees 101 proof and ups the ante by carrying an 18 year old age statement as evidenced by the Fact Sheet from Buffalo Trace that accompanies the release. 18 years in oak can be tricky, as this much time aging can often leave a bourbon dominated by more oaky and earthy flavors. While aged oak is ever present throughout the sip and earthy flavors specifically in the finish remind you of Eagle Rare 17 Year's age, the bourbon is also full of wonderful nuanced flavors. The nose brings forth a complexity that reveals its layered nuances as you spend more time with it, while the palate delivers a great mix of dark fruits and sweet baking flavors that intertwine nicely together. All of this taken together delivers a well rounded sip on par with Eagle Rare 17 Year pours in recent memory. -Jordan

William Larue Weller


Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Sazerac Company

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Release Date: September 2020 (Annual release)

Proof: 134.5

Age: 12 Years, 6 Months

Mashbill: Undisclosed

Color: Cherry Wood

MSRP: $99 (2020)

Official Website

Fact Sheet


Nose: Bright cherry | Soft wheat | Sweat baked dough | Light oak | Ethanol | Brown sugar | Inviting

Palate: Cherry syrup | Red fruits | Brown sugar | Syrup soaked raisins | Baking spice | Dry oak | Mouth coating

Finish: Oak | Bold spice | Touch of tobacco leaf | Lingering leather and oak | Mouth enveloping heat throughout | Lingering

William Larue Weller (WLW) is never shy about its brash proof, and this year it’s even more amplified by the fact that this is the highest proof expression in this year's Collection. It also happens to be the only wheated bourbon in the Collection, which allows it to stand out even more. This year's release embraces all of these unique traits and delivers a pour that will please WLW fans. It’s full of rich flavors and hugs you with a tight heat throughout the entire sip. The competition for high proof wheated bourbon has certainly increased over the years, in particular with Maker Mark’s cask strength offerings and Heaven Hill’s limited edition Old Fitzgerald and Larceny barrel proof lines. However, William Larue Weller is still the gold standard to beat, and this year's release continues this mark for another year. -Jordan

Final Thoughts

2020 was an exciting year for the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. The lineup delivered what many were missing in terms of proof for Handy, Stagg, and Weller, seeing all of them return to being 129+ proof. Additionally, Eagle Rare continues to come in at 101 proof and more interestingly saw a return to being 18+ years old.

As continuing the trend from last year, the number of barrels pulled to create each brand was not provided by Buffalo Trace. This one key piece of missing information means that we’re not able to provide an estimate for how many bottles were produced for each brand. At this point, we can assume that this information will not be disclosed again anytime in the near future, if ever again, which will only add to the mystique of these bottles in consumers' eyes.

In regards to the taste of the whiskeys, there were a few surprises. Thomas H. Handy, which has been a consistently good high proof rye though it’s rarely the bottle go after, really shined this year. The pour absolutely nails its intensity of fruity sweet flavors against its typical cinnamon-forward profile resulting in one of its best showings, potentially ever!

Sazerac 18 Year is starting to return to form, with this year's Buffalo Trace Distillery distilled version coming the closest yet to the legendary tanked batch of years past. For the first time since the last of the tanked batch, we have hope that Buffalo Trace will eventually find this whiskey’s previous legendary form. That will truly be a win for whiskey enthusiasts everywhere if that happens.

Eagle Rare 17 Year once again delivers a consistently good pour. Its 101 proof helps to exemplify the non oaky flavors in the sip. Having spent over 18 years in oak, it definitely highlights oaky and earthy flavors, but does a good job of balancing things out. It’s sure to please fans of older bourbon, however it takes a back seat to the others in the lineup this year.

George T. Stagg returns to 130 proof this year after dropping to its lowest proof ever in 2019. While it delivers a solid sip with a fantastic finish, it doesn’t deliver the typical Stagg “bear hug” we’re accustomed to with the brand.

Finally, William Larue Weller remains to be the gold standard to beat when it comes to barrel proof wheated bourbons with another solid showing. That said, the competition is becoming more fierce in this category, and William Larue Weller will need to step up its game in coming years if it wants to remain on top.

As in years past, we couldn’t conclude without mentioning the fact that even though any bottle in the series becomes an instant buy for many, Buffalo Trace prices these well below market value. While they could easily charge a multiple of what they ask, they hold steady to an MSRP of $100 each. Sure many stores will charge more and few if any will just place them on the shelves for anyone to scoop up, but it’s nice to see that in the ever increasing pricey world of bourbon nowadays, a lucky few still have a shot at buying a reasonably priced limited release.  

May the odds forever be in your favor. Happy hunting!

The samples used for this review were provided at no cost courtesy of Buffalo Trace. We thank them for allowing us to review them with no strings attached.

Written By: BB Team

September 24, 2020
Also Check out
Articles by this author
Recent IN-depth Reviews
Recent Articles
Advertisement
COMMENTS
2020 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Review & Final Thoughts
COMMENTS
  • Exclusive Content
  • new content summary
  • bourbon in the news
  • social media roundup
Terms of UsePrivacy PolicyEthics PolicyCommenting Policy