It's Buffalo Trace Antique Collection season! With this year's release just announced, we know many of you will be moving heaven and earth to get your hands on a few bottles. Sadly, we know that most of you will fail (don't let the bottles released numbers get your hopes up too much.) Your connections will let you down, your lottery number won't be drawn, or your bank account is missing a few zero's. But don't worry, I've done the hard work of tasting each one in my mind to help you better understand what you're missing. I suggest you pour yourself a glass of an easily acquired bourbon and sip slowly while reading my notes. Enjoy!
GEORGE T. STAGG
I had always heard that THIS was the best bourbon (move over Pappy). Thankfully, I've never had it so I can just make up what I want it to taste like. And guess what, guys? It's my favorite!
- NOSE: Is like a warm, spring breeze followed by hints of kettle corn. (The freshly popped kind, not the garbage that's been sitting out in the heat all day and just tastes like stale sugar and an $800 dental bill). Kettle corn is the best popcorn.
- TASTE: Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Also a hint of schnitzel with noodles, brown paper packages tied up with string. Essence of bright copper kettles, warm woolen mittens.
- FINISH: Ryan Gosling
WILLIAM LARUE WELLER
The whole "W. L. Weller" and "William Larue Weller" thing is confusing. Is this like when J. K. Rowling started going by her initials so she would be more appealing to the masses? Or is that just abject sexism? Or is it more like when you hate your real name in high school, so you go by your last name and then when you get to college people all of sudden are like "wow, Stockton is the coolest name" so now you're like "oh no, I'm not S. B. Jones, I'm Stockton Bartholomew Jones"? I think it's something like that.
- NOSE: Wet.
- TASTE: I am immediately greeted by subtle vapors of creamed corn, followed by hints of oaken vanilla, a definite taste of quintessential burnt sugars, then, finally, a note of wheaten grain. Or did I just list in fancy words exactly what the basic flavors of bourbon are? *shrug*
- FINISH: Channing Tatum in Magic Mike (The second one, where he is all into making fancy furniture shirtless. The one that Matthew McConaughey was too good for.)
SAZERAC RYE 18 YEAR-OLD
I've had the regular Sazerac, is this the same thing? I'm going to assume it's the same thing, just older and worth more (kind of like Nick and Aaron Carter).
- NOSE: Kind of like the Willett I drank last night.
- TASTE: Like the Willet I drank last night.
- FINISH: Is this the Willett I drank last night?
THOMAS H. HANDY SAZERAC
This shit tastes like candy corn. Does anyone actually like candy corn?
- NOSE: Those people who give you raisins while Trick or Treating.
- TASTE: Reminiscent of something that comes in a 1.75L plastic bottle and finishes with an "oh I forgot I paid $300 for this" pangs of regret.
- FINISH: Dollar store microwave popcorn that you still aren't sure what the expiration date is. Also Flaming Hot Cheetos.
EAGLE RARE 17 YEAR-OLD
This is Eagle Rare aged for 17 years. Is that it? Am I missing something?
- NOSE: The disappointment of not being able to go to the strip club with your friends for their 18th birthday senior year of high school so you have to awkwardly hang out at a coffee shop instead, by yourself, until they're done because your parents put you into kindergarten a year early and I'm clearly not speaking to a specific personal experience.
- TASTE: Having a driver's license but not yet a good credit score so you won't be able to get a good APR to finance your summer cross-country road trip before college. Sweet corn pudding from Golden Corral.
- FINISH: Majoring in Medieval Literature at Oberlin, amassing $200k in student loan debt, and realizing that you'll never get a good return on this ridiculous investment because you could have just gone to a state school and majored in English to get your job at Best Buy.
Editor's Note: Last week Buffalo Trace announced the details of their 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection release. And apparently, three seconds later they were out of review samples. Apparently, other bourbon bloggers have installed some early detection system on the distillery grounds that enabled them to request samples while the digital ink was drying on the BTAC press release. Not Bourbon & Banter though, our budget only provides for web hosting and postage – no fancy technology for us.
Usually, this wouldn't have phased us (we've never sought out review samples of the Antique Collection in the past), but this year we requested samples for our fellow team member Erin Petrey. Despite growing up in KY and being a diehard bourbon fan, Erin has never had the chance to try any of the BTAC whiskeys - none of them. Hard to believe, right?
I admit that one time I did try to buy her a glass of George T. Stagg at Jack Rose in Washington, D.C. but before our order could be placed, another table drained the bottle we were after. At first, we were greatly disappointed, but then Harvey Fry appeared and offered up a few Willett Family Estate bourbons that in his words, "would make us forget that George T. Stagg existed." He was right, of course, and we never looked back. And so, Erin remained a BTAC virgin, albeit unknown to me or the rest of our team.
When we found out about Erin's BTAC status, we put in a request to Buffalo Trace for samples so she could finally experience what others obsess over year after year. As you can probably surmise, our request was in vain as all samples had already been claimed and distributed. This could have been the end of the story, but Erin's no quitter. Instead, she chose not to let a lack of sample get in the way of doing a formal review of each of this year's BTAC whiskeys. We hope you've enjoyed her review.