First off, thanks to the fine folks at BT for a sample set of this year’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (a.k.a. BTAC, a.k.a. that other hard as hell whiskey to obtain besides Pappy).
Second, this review is not going to be fancy, or wordy, or much of anything except the details you want. I ain’t got time for much else. I’ve got a house renovation project, a ransomware webinar for like 7 people, I just got stuff to do. I’m not even putting pictures in here, just some stock photo I used last year.
On with the part you came to see…
Every review of Handy always starts with, “who doesn’t love a Handy”. I have been a Thomas Handy fan since I first learned that they were the easiest BTAC to get. I’ve had at least 1 bottle every year, and have a 15 and 16 still open. I need to be in that certain mood to have a Handy pour, that mood where I am just feeling a buzz and had a bad day and I’m ready to jump off the plank into the sea of tom foolery. Both times I tried the sample of 2017, I tried it as my first pour of the night. And both times the fiery flames of stomach acid visited me with such haste I would have sworn I drank lava. After you get past the Kentucky hug, or in this case, bearhug from pre-Terminator Arnold, it settles down into the Handy I have come to love. You really have to have a taste for Handy, the unassumed and unknowing will not like it and will probably feel an unrelenting burn for a long time after a sip. But I enjoy it. The young, barrel proof rye is full of spice and heat, but after an intense rush it really smooths out nicely. An ice cube or two, and a little time really improve the overall experience. This year’s version very much reminds me of ’15 and ’16, and consistency is always a good thing. B+
William Larue Weller
WLW as it is referred to has a strong fanbase when it comes to BTAC. WLW is preferred by many over Stagg for it’s wheated mashbill, though it comes in a bit younger than Stagg. This year, WLW is just over 12 years old, essentially making it a barrel proof Weller 12. I’ll be honest, WLW has never really done it for me. I’ve never had any of the really older WLW, just the newer stuff since 2014, and it’s never been my favorite. It’s probably the coolest bottle of the BTAC, but that’s where it stops for me. Same thing this year. It has a great nose, I just get a whole lot of alcohol taste, very little sweetness, and an almost bitter, unpleasant finish. Still not a fan. C
George T Stagg
People were very excited to hear that suddenly this year there was 900k bottles of GTS. Seriously it’s like all the sudden Augustus Gloop jumped into Willy Wonka’s bourbon river and released it all downstream to the public. It reminds me of the Mad Max remake last year when they turned on all the water in the valley and all the thirsty people drank. And if I had a dollar for every Oprah “You get a Stagg, You get a Stagg” meme, I would have like 8 bucks. You will be pleased to know Stagg is pleasing this year. I did one of those little “mmm” noises each time I sipped it, like I was approving the Stagg to all the ghosts sitting around me watching me. It’s strong but doesn’t drink hot like WLW and Handy. It’s got a great finish of caramel and oak. Very drinkable at 129.2 proof. A solid drinker again. B+/A-
Eagle Rare 17
As excited as people were to hear how much Stagg there was, they were also bummed to hear that there were only 7 bottles available of ER17 this year. I mean seriously, the barrels had 92% evaporation. The angels didn’t just take their share, they plugged in hair dryers and went to work on these barrels every night, reducing them to slivers of whiskey. And it seriously sucks because this is probably my favorite one this year. It’s just so damn good. Oaky perfection this year, reminds me of 2013. Sure it’s only 90 proof, I get why people reject this one too, but it’s just so easily drinkable, it’s like caramel syrup. To the 7 of you who end up getting a bottle, and the 2 of those that actually open their bottle, I do hope you enjoy it. A+
Like every great novel, the end has the biggest surprise. As you may know, Sazerac 18 has been my favorite pour since I first tried it in 2014. I have been through 5 bottles since then, and I have a few still stashed away. Every time someone who is new to the bourbon/rye world comes over, that’s my last pour for them. Seriously, it’s my drink of choice, and it hasn’t changed in years. Last year was the first year that BT used new distill for Saz 18, as the previous 10 or so years all came from a tanked version. I was very disappointed last year and thought the Saz 18 wasn’t just average, it was actually bad. I was so bummed I rejected my friend’s offer to try from his bottle that he opened from last year. Fast forward to this year, and we learn that the Saz 18 this year was tanked from last year’s new distill. I was bummed again. Then I tried this years sample. Damnit if it’s not delicious again. It doesn’t have the same finish as the tanked stuff, but it’s so much better than the sample I had last year, that I wonder what I even had. I actually wonder if I got something other than Saz 18. Everyone who tried my sample agreed, it didn’t even taste like rye. I am befuddled, but alas, this years Saz 18 is quite good. Again with the finish, it fades faster, but it’s still got a great smooth taste, a little of that apple caramel flavor with a little bit of oak at the end. I’m a fan again. A-
Death, taxes, BTAC is worth seeking out. I know we hate the hunt, we hate the price gouging on the secondary market and the crappy liquor stores near beach locations, but these really are some of the best whiskey’s you can find today, if you can find them.