First off, a big thank you to BT for providing me samples. Also, I’d like to point out that the samples are glass and are 100 ml this year instead of 50 ml. I asked if the change was due to me giving them so much grief about small samples and they said yes. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to give them grief about it and I’m sure they were just kidding, but I’m taking credit for the sample size change. You’re welcome.
Here is the fact sheet direct from Breaking Bourbon with bottle estimates, ages, and more relevant info that I’m not going to bother to repeat here. I’m just getting straight to the point, and I’m kinda lazy. And Breaking has like 8 guys over there, or something. Love you Breakies.
Eagle Rare 17
The one antique that everyone is most interested to try this year is the ER 17. This year the proof went from 90 to 101 in honor of the original proof of Eagle Rare. This is a permanent change going forward. I really didn’t even want to try it this year because I know I would love it and I know I’ll never see a bottle at retail.
The higher proof really isn’t noticeable on the nose because I thought it always smelled great at just 90 proof. To me it’s the perfect bourbon smell, a great mix of oak and sweetness, and it’s the same this year.
And it’s delicious of course. I don’t really notice a change in heat, but the higher proof definitely enhances what is already a great bourbon. Vanilla, toffee, and butterscotch and some oak last for awhile on the finish.
Last year’s release to me was one of the best ER 17 I have had, and this years is just as good if not better. I bet even at 90 proof it would still be amazing. Love it. Wish I didn’t.
Grade – A
So here’s the deal with Saz 18. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, the Saz 18 from 2005 to 2015 was the same stuff. In 2005 there was a large amount of delicious Saz 18 rye and BT didn’t want it to get over oaked so they put it all into steel tanks to halt the aging. If you look at the stats, the tanked stuff was actually 20.5 year old rye, not 18, which also explains why it was so amazing for so many years. I am a huge fan of the tanked stuff and I’ve gone through no less than 8 bottles of it. No rye or bourbon has matched the finish of tanked Saz 18 that I have tried so far.
If the letters BT writes each year regarding Saz 18 are correct, then the 2016-2018 version are all tanked as well from a batch distilled in Spring of 1998. The odd thing is that the 2016 which was the first year of new distill was very disappointing, but I thought last year’s was actually very close to the tanked distill and a huge improvement over ’16.
Unfortunately this year, Saz 18 is disappointing again. It’s much lighter than the tanked rye, very thin and the nose almost reminds me of a bourbon and not a rye.
There is some spearmint and wintergreen gum on the palette, and it’s got a little bit of that Saz 18 deliciousness, but it’s still too thin. The finish fades away quickly, and to me this is the part that is a huge let down over previous year’s Saz 18.
I’m just confused here. As I said before, 2016 was the first year of new distill and it was disappointing. As I recall, as a product on it’s own it was disappointing even if you didn’t compare it to the tanked stuff. Last year, 2017 Saz 18, I thought tasted so much better and so close to the tanked stuff that I thought we were back on the right track. But this year, it’s disappointing again. I will say as a stand alone product it is still better than the 2016, but it’s just not close to the tanked perfection.
Grade – C+
The other rye on the list is also a letdown for me this year. I haven’t had a pour of Handy in awhile, but I remember how I love the strong minty burn of the young barrel proof rye. Not this year.
The nose is nice and similar to most years. It smells like melted red hots soaked in booze. Who doesn’t love that? Brings you back to the college days if I remember correctly, but most of the time I don’t remember correctly.
The rest is disappointing. First sip burned my tongue and throat a little then faded away to nothing. Over and over on each sip, slight burn in my mouth or throat and then some rye spice, and then nothing. It’s like it almost wants to be good…and then…it just isn’t. I’ve tried 3 times now on 3 different nights and I still feel the same way. Meh.
Grade – C
William Larue Weller
People love them some William Larue Weller. I mean yes it’s essentially barrel proof Weller 12, I get it, and people LOVE barrel proof wheated bourbons. But the first time I tried WLW 4 years ago, I choked on the first sip and burned my throat for a few days. Maybe in my mind I just haven’t recovered from it, but WLW is probably my least favorite antique. Now I will say I had a sample recently of WLW from 2009 or something and it was a whole different ballgame of deliciousness. But let’s focus on 2018 for now.
It does have a nice smell to it. Some might go all in with lots of adjectives but I’m just gonna say…. butterscotch candy, peppermint, and burning nostrils from smelling it so many times.
Ok so there’s that flavor on the palette guys love, the wheater. I can’t really place what that flavor is. Baked cinnamon bread maybe? Do they make cinnamon bread? Surely they do. I read a couple different reviews from people with their tasting notes about this release. Where do they get this shit from? I must have dead taste buds because all I don’t taste any of that stuff, just like baked peppermint bread with some sugar on it….in a bourbon kind of way. Finish is decent but I found my self wanting more.
I dunno, it tastes like every WLW. It’s not terrible, but it’s not my cup of bourbon.
Grade – B
George T Stagg
I love me some Stagg mainly because they actually released a crap ton last year and I was able to get a few. I don’t even care how it tasted, I rolled up on parties with a George T. M’FING Stagg a few times like THE MAN. Ok it actually never left my basement, but I felt like THE MAN drinking it. I love the bottle design the most of all the antiques. And this year the proof is the lowest it has ever been at 124.9.
Another great bourbon nose. Brown sugar and honey and of course ethanol with that almost 125 proof.
It’s also very good this year. Even at 125 it’s not overly hot and I found myself really enjoying the slight burn and spice along with the usual caramel and vanilla flavors that linger for awhile after each sip. I found myself wanting to pour more, but sadly the 100 ml sample ran out pretty quickly. Maybe if they were 200 ml……
A very good addition to the Stagg lineup. It’s not as good as the ER17 but it’s my second favorite and a must buy if you can find a bottle, which hopefully you can this year.
Grade – A-
Is this the best BTAC lineup ever? No, it’s not. Handy and Saz are down, WLW is ok, Stagg is good and ER17 is great.
But the thing I love about Buffalo Trace is that they value positive and negative reviews the same, they are honest about their stuff, and at the end of the day, the make truly incredible products. A down year for Handy and Saz means nothing in the long run because next year they will probably rebound into great releases.
And let’s be honest, if given the opportunity to purchase any of these bottles at retail, would you really pass?