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Review of 2019 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

The world works in mysterious ways. If you had any doubt, consider this. I had not written a blog article on this site in over a year. After my recent trip to Kentucky for Bourbon and Beyond, I got inspired again and wrote a review of Michter’s Toasted Sour Mash. A few days later, a friend of mine had trouble opening a Michter’s 10 Year Rye which has a wax top. The paper guide that helps you break the wax broke off, so I had the brilliant idea to use a steak knife to get the wax off. The knife slipped, cut a nerve, and I ended up having surgery and was in a cast for two weeks. Screw you karma. Anyway, the cast is off and it’s time to finish this review that was almost done before I became unable to type.

I’ve seen and read all the other reviews from my blogger buddies. Some were nice and in depth, others were laughably short, but I can’t really blame the guys who have speaking talent but not writing talent. J/k, love you all. What is interesting to me is that there is quite a bit of disparity this year in terms of the reviews. I tried the samples on 3 different nights. On two of them I had friends with me trying the samples as well. The following is a collection of all of our thoughts:

William Larue Weller (WLW) – I’ll start with the one that everyone agrees is good this year, WLW. I don’t know that it is ever really bad. WLW is barrel proof Weller 12 (as opposed to the slightly misleading Weller Full Proof). This year WLW is 128 proof and 12.5 years old. The nose is weak to me, and I usually feel that way about WLW. Light traces of fruit and cinnamon but mostly an ethanol burn. But after that, it’s delicious. Slight minty burn, very easily drinkable without ice or water, WLW has notes of chocolate and cherries on the palate and a long finish of vanilla and caramel. A winner again this year.

George T. Stagg – It’s disappointing to me this year and all my friends agreed. I find it kind of flat and lacking a bite. The 116.9 proof definitely reflects in this one. It’s got a good nose with notes of clove, caramel, orange peel, but all that it has going for it this year. It’s one dimensional with very little finish. I couldn’t even really discern a tasting note beyond the typical vanilla. Not a fan at all this year.

Saz 18 – Believe it or not, I actually like Saz 18 this year. It has not returned to the tanked perfection, but it is much closer and definitely their best release of Saz 18 post-tank. The nose of the tanked Saz 18 is back in this year’s release, I always describe it as apple with a floral note. It’s soft upfront and has that oaky caramel deliciousness that I love from the tanked release but it falls short of that tanked Saz finish that lasts forever and has just a little bitterness at the end. Even with that finish, I’m still a big fan this year of Saz 18.

Thomas Handy – This one was the big disparity with most of the other reviewers, but to my friends and I, Handy was the best release of the 5 Antiques this year. I am very surprised at the low ratings it got from others. At 125.something proof, it was so incredibly easy to drink without any burn, but still with all the flavor and bite that I love with Handy even without any water. Cinnamon candy, red hots, vanilla, char, butterscotch all mix wonderfully on the palette and finish longer than it should for a 6 year rye. Wonderful this year.

Eagle Rare 17 – Last year ER 17 was bumped up to 101 proof, but I found the 2017 release that was at 90 proof better. Surprisingly I still feel that way this year. ER17 always has a wonderful nose, maybe the best of the set. Butter and oak and caramel dominate on the palette, but then the finish abruptly ends. It’s strange to me how quickly the finish fades for a 17 year old bourbon. There’s also a slightly bitter taste after a few pours that I couldn’t really distinguish. We all agreed, not only was 2017 better, but a really good ER 10 year single barrel might give this one a run for it’s money. An ok bourbon, but nothing more.

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