Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2018

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank the folks at Buffalo Trace for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion.

I recently got samples of this year’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. This post will be long enough, so tonight I’m going to forgo all the extremely witty banter I normally provide before the review and instead jump straight into the reviews.

But first, a moment of silence for my sample of Sazerac Rye 18 year old. I knew something was wrong when the box UPS handed me was wet. Not being one to cry over spilled whiskey, I posted the photo on Instagram and got a few likes. I thought briefly about tasting the foam padding but decided that a tongue full of glass probably wouldn’t taste all that good, even though it smelled delicious. I guess sometimes the Whiskey Fairy just wants a dram for herself.

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 17 years old. 101° proof (up from previous years’ 90° proof). Distilled in the Spring of 2000. Aged on floors 1, 2, and 5 of Warehouse C.

Nose: Caramel candy, allspice, cinnamon candies, and almond.

Mouth: Nice mouthfeel with floral, caramel, leather and oak notes.

Finish: Nice and long. Ripe berries and floral notes transition to oaky notes of tobacco and dark chocolate.

Thoughts: I like this, but I don’t love it. I’m not a huge fan of bourbons once they reach their lower- to mid-teens. I am loving the floral notes on it, but there is a bit too much oak on this for my palate (my wife loved it though, she’s a fan of old oaky bourbons).

William Larue Weller

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 125.7° proof. Distilled in Winter 2006. Aged in Warehouses C, I, K, L, M and Q.

Nose: Very sweet. Chocolate covered cherries, the nougat from a Milky Way bar, vanilla, cinnamon.

Mouth: Cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, oak and campfire smoke.

Finish: Long and warm. Cinnamon and chocolate covered cherries linger.

Thoughts: Nice and warm. Very sweet. I like this one even though I’m not typically a fan of wheated bourbons.

George T. Stagg

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 124.9° proof. Distilled in Spring 2003. Aged in Warehouses C, H, I, K, P and Q.

Nose: Caramel, rich leather, ripe berries and pipe tobacco.

Mouth: Sweet with caramel, brown sugar, leather and pipe tobacco.

Finish: Long and warm. Very sweet. Lingering smoke and tobacco.

Thoughts: Rich is the first word that comes to mind on this one. Delicious is the second. I really like this one. It’s my favorite of the three bourbons.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 128.8° proof. Distilled in Spring 2012. Aged in Warehouses I and L.

Nose: Spearmint, cinnamon, hints of anise and banana bread.

Mouth: Caramel, spearmint, very hot, great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and warm. Spearmint, baking spices and just a touch of dill linger.

Thoughts: This is my favorite of the four. The bourbons were mostly sweet and this is a nice change of pace from that. It’s very warm, but not overpoweringly so even at full strength. I like this one a lot.

Thoughts:

This was my first time sitting down and tasting across the BTAC lineup (or, more accurately, 4/5th of the lineup). I’d had most of them in the past, but only one at a time. It was interesting to see how similar the bourbons were, even though there was a difference in proof and mash bill. There is some “Buffalo Trace Flavor” that comes through on each of them. It’s a testament to their quality control that the “house” flavor is present in both the bourbons distilled in our current decade and in the bourbons that were distilled in the decade previous. It means they aren’t messing around with things.

Thomas H. Handy is simultaneously the only one of the line I’d never tasted and the only one of the line I’ve ever seen on a retail shelf (years ago, before this year’s release was even distilled). It is a big, bold rye that has all the minty and herbal notes that I look for in a good rye. I was really impressed with it.

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I was impressed with them all in fact. I think they are worth every penny that Buffalo Trace is recommending they sell for. But based on the relative availability and quality of other bourbons in that price range, I don’t know that I would feel comfortable paying inflated retail or secondary prices for them.


UPDATE:

Buffalo Trace was kind enough to ship me a replacement bottle of the 18-year-old Sazerac Rye. My notes for it are below:

Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 90° proof. Barrels filled in 1998.

Nose: Mint, bubble gum and almond.

Mouth: Follows the nose with mint, bubblegum and almond, then adds cardamom and nutmeg.

Finish: Long and warm with lingering mint, cardamom and almond.

Thoughts: I preferred the Handy Rye over this, as I preferred the relative “brightness” that it’s youth provided. That said, I also like this one a lot. When compared to the others in the range it is in the lower half.


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Neat: The Story of Bourbon and Blanton's Straight From the Barrel

Last night, I settled in with my glass of Wild Turkey Rare Breed to watch Neat: The Story of Bourbon, a documentary about bourbon. I rented it off of Amazon, but it sounds others have it as well. 

I don't really have much to say about it. It heavily features Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey, Denny Potter of Heaven Hill, Marianne Barnes of Castle and Key, Brent Elliot of Four Roses, Freddie Johnson of Buffalo Trace and bourbon historians Chet Zoeller and Mike Veach. There were also segments on various bartenders, a farmer, a team of archeologists, and a few other Master Distillers. Oh, and there was a segment about a guy and his wife who have a bar in their basement. They hold parties. The segment also followed him to a store where he goes and buys bourbon that doesn't make it to the shelf.

Oh and Marshall, Minnesota native: Steve Zahn. He, um, lightened the mood?

So here's the thing. This wasn't a bad documentary by any stretch of the imagination. I loved seeing the passion that Marianne Barnes spoke with. I could listen to Jimmy Russell read the phone book and be happy. And Freddie Johnson is a national treasure. I was confused by the addition of Steve Zahn. The movie was beautifully shot and had a serious tone until his segments hit and then it abruptly switched to goofy. The tonal switch was jarring. The couple with the bar in the basement was filler that could have easily been cut since it didn't seem to fit with the rest of the narrative. 

But overall, it was worth the $6 I paid to rent it.

I did make a mistake though. My wife chose Rare Breed to watch with it because we knew that Jimmy Russell was featured in the documentary. I completely forgot to tell her that Freddie Johnson was in it too. If I had, we could have enjoyed the subject of tonight's other review while listening to Freddie tell the story of how his father and grandfather had a hand in its creation. If you've been on one of his tours, you may have heard the story, but if not I'll leave you with a teaser to either watch the movie or go on one of his tours. It's a good story, and I don't want to steal it.

Blanton's Straight from the Barrel

Purchase Info: £70.79 for a 700 mL bottle from MasterOfMalt.com ($98.78 US at today's exchange rate).

Details: 63.8% ABV. Barrel 885, dumped 7-13-17, aged in warehouse H, rick 14.

Nose: Caramel, wet rocks, cinnamon, nutmeg and just the tiniest hint of chocolate.

Mouth: Oily mouthfeel. Sweet and spicy with butterscotch and nutmeg.

Finish: Long and spicy. Dry and floral. 

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Thoughts: Even at $100 plus shipping, I am already planning to buy a second bottle. I love this one. 
 


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Blanton's Gold Edition

Does anyone know what bourbon goes best with a microwavable frozen chicken sandwich? Asking for a friend.

My wife is away at a work meeting tonight and so I am left on my own for supper. And while I thought, briefly, that this was a good excuse to skip supper and move straight to the tv and a drink, alas, I am too much of a responsible adult for that. So instead I proved just how much of a responsible adult I am by skipping anything healthy that I might have in the house and eating out of a gas station freezer section.

It really is a good thing I don't write for a food site. I value convenience in my meals way more than I should. Yep, luckily for you, I write about bourbon.

When it comes to bourbon, convenience is not an issue. Sure, I will happily pay a few dollars more per bottle at my corner store in order to avoid a trip across town. But, I will also happily place an order from across an ocean if they have one I'd like to try. Maybe one like tonight's subject.

Blanton's Gold Edition is a 103° proof bourbon produced for Age International, Inc. at the Buffalo Trace Distillery for sale in international markets. Why can't we get it here? No idea. I'm sure it makes a lot of sense to someone that makes way more money than me.

Blanton's Gold Edition

Purchase Info: £6.03 for a 3 cl bottle at MasterofMalt.com ($8.44 for a roughly one-ounce bottle at today's conversion rate. A full bottle sells for about $77.)

Details: 51.5% ABV.

Nose: Caramel, brown sugar, mint, baking spice and wet rock.

Mouth:  Thick and chewy mouthfeel. Lightly floral with spicy heat. Mint and caramel. 

Finish: Medium length with lingering cinnamon and dark chocolate.

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Thoughts: This is a beautiful whiskey if you like spice, which I do. Thick, chewy mouthfeel with a lot of spice backed up by floral mint. This stuff is really good. At roughly $75 US, this would be a something to seek out if it were available here. As it is, I'm making plans to get a full bottle the next time I place an order.


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Blanton's Special Reserve

Can we all agree that silly as it may be, price and a fancy bottle do have an effect on the perception of a whiskey? Bourbon aficionados know that, no matter how much they might enjoy a glass of Basil Hayden's now and then, it is basically a slightly more refined version of Old Grand Dad. A diluted and probably over-priced version, but one that is suitable for a beginners palate and is priced at a point where a person can feel like they are indulging a little bit when they buy it. It's an introductory bourbon. Soft, refined and delicate. 

Speaking of introductory bourbons, Blanton's Special Reserve is the subject of tonight's post. It is not available in the US market. If it were, I think it would compete on the same footing as Basil Hayden's. It is an entry-level bourbon much in the same way that Basil Hayden's Bourbon is. It's light and delicate to appeal to a beginner's palate. It is also giftable to as it comes in a fancy bottle so you can gift it to a beginner and they will feel like you really bought them something nice. At least if you are in the market where it is sold. 

When I saw that there was a Blanton's that was 40% ABV, I didn't think it would be an amazing bourbon. I mostly bought it because it seemed silly not to when I was buying the other two non-US expressions. I was correct, this isn't the most amazing Blanton's expression out there, but after tasting it, at least I think I now know why it exists and where it fits in the marketplace.

Blanton's Special Reserve

Purchase Info: £4.72 for a 3 cl bottle at MasterofMalt.com ($6.65 for a roughly one-ounce bottle at today's conversion rate. A full bottle sells for about $50.) 

Detail: 40% ABV.

Nose: Caramel, peppermint, and dried corn.

Mouth: Delicate sweet floral flavors with some spice. Cinnamon and mint.

Finish: Floral and quick.

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Thoughts: This is fine. It's nothing to write home about. It certainly isn't worth paying international shipping for. My wife rated it meh. I rated it as a low-level like but not a good value so I'm going with her rating on this. For my tastes, I'm pretty ok with this one not being sold in the US.  


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Blanton's Bourbon

An interesting thing happened while I was doing a little bourbon shopping on my last trip to Kentucky. I bought a bottle of Blanton's. From a store. Off the shelf. For at (or near) the regular retail price.

It was a bit of luck actually. I was at the Party Source and noticed that there were some bottles on the shelf. I grabbed one and put it in my cart. My wife, who helps with reviews on this site but doesn't follow the business side of bourbon as closely, had never had Blanton's and I thought it might be nice for her to get the opportunity. 

She objected, thinking we could get it at home. Objecting to her objection, I pointed at the shelf where I had picked up the bottle. It was now empty. We had only walked about halfway down the aisle, and already the inventory had been cleaned out. "Is it that hard to get at home too?" she asked. Upon my affirmative, she relented and decided that she did want to try it after all. Not that it would have mattered, I was going to buy it anyway. I'd had Blanton's previously but had never purchased a bottle due to putting off the purchase until it became hard to find. As such, I've never featured it on the site (aside from one store pick sample from a friend). 

And really, that's too bad because Blanton's is important. Introduced in 1984, Blanton's helped to plant the seeds of today's bourbon renaissance. It was the first Single Barrel bourbon to be sold commercially, leading to many future Singel Barrel products at what would become Buffalo Trace and inspiring other super premium bourbon releases at other companies.

Blanton's Bourbon

Purchase info: $59.99 for a 750 mL bottle at the Party Source, Bellevue, KY. 

Details: 46.5% ABV. Barrel 966, Warehouse H, Rick 16, Bottle 149. Dumped on July 20, 2017.

Nose: Cherry candy, cinnamon, and hints of bubblegum and mint.

Mouth: Dry and spicy with loads of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger notes.

Finish: Warm and of medium length. Lingering notes of cherry oak and bubblegum.

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Thoughts: This is a damn fine whiskey. Spicy and dry but somehow reminiscent of various candies. I really like it. But we knew that going in. The better question is what did my wife, who had never had Blanton's think of it. Well, she put a little heart in her whiskey journal and said: "I can understand why people clamor for this."


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