The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, largely regarded as one of the most anticipated annual releases in the whiskey world, is back this year with its full, five-bottle roster of rare bourbon and rye whiskeys. All five whiskeys in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (commonly abbreviated as BTAC) are returning—including William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Handy, Eagle Rare, Sazerac, and George T. Stagg.
As we reported last year, Buffalo Trace temporarily discontinued the George T. Stagg release because the available whiskeys “did not meet the distillery’s standards for the Stagg brand.” That’s a really fluffy way of saying that the available supply of whiskey was either too old or too young to make a batch.
This happens. In fact, it happens across the entire whiskey industry. Brands like Booker’s Bourbon from Jim Beam will sometimes release fewer batches throughout the year due to fluctuations in ready-to-go supply. Utah’s High West brand and Kentucky’s Michter’s have both altered the releases (and scales) of limited edition products in recent years for similar reasons.
But Buffalo Trace brought Stagg back this year with a vengeance. The 2022 George T. Stagg release is bottled at the highest proof since 2016—an “is this going to harm my teeth or something” 138.7 proof, or 69.35 ABV.
All of the whiskeys in this collection, including George T. Stagg, are mostly bottled as uncut and unfiltered whiskeys, meaning no water has been added, and no chill filtration has been employed. Aside from drinking right out of the barrels, this is as close as most people get to drinking it straight from the source.
George T. Stagg Bourbon
For two decades, George T. Stagg Bourbon (the elder, rarer version of Stagg, Jr.) has been a heavy hitter in final proof, and this year’s 138.7 is a hard-hitting return after a skipped 2021 season. All barrels for this year’s batch were distilled in Spring 2007, aged in Warehouse K, and were 15 years and 5 months old at bottling.
George T. Stagg has aromas of pecan and chocolate sauce, and flavors of baking cherry pie, vanilla, and baking spices, with a dark, rich finish of black coffee, molasses, and oak.[$99; buffalotracedistillery.com]
William Larue Weller Bourbon
William Larue Weller famously shares its mash bill with the Pappy Van Winkle line of wheated bourbons. As a result, the many accolades this bottle has received over the years aren’t that surprising. Distilled 12 years ago in spring 2010, the barrels for this year’s 124.7 proof batch rested in three warehouses: C, K, and N.
The 2022 William Larue Weller bourbon is said to have aromas of toasted coconut, caramel, and butterscotch. On the palate, you’ll discover flavors of dark cherry, molasses, and mint. The finish of leather, nutmeg, vanilla, and toffee is full-bodied.[$99; buffalotracedistillery.com]
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye Whiskey
The award-winning Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye has a list of accolades almost as long as its name. This year’s release is a record-setting proof above 130—its highest proof in a decade.
Distilled in spring 2016, the high-proof rye used for this release aged in three houses: I, L, and M. A floral nose of marmalade, meringue, and anise previews the confected flavors of baking spices, dark chocolate, and orange peel, according to the distillery. The finish is long, sweet, and spicy, with flavors of candied orange, praline, and cinnamon. It’s 130.9 proof,—the highest proof for this whiskey since 2012.[$99; buffalotracedistillery.com]
Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old Bourbon
Eagle Rare’s older brother has gone through some changes in recent years, including an increase in proof to 101 for its impressive 17-year age statement. All of these bourbons have won awards, of course, but last year’s release won the Chairman’s Trophy at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge this year.
The barrels for this whiskey were all housed in warehouses H, K, and L before being combined and proofed down to 101. Buffalo Trace describes a nose of oak, chocolate-covered cherries, and tobacco, flavors of caramel, vanilla bean, and dark chocolate, with a finish of butterscotch, baking spices, and vanilla.[$99; buffalotracedistillery.com]
Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old Whiskey
Sazerac Rye may be the least revered of all the names on this list, but therein lies the best argument for calling this the “hidden gem” of the collection. All the whiskey used for this year’s 90 proof batch was distilled in the spring of 2003 or 2004 (making some of the juice actually 19 years old). Those barrels were aged in warehouses K, M, and P.
Buffalo Trace describes orange peel, lemon zest, and molasses on a citrusy-sweet nose. Sazerac Rye 18 is bold with flavors of black pepper, coriander, and maple syrup, with an herbal finish of oak, mint, and tobacco leaf.[$99; buffalotracedistillery.com]
Curiously, there is yet again no price increase on any of these bottles for 2022. Buffalo Trace has been hesitant to raise most of their prices in recent years, even as other major Kentucky distilleries have increased prices on rarer stock.
The $99 per bottle price across the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection has been stable for several years. Prices have only gone up about $30 in the last decade. The whole collection was priced at just $70 per bottle back in 2012.
Of course, between the clambering free market for these bottles and the after-market price hikes, those 2012 bottles now fetch their retail prices dozens of times over. And it’s unlikely that you’ll see this year’s BTAC at retail prices. If you do, buy a lottery ticket the same day.
BTAC was created in 2002, making this the 20th anniversary of the collection. Getting your hands on every release could likely cost six figures, so we’re not going to tell you that this is a collection you should try and acquire retroactively. This year’s releases will prove enough of a challenge—and reward—to get your hands on.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!