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Hunting Antique Buffalo?

At around this time every year, one of big questions whisky drinkers, especially bourbon drinkers, ask is: “when are you getting the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection in?” Quickly followed by, “How do I get a bottle?”

Unfortunately I cannot tell you how to get a bottle. It seems to be getting harder and harder each year. However, they are now being seen for sale across the country, even appearing across the pond on UK whisky websites.

This is a brief guide to exactly what the Antique Collection is, so that if you are lucky enough to discover a bottle, or even luckier to get a choice of bottles, you will be better informed as to what you should get.

Antiques have high value because of their considerable age. Some of those antiques can be dearly sort after and highly collectable, none more so than the remarkable group of whiskies that makes up the antique series Buffalo Trace Distillery releases each year. There is something here for everyone’s taste, from beautiful soft and rich ryes to full palate-busting bourbons. All bottled at cask strength with a minimum age of 15 years, this is the highly anticipated, always highly acclaimed “Buffalo Trace Antique Collection” line up.

As yet, I have not been lucky enough to taste my way through this year’s release, I do however have my favorites from previous years. The tasting notes here I have pulled from the Buffalo Trace distillery website.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac

For fans of amazing ryes,  and for those who like to make higher end cocktails.

This is most certainly my favorite of the five in the collection. Named after the New Orleans bartender who first used rye whisky in the Sazerac Cocktail. To me it the most exquisite rye ever put in a bottle, so incredibly well balanced, powerful yet tamed. The Nose: Powerful, lush and boldly spicy. The Palate: Full of toffee, fig cake and candied fruit, followed by mint, cinnamon and clove finishing with allspice and coconut.

Sazerac 18 Year-Old

For the die hard Sazerac fanatic and rye aficionado.

A very close second to the Handy, a very special rye indeed. This 18 year old rye has The Nose: of very mature oak, leather molasses and all-spice. The Palate: mint, eucalyptus, cinnamon, vanilla and lingering pepper.

Eagle Rare 17 Year-Old

For the lover of approachable soft and delicious bourbons.

I love this older brother of the widely available 10 year old. Only the best barrels carefully nurtured get to become 17 years of age. This is a rare treat that drinks so very well and in my opinion the least aggressive bourbon in the collection. The Nose: Floral fruit tones, almond nut, cigar box and cinnamon. The Palate: Dry leather, vanilla, tobacco finishing with a delicate toffee.

William Larue Weller

For lovers of wheated bourbons unhappy everybody else wants their Pappy!

W.L. Weller pioneered the substitution of wheat instead of rye grain in the bourbon mash bill. This whisky was awarded second place by Jim Murray in his 2013 bible only being pipped to the post by the Thomas H. Handy! The Nose: Caramel, corn, new leather, plums, light toffee and pipe tabacco. The Palate: marshmallow, salted almonds, nougat, figs and dates.

George T. Stagg

Not for the feint-hearted lovers of full on bourbons.

This bourbon is large, larger than life… almost! Water or rocks is an absolute must, but the benefits are there to be had. The Nose: lush toffee, dark chocolate, fudge and molasses. The palate: dates, tobacco, dark berries, spearmint and a dose of coffee finish everything of very nicely.

All of these unique whiskies come but once a year. If you are not able to buy one, as so many aren’t, head to a specialist whisky bar where you might yet get a glimpse of an Antique Buffalo!

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About Author

I moved here from UK in February 2011 leaving my job as a community bobby in Surrey. By the end of May that year I had joined the team at Astor Wines & Spirits turning my love of Whisky & Wine into work. My first whisky love is single malt, which started as a 18 year old when my local Pub landlord introduced me to Macallan 12. I am also extremely passionate about American whiskey which is an amazing category. I love travel and have white water rafted in New Zealand, Argentina & Canada.

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