courtesy Buffalo Trace

courtesy Buffalo Trace

Here’s what to expect from this year’s limited edition bourbon and rye from Buffalo Trace.

Autumn has gotten off to an unseasonably warm start in New York City, but my whiskey glass is feeling the change in season anyway, because the 2019 Antique Collection whiskeys have arrived! For those who are unfamiliar, the Antiques are five super limited edition bourbons and ryes distilled at Buffalo Trace which vary each year because they are drawn from barrels stored across different warehouse locations with their own individual climate conditions. The Antique Five also each all differ in age statements, recipes and proofs.

Yields of these whiskeys, which are specially selected by Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, tend to be low. Therefore they are highly allocated to just one or two bottles each at most on and off premise locations. Retailers typically have a wait list that starts months in advance. It should be noted that the suggested retail price set by Buffalo Trace is $99 per bottle for each expression, but because demand is always high, bottles are typically sold at a much higher price by the individual liquor stores or bars carrying them.

You know you’re in a good whiskey bar when the Antiques can be ordered by the 1 or 2 oz. pour for less than $20. It’s definitely worth checking with your favorite place to sip library whiskeys to get a taste if you can’t get a hold of a whole bottle.

The Bourbon

George T. Stagg: The biggest change in the lineup this year is represented by what in previous years was always the bruiser of the bunch, with the highest proof (the 2017 was released at a whopping 129.2!) and biggest flavors. However, for 2019, the Stagg is a much more subdued entry at 116.9 proof. “Many of the barrels for this year’s Stagg composite were taken from the first floor of the warehouse,” explains Master Distiller Wheatley. “The first floor is cooler with higher humidity levels, therefore the alcohol evaporates faster than the water.” The barrels for this release were filled in the spring of 2004, and stored across warehouses C, H, I, K, and Q. Why will this one in particular be so hard to find? You can definitely blame those angels, who took 56% of their share through evaporation. Autumnal essences of pinecone, clove-heavy baking spices, caramel popcorn, leather and a touch of cherry cough syrup are densely packed when poured neat, but adding a drop or two of water or a small ice cube loosens those knots of flavor nicely.

William La Rue Weller: The uncut, unfiltered wheated recipe bourbon comes out swinging this year at 128 proof, and was distilled in the winter of 2007, stored in Warehouse I. Sipping this made me think of a boozy Tootsie Roll, as flavors of sweet cocoa, vanilla, caffe latte and soft spices coated my tongue, along with fainter tones of leather and apricot. But then, watch out, the heat really turns up after a few seconds! Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old: Since last year, the proof of this mature whiskey has been raised from 90 to 101—its original strength from its first release in 1974—which it will be from here on out. This release was distilled in the spring of 2002, aged on the first floor of Warehouse B. There’s a slower, more even burn to this bourbon, with enjoyable flavors reminiscent of Dr. Pepper, along with candy apple, maple, nutmeg and bitter chocolate.

The Rye

Sazerac 18 Year Old: This release of “Old Sazzy”, as I like to call it, comes from barrels filled in the spring of 2001, housed on the second floor of Warehouses K and L. The aromas on this rye are as classic as they come—smelling of fresh baked rye bread with caraway seeds, along with elements of sweet spiced toasted pumpkin seeds, sage and thyme, and a finish of clove, cardamom and green tea.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye: Never a shy entry, Handy straight rye was bottled uncut and unfiltered at a bold 125.7 proof, having been distilled in the spring of 2013, and aged in warehouses K, M, and N. I’ve always found this whiskey to be rich and satisfying, and this year’s entry does not disappoint. It often reminds me of Mexican hot chocolate, though this time with a bit less of the spice, and more of the milk chocolate, vanilla and molasses flavors peeking through, ending in earthy notes of black tea and sesame.