The big five

The big five

Iconic distillery releases its latest antique collection

News | 19 Jan 2007 | Issue 61

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Whiskey fans rejoice! Buffalo Trace Distillery’s 2006 Antique Collection has been launched and it features some stunning whiskey.This year’s collection boasts a new edition—Thomas H.Handy, uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey.Buffalo Trace Distillery is a family-owned company based in Franklin County, Kentucky. The distillery’s rich distilling tradition dates back to 1787 and has included such legends as E.H. Taylor, Jr., George T. Stagg, Albert B.Blanton, Orville Schupp, and Elmer T. Lee.The company picked up two awards in Whisky Magazine’s American Icons of Whisky, and this collection showcases what it does best.“I’m very proud of the whiskey we are producing here at Buffalo Trace Distillery. The collection exemplifies our standard of quality and range of different ages and recipes. I hope everyone enjoys them as much as we do,” said Kris Comstock, bourbon brand manager of Buffalo Trace Distillery.We sent the five bottles to whisky guru Dave Broom to taste and give you his opinon, and what to expect if you get your hands on one of these precious bottles.It is not hard to see why the company scooped both Innovator of the Year and Distiller of the Year in Whisky MagazineAmerican Icons of Whisky 2007. SAZERAC RYE 18 YO
Two time winner of the “American Whiskey of the Year” award, the whiskey for this year’s release has been aging in Warehouse K on the first floor. The first floor enables barrels to age slowly and gracefully. This vintage has the same mature spicy taste as years past.TASTING NOTES
Nose: Perfumed and as sweet as rock candy syrup spread on toasted rye bread. There’s allspice/mixed spice and enough rye to carry this extended aging. With water, there’s more ryebread dough.Palate: Great intensity and slightly astringent: candied flowers, icing sugar and a fresh dustiness. Lemon and vanillla sweetness then balancing bitterness.Finish: Dry,dusty, yet floral.Conclusion: A mature classic. Seems sweet but has a touch of steel in its heart.EAGLE RARE 17 YO
These barrels were distilled in the spring of 1988 and have been aging in Warehouse Q.This whiskey was actually 18 years old at the time of bottling giving the palate a touch of caramel and a hint of leather.TASTING NOTES
Nose: Sweet, yet savoury: spiced buns and candied peel with an intense zestiness. Starts edgy and vibrant (lemon drizzle cake) but with a barely buried sweetness (caramel).In time deepens into cedar/cigar box.Palate: An immediate spicy hit which makes it leap across the tongue like space dust. Kumquat, ripe banana, then soft toffee before a ryelike kick.Finish: Very long and surprisingly gentle with tangerine marmalade and cinnamon. Good complexity and balance.Conclusion: Eagle Rare is underrated. This shows how classy it can be.GEORGE T. STAGG
This year’s George T. Stagg was found on the eighth floor of Warehouse I. It was distilled back in the spring of 1990 and weighs in at a healthy 140.6 proof. This whiskey is bold with the character of sweet dark chocolate – classic George T. Stagg.TASTING NOTES
Nose: Huge, sweet. Hard toffee, black cherry pie filling, sun tan lotion on hot skin, green fig, walnut/praline.
With water, out come ripe and overripe autumn fruits, coconut and chocolate. One could go on ..Palate: Powerful. Marzipan/amaretto, cherry liqueur. Balance struck between that fluxing mix of spice, oak, tingling alcohol and deep, deep richess.Finish: Long elegant with an anise/Peychaud bitters kick.Conclusion: A complete masterly package. Kneel before it and tremble at its power.WILLIAM LARUE WELLER
William Larue Weller is the Antique Collection’s uncut, unfiltered wheat recipe bourbon. The barrels were aged 12 years on the fifth floor of Warehouse M. This year’s William Larue Weller registers at 129.9 proof. At barrel strength you can really taste the wonderfully sweet, rich flavours of the wheat recipe.TASTING NOTES
Nose: Deep and mellow with cooked fruit sugars, stewed plum, a light (old) leather note, some oak, nutmeg and a pine needle lift.Palate: That classic Weller flow, allowing a slow revealing of flavour. It’s sweet but with just enough spicy grip to stop it becoming flabby. Damson jam and honey. A drop of water allows it to relax even more and brings out some maraschino. Light tobacco.Finish: Slow and gentle (sentimental?) Conclusion: A southern gent. Charm and elegance.THOMAS H. HANDY
The newest edition to the collection. Named after the New Orleans bartender who first used rye to make the Sazerac Cocktail. Aged eight years and five months on the eighth floor of Warehouse K with a proof of 132.7.TASTING NOTES
Nose: Smoky, toasty oak a hint of chestnut honey, crystallised ginger, then dried fruit and a light ferny touch. With water it changes becoming hugely intense and fragrant.Palate: Almost medicinal: wintergreen, menthol, ginger and lemon. A vegetal spiciness, dry oak. Sweetness and bitterness in perfect balance.Finish: Explosive, reminsicent of patchouli oil and sandalwood.Conclusion: Is this a homage to those legal ‘medicinal’ whiskeys produced during Prohibition? A rollercoaster. Do try!
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