The 2021 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Breakdown, Sans Stagg

The 2021 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Courtesy Photo.

The competition for a bottle of Buffalo Trace Antique Collection just got a little tougher – for the first time since 2002, Buffalo Trace won’t be releasing George T. Stagg.

The distillery is as disappointed as we are, but for Buffalo Trace, quality comes first.

“Before any barrel can be dumped and bottled, it goes through rigorous testing procedures numerous times to ensure it is meeting the quality standards set forth for that brand,” said Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley in a press release.  “Unfortunately, this crop of barrels earmarked to be Stagg back when it was put in the barrel in 2006 did not meet the Stagg profile today. We discussed at great length how to proceed, and ultimately decided we did not feel right about lowering our standards or the age, by dipping into next year’s supply of barrels. We know fans will be disappointed, as are we, but we could not release a bourbon that we did not feel was up to par with the flavor profile expected of George T. Stagg.” 

“Quality is always paramount for our products,” said Drew Mayville, master blender, director of quality in a press release. “If the taste doesn’t match our expectations, then we will not release it to our customers. And unfortunately, this year’s yield of Stagg did not meet our expectations. Good news is, we’ll have the barrels we put up in 2007, which are on track so far for a 2022 release, barring anything unforeseen changes.” 

In more good news, four fantastic expressions are on track to arrive later this month. Our big takeaway? An Eagle Rare a year older than usual. Read on for details about each.

William Larue Weller 

The Antique Collection’s only wheated recipe bourbon, William Larue Weller, clocks in at 12 years and an uncut and unfiltered 125.3 proof, distilled in the winter of 2009 and aged in Warehouses C, D, K, L and Q. The distillery tells us to expect a “nose of crème brûlée, followed by cherry and toasted graham crackers on the palate and a long rich finish of coca, herbs and oak.”

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye

This year’s uncut and unfiltered Thomas H. Handy was distilled in the spring of 2015, aged 6 years in warehouses I, L, O, and K, and bottled at 129.5 proof. “The flavor profile includes anise and cinnamon with a rich finish of spearmint and chocolate,” says the distillery.

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old

The distillery tells us that year’s Eagle Rare was distilled in Spring of 2002 2003 and aged on the first floor of Warehouse P before being bottled at 101 proof. While the distillery hasn’t responded yet to questions about whether this means we are seeing an Eagle Rare 19-Year, simple math tells us that this one may be a few years older than average. Of course, the barrels could have been aged to perfection and then tanked in 2019 to be released this year – but we’ll keep you posted when we hear more. They note a “nose of ripe cherries, vanilla cream and oak, followed by a taste of caramel and coffee and a long finish of oak, pepper and fresh herbs.”

EDIT 12:11 PM: The distillery has confirmed a typo in their initial press release, with this year’s Eagle Rare 17 Year Old being distilled in 2003. This means we are getting an extra year of age for an 18-year Eagle Rare, but not the 19 year we originally calculated.

Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old

The 2021 Sazerac rye was barreled in the spring of 2003 and aged on the second and fourth floors of Warehouses K and P, then bottled at 90 proof. We’re told to look for “notable flavors of bright apples and herbs, anise and maple syrup on the palate and a finish of cocoa, coffee and dates.”

The suggested retail price of each expression holds steady at $99, but as usual, we expect to see them priced much higher on secondary markets. Happy hunting!

Caroline Paulus
Caroline Paulus is the Senior Editor for The Bourbon Review. She lives and writes in Lexington, Kentucky. Follow her on Instagram @misswhiskeyhistorian to keep up with her latest in bourbon news - and a few old finds, too.