Another year, another chance to hunt for bottles in the antique collection (photo courtesy of the distillery).

Christmas comes early for whiskey lovers when Buffalo Trace Distillery unveils its Antique Collection in late October. A package concept conceived more than two decades ago, the annual release always generates plenty of buzz and anticipation.

This year’s collection assembles an impressive roster of products that includes a William Larue Weller, a Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, a 17-year-old Eagle Rare, and an 18-year old Sazerac Rye. There was to have been an uncut, unfiltered 15-year George T. Stagg; it got cut due to unexpected quality control issues.

“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,” said Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley. “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.” 

On the bright side, the Stagg barrels that were put up in 2007 are still on track for release as part of next year’s collection. Fans shouldn’t feel slighted in the least, as the 2021 lineup still shines bright.

The ryes are really the stars of the show, particularly the uncut, unfiltered Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, surprisingly smooth at 129.5 proof with lingering notes of chocolate mint. The Sazerac Rye makes a bold first impression, easing into the suggestion of toasty maple syrup pancakes, rich dates, and apple pie.

With a splash of water or an ice cube, the 125.3 proof wheated William Larue Weller makes for an extremely pleasant nightcap or after-dinner sip, hinting at dessert flavors of cherry, caramel, and graham cracker. And the Eagle Rare is ideal to serve at Thanksgiving; its profile leans toward creamy vanilla, oak, and warming spice.

The Buffalo Trace 2021 Antique Collection whiskeys will be available starting in late October at $99 each and, as always, quantities are limited. Good hunting!