I’m pretty damn lucky to have had these.
Let’s not kid around here: The current state of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is insanity. Prices aren’t going up, lines are getting longer and longer, and people are flipping these for small reliable if gently used automobiles.
So right off the bat, yes. I’m lucky. I’m reviewing two BTAC, which I say as “Bee-Tac” just to be an ass, and also because I’m a Millennial, so every Inialism must be an Acronym.
But are these worth the price of selling your parent’s kidneys? Especially during a time where we’re on our third once-in-a-lifetime recession and you may be asking yourself “can it be as good as the paid reviewers say it is?”
I mean, people accuse me of being a shill all the time, so may as well throw my hat in, albeit two or three years late. You know, for you people who frequent the auctions and spread US dollar bills in front of you as you walk less your feet get dirty.
Enough jibber-jabber! We have a 12-year-old wheater at cask strength and a 6-year-old Rye at cask strength. Both are well known, both have accolades, and both should be drank and enjoyed instead of traded by the 20th century version of Tulip traders.
So let’s see how they taste, shall we?
Thanks to /u/devoz for pouring these for me.
William Larue Weller (2018)
Price: A few of your children
Vintage: Winter 2006
Bottled: Fall 2018
No. of Bottles: 17,179
Colour: 10R 4/10
Nose: Strawberry, sawdust, treacle, cardamon, thyme, peach pie, vanilla
Big fruit notes, though that’s not all. I was drawn and quartered by a commenter a few years ago for mentioning that I wasn’t a fan of a past WLW due to the fact it was mostly red fruit.
This is different: I’m getting more spice, more nuance in the acidity, some butter, and some oak driven notes. In other words, this is complex, and the previous one was less so.
Taste: Cherry syrup, cinnamon, heat, molasses, white people fruit tea
Again, we’re getting a strong, initial cherry note, but then spice and heat (though not too much to overpower), strong molasses and with water a very complex tannic/fruity note. Which I, as someone so white I’m basically see-through, would recognize as tea that’ll make your Asian grandfather disown you and your white yuppie mom happy as the day before she was pregnant with you.
Unpack that, psychiatrists.
Finish: Oak, apple, cherry, cocoa, molasses, buckwheat honey, thyme, brine, meaty, melon
Backs off the cherry on the finish, though it’s still there, along with a ton of different flavours. Still very sweet and floral, while also having a bittersweet note, herbal aspects, some salt, some meat…
Suffice to say when I feel terrible for writing this many notes, it’s a good time. I just can’t explain it, this is really, really complex.
Conclusion: Super beautiful cherry and complexity. Opens up well, takes a step up from previous years’ releases, and evokes a good balance of what WLW should offer.
Take a fruit note that isn’t from a sherry cask, and I’m impressed. Take 12 years in virgin oak and don’t overwhelm me with coconut, vanilla, or oak itself? More impressed. Give me flavours that are beyond the “norm” for bourbon? Triple impressed. Do all of that? Forget about it, this is good.
It’s worth the dram for a special occasion. Heck, if you’re doing well, may even be worth a bottle if you can get one without having to live in the gutter. The price is insane, the whiskey is really good.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye 2017
Price: A lot, just… fuck, it’s a lot.
Vintage: Spring 2011
Bottled: Fall 2017
Age: 6 Years
Cask Type: Charred American White Oak Barrels
Colour: 10R 2/4
Nose: Cinnamon, violet, brown sugar, vanilla
Spicy. Very spicy. Needs to sit for a bit to really get the most out of it. Some floral, and some cask influence, but this is coming off as more of a spicy/floral rye. No orange or dill in sight.
Taste: Brown sugar, heat, baking spices, orange, tropical syrup
Wow that’s a hot one. Again, you need to go slowly with this. My father (the glass with the ice, don’t judge, just drink how you want to drink) drank a bit too quickly, and only got the heat/baking spices.
With time, and hell, more time, you get a tropical/orange aspect. So I spoke too soon above. And oddly no floral.
Finish: Linen, orange, rye bread/pretzel, lemon peel
Long, and we have all the elements of a good rye: Spice, bread, orange, and linen. Like a good bed and breakfast, but in liquid form and with enough alcohol to kill your parakeet twice over.
Still very hot, even with the aforementioned time it needs. This is a strong one.
Conclusion: All the spices, but hoped for a bit more. The other elements don’t really come into their own until the cracking finish. If anything the heat dominates for a lot of the experience.
It really does just need to sit in the glass to be the best whiskey it can be, and even then falls a tad short compared to other THH that are out there. Should you immediately sell yours and buy a 98 Civic? Well only if you need a reliable vehicle to travel small distances. It’s still a really, really impressive young, almost very complex rye. It’s still nice to drink.
It won’t get you to work reliably, but it’s nice, so I’d say drink it and stop staring at it on your mantle.
Bourbon review #265-6, Kentucky review #171-2, Whiskey Network review #1994-5