September 10, 2013 – Just as the leaves start to turn colors, hunters gear up for deer season, and football fans scream at the referees…mid-September also means the annual release of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection range of whiskies. As in past years, the 2013 releases are  similar to — but still very unique from their predecessors.

The flagship whiskey in the Antique Collection is the George T. Stagg Bourbon, which will try to defend the 2012 edition’s World Whiskies Awards trophy as Best North American Whiskey. While still un-cut and un-filtered, the 2013 edition is slightly less strong than many of the previous Staggs, with an ABV of 64.1% (128.2 Proof), and was distilled in the spring of 1997. In  a news release, Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley attributed the lower strength of this year’s version to the spot in the warehouses where many of the barrels were matured.

“It just so happens this year, most of the barrels had been stored on lower floors.  The temperature remains cooler down low where it balances the mature flavors from the wood and in turn the proof climbs slowly from the entry proof.”  

While Stagg is expected to remain fairly scarce, it may be easier to find this year than in previous years. Buffalo Trace started laying down additional barrels in 1997 intended for future Stagg releases, and this year’s edition is the first under that program.

For the first time in recent years, the Stagg is only the third-strongest whiskey in the Antique Collection. The William Larue Weller wheated Bourbon is bottled at 68.2% ABV (136.2 Proof), and like the Stagg, is un-cut and un-filtered. It was distilled in the spring of 2001. The Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye is the youngster of the series, distilled in 2007 and bottled un-cut and un-filtered at 64.2% ABV (128.4 Proof).

The Antique Collection also includes the Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old straight Rye whiskey, which has won numerous awards in recent years. This year’s Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Bourbon was distilled in the spring of 1993, and is actually 19 years old.

The entire range is expected to be available at whisky specialist retailers by the end of September. Watch for Mark Gillespie’s tasting notes on all five whiskies in the coming weeks.

Links: Buffalo Trace