Flight: 2013 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Part 2 Sazerac

After Thomas H. Handy's death in 1893, the Sazerac name lived on. Over the years it grew and eventually moved to larger locations. During prohibition the Sazerac House closed and ownership changed to Christopher O'Reilly, Handy's former secretary. He changed the name to the Sazerac Company, which it's still known as today. It was Handy's hard work and dedication who laid the foundation and is "generally seen as the father of the company."

 

In 1933 the Sazerac Company developed and marketed a "bottled" Sazerac Cocktail. In 1940 it acquired the J. M. Legendre Co. and the rights to Herbsaint, America's original Absinthe. The official Sazerac cocktail recipe was modified to use Herbsaint as the absinthe. This acquisition was a sign of what was to come.

 

In 1948 The Sazerac Company was acquired by its present family owners - The Goldring family. Over the years, the business expanded to include tequila, scotch, vodka. In 1989, the Sazerac Company acquired 7 brands from Seagram and 3 years later purchased the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

In 1999, it acquired W. L. Weller and Old Charter bourbons; completed renovation of Buffalo Trace Distillery and launched Buffalo Trace bourbon. Finally in 2000, the Official Sazerac Cocktail recipe was modified to use Sazerac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey - or - Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. [5]

 

The 2013 bottle of Sazerac for this year’s Antique Collection is no different than the year before it and even the year before that. This rye was put into barrels in 1985. It was removed from the barrels in 2003 and put into stainless steel tanks to prevent further aging. Since then, Buffalo Trace has been drawing down from this supply while waiting for more to come of age.

 

Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to find a bottle of Sazerac? Our calculations estimate that only 4,360 bottles were released to the market this year. It’s possible that supply is dwindling as new stock continues to need more time to age. This is probably why so few bottles of Sazerac hit the market this year.

Tasting Notes  Fact Sheet

Nose: Almost perfect. Vanilla, citrus, and cinnamon take the forefront with a hint of old wood on the back end. There is no burn. If it tastes as good as it smells we’re in for an epic pour. This is one of the best smelling whiskeys I’ve ever had. Typically I’m done sniffing after the initial few noses then on to sipping. This one is so layered in complexity and delightful it actually enhances each sip to take a sniff first.

 

Palate: Much less spicy than would be expected for a rye. Dry and sweet, with an amazing balance. Just like the nose there is little if any burn here. Vanilla, maple, and citrus lightly mingle together, with no single element overpowering another. Smokey wood enters towards the end but does not overpower the other flavors as you might anticipate from 18 long years in a barrel. Maybe it’s the age or maybe it’s just low on rye in the mashbill, either way this does not have that kick you get with most ryes.

 

Finish: One of the longest and most complex finishes of any whiskey I’ve had. Outstanding. It ends as amazingly as it starts, as perfectly balanced wood, fruit, and spice linger for minutes after the sip. It fades away elegantly maintaining balance even as the flavors dissipate over time. Wood is more evident here than the nose or palate, but still perfectly balanced.

 

Time of distillation

Release

Proof for release

Proof off still

Barrel entry proof

Barrel size

Warehouse

Floor

Evaporation Loss

Barrel selection

Filtration

Product age

# bottles produced (est)

Spring of 1985

Fall of 2013

90.0 Proof

135 Proof

125 Proof

53 liquid gallons

Warehouse K

Not indicated

58.21% lost to evaporation

27 hand-picked barrels

Chill

18 years old at bottling

4,360

# barrels

% yield

max # bottles/barrel (267.5)

barrel proof (est if necessary) bottled proof

27

41.79%

267.5

130

90

Eagle Rare

This brand was originally introduced in 1975 as a 101 proof 10 year expression from Seagram’s master distiller Charles L. Beam. Many say it was Seagram's answer to the very popular Wild Turkey 101. This is among the last of the bourbons produced prior to bourbon’s small-batch period.

 

The Sazerac Company purchased Seagram in March 1989 and acquired Eagle Rare (and Benchmark) in the deal. In 1992, the Sazerac Company bought George T. Stagg Distillery, which is now known as the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Over the last 10 years, Buffalo Trace has released two varieties of Eagle Rare. One is aged for 10 years at 90 proof and is a single barrel expression. The Antique Collection edition is also 90 proof but aged 17 years.

 

The 2013 Antique Collection edition of Eagle Rare has a few interesting factoids. First, although the label states it’s a 17 year old bourbon, it is in fact 19 years old. Second, only 25 barrels were selected for this release. It saw a 54.7% loss to evaporation and resulted in by our estimates, only 4,376 bottles making their way to the market. Eagle Rare indeed.

Tasting Notes  Fact Sheet

Nose: Mellow. Nothing smacks you as being overpowering. Hints of vanilla and cherries. Near the back end: oak and almond develops. It begins to open up with time, almost like a fine wine.

 

Palate: Mellow again. It seems like every other new bourbon on the market today is over 100 proof. At 90 proof, Eagle Rare 17 comes off as an easy drinker. It’s profile is very rounded. Its age (19 years) does provide some oak backbone, yet comes no where near overpowering any of the flavors. Those flavors include some minor vanilla notes, caramel, cereal, black pepper and even some raisins.

 

Finish: 19 year old bourbon. Taste that oak? For a bourbon this old, the oak rounds out the flavor profile more than it dominates it. Some of this may have to do with the 90 proof point, but even then much more would come through. This is a carefully aged bourbon that puts a premium on balance.

 

Time of distillation

Release

Proof for release

Proof off still

Barrel entry proof

Barrel size

Warehouse

Floor

Evaporation Loss

Barrel selection

Filtration

Product age

# bottles produced (est)

# barrels

% yield

max # bottles/barrel (267.5)

barrel proof (est if necessary) bottled proof

Spring of 1993

Spring of 2013

90.0 Proof

135 Proof

125 Proof

53 liquid gallons

Warehouses I & K

2nd, 3rd & 6th

54.7% lost to evaporation

25 barrels selected by taste

Chill

19 years at bottling

4,376

25

45.30%

267.5

130

90

Conclusion

As you can see, Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection is all about the different people, companies and rich history that formed Buffalo Trace. They represent the best-of-the-best expression from the company's premium brands. The best barrels are hand picked by their master distillers and put towards these bottles. Each expression in the collection is unique and provides a snapshot of how different whiskeys can be from each other.

 

George T. Stagg - Delicious nose with a bold body to back it up.

William Larue Weller - Bold, Flavorful, Interesting, Fun

Thomas H. Handy - Bold, Rich, Spicy, Fruity

Sazerac - Epic nose and finish, balanced throughout but subtle in all regards

Eagle Rare - Well-rounded, Mellow, Oaky, gimmick-free

At a retail price of $70.00, the Antique Collection is spot on. There isn’t a bottle on the market cheaper than these that can touch their quality and value. Sophisticated, layered, flavorful and balance all artfully describe the bottles in this collection. These are the cream of the crop, not only for Buffalo Trace’s products, but for the majority of U.S. whiskeys on the market. The Antique Collection is worth the search, your money and your time. This is quality in a bottle.

 

-EH Reviewed:  4/2014

Full Bottle Reviews
Photo Gallery

[1] - https://www.buffalotracedistillery.com/craftsmen/stagg

[2] - Liquor Store Magazine, Feb., 1970

[3] - https://www.buffalotracedistillery.com/craftsmen/weller

[4] - http://ardentspirits.com/blogs/database/archive/2009/11/27/bartender-s-attic-peychaud-s-bitters-and-the-sazerac-cocktail-a-timeline.aspx

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