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I Tasted My Way Through Buffalo Trace’s Most Hyped Whiskey Collection

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It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Buffalo Trace Distillery

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Is there a more annual American whiskey release than the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection? Okay, you could probably make the argument that Pappy Van Winkle‘s yearly lineup still generates more buzz, but both releases come from the Buffalo Trace Distillery and BTAC represents the pinnacle of the brand’s portfolio.

Every year, the collection consists of five bottles. There are three bourbons — William Larue Weller, George T. Stagg and Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old — and two ryes — Sazerac 18-Year-Old and Thomas H. Handy Sazerac. All bottles are technically priced at $125, but are almost impossible to get a hold of at retail and sell for thousands on the secondary market.

But are the BTAC whiskeys really worth the crazy hype and massive price markups? These kinds of questions are asked a lot of the bourbon market these days (and the Scotch whisky market, too), and if you ask me, the best way to come up with an answer is to taste the whiskey and give an honest assessment of them. So that’s exactly what I did: Late last year, I tried all five whiskeys of the 2023 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

All whiskeys were sampled neat from a whiskey tasting glass. To learn more about our testing methodology and how we evaluate products, head here.

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection: What We Think

So … is it worth they hype? Given that the full collection is currently selling online for upwards of $13,000, I’m going to say no — it’s definitely not worth that. You can find other bourbon and rye whiskeys for far less that come close to the experience here, but the BTAC is still definitely the cream of the crop.

The biggest standouts here for me are the William Larue Weller and George T. Stagg bourbons, both of which are among the best whiskeys I’ve ever tasted and show how complex, easy-drinking and delicious high-proof whiskey can be.

The Eagle Rare 17 and Sazerac 18 come out in the middle of the pack — both are very good, but quite comparable to more affordable competitors … especially the Sazerac, which offers a similar luxury rye experience to some of WhistlePig’s more premium offerings. Bringing up the rear for me is the Thomas Handy Sazerac, which in my opinion came across as too harsh and unrefined to be grouped with the other bottles.

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

The most hyped annual release from the most hyped distillery, Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection consists of five bottles — three bourbons and two ryes — that showcase the full might of the distillery’s capabilities.


George T. Stagg Proof


Sazerac 18 Proof


William Larue Weller Proof


Thomas H. Handy Proof


Eagle Rare 17 Proof



Overall, this is some of the best bourbon and rye you can get

The William Larue Weller and George T. Stagg bourbons especially are standouts


Impossible to get and massively inflated prices on the secondary market

The Thomas H. Handy is a clear weak link

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Tasting Notes

Johnny Brayson

Proof: 124.9

Age: 6+ years

Nose: Surprisingly sweet and gentle, with dominant notes of caramel and vanilla.

Palate: Not like the nose at all, with nothing gentle about it. Buckets of rye spice, a bit of brown sugar and lots of heat on the lips, tongue and throat. You can taste the proof, that’s for sure.

Finish: Some spice sticks around, and that heat won’t let you forget it anytime soon.

Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old Whiskey Tasting Notes

Johnny Brayson

Proof: 90

Age: 18 years

Nose: Very soft and sweet, but not as sweet-smelling as the Thomas Handy. Licorice, rye spice and raspberries are all detectable to my nose.

Palate: A very refined rye and an easy sipper, bursting with rye flavor that’s had its harsher spiciness smoothed over. A touch of honey sweetness. Delightful.

Finish: Clean and creamy, unique for a rye.

George T. Stagg Bourbon Tasting Notes

Johnny Brayson

Proof: 135

Age: 15 years, 4 months

Nose: Quite astringent, which should be expected given the proof. Despite that, I’m able to pick up some sweet corn and vanilla.

Palate: Well, this certainly doesn’t go down like a 135-proof spirit. I mean, you can tell there’s a lot of alcohol here, but it goes down very, very easily. The taste is best described as sharp, but not in an unpleasant way: It’s more like an intense direct hit of caramel corn to your tongue.

Finish: There is a slight bitter aftertaste after the caramel corn punch, which acts as an aperitif and whets the appetite for another sip. Don’t mind if I do.

Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old Bourbon Tasting Notes

Johnny Brayson

Proof: 101

Age: 19 years, 3 months

Nose: Soft, woodsy and sweet. Maple and oak are most present.

Palate: Another intense flavor punch, but considerably different from the Stagg. A balance of maple sweetness and tannic bitterness, leaning more toward the latter with big, chewy oak flavor.

Finish: The finish is easily the most bitter of all the bottles, perhaps a tad too bitter for my taste but your mileage may vary. By no means offputting.

William Larue Weller Bourbon Tasting Notes

Johnny Brayson

Proof: 133.6

Age: 12 years

Nose: Creamy, cinnamon and honey. Quite dessert-like, with no astringency present despite the enormous ABV.

Palate: Absurdly creamy, smooth and delicious. It tastes similar to the nose, with lots of cinnamon and honey opening up a complex bouquet of flavors. I can’t quite identify all of them — there’s a lot going on — but I thoroughly enjoy whatever alchemy is happening in my mouth.

Finish: Quite hot, but only in the back of the throat while my tongue is left unmolested to continue enjoying the flavors for as long as possible.

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection