Whiskey Review: 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) is an annual release of five whiskeys (three bourbons and two ryes) that are among the most sought-after of any in the spirits world. Although they arrive in stores with an MSRP of under $100, they can almost never be found on the shelf at that price. Stores either reserve them for their best customers, sell them via online lottery, or slap a huge price tag on them. To buy them on the secondary market requires paying something on the order of $500 each.

But are they worth the hype? Assuming you’d be willing to shell out half a grand for a bottle of whiskey, are any of these the ones you should buy? To find out, I put my oh-so-refined palate to the task of tasting the BTAC. Here are my thoughts on this year’s offerings, in the order tasted.

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 45% ABV ($90)

It smells of marzipan, chocolate cake, and vanilla, with a little smoke hiding in the background. Surprisingly sweet. There is little of that on the palate, however. Although there is a burst of sweetness at first, it quickly turns very dry and oaky, with some harsh tannins on the short finish. I know as little about aging whiskey as I do about combing hair, but my instinct is that this spent a little too long in the barrel. I’m a fan of the regular Eagle Rare (aged for 10 years), but didn’t care much for this one.

Sazerac 18 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey, 45% ABV ($90)

This is some seriously old rye. Let’s see what all that age gets us. On the nose, I smell acetone, with sweetness underneath. Reminds me of maraschino cherries, the DayGlo red artificial kind. After it opens up some I start to get a very nice, warm caramel aroma. Not much in the way of spice. But that definitely comes once you sip it. No doubt this is a rye, even if it’s not as high a component of the mashbill as MGP uses. Trying to narrow it down a little further, I come up with allspice (like the flavor of Jamaican Pimento Dram) and stone fruit. It’s dry, but not overly so, and has a long finish. I bet this would make an outstanding Manhattan, which is how I would drink it if I had a full bottle.

Thomas Handy 6 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey, 63.6% ABV ($90)

If the Sazerac is a seriously old rye, the Handy is a seriously strong one. The aroma on this one is much more lively than the Sazerac and full of ethanol. Once you get past that, it smells like candied fruits and jam mixed with rye bread. Sadly, the palate can’t keep up. It reminds me of Phoenix: very hot and very dry. It’s less spicy than the Sazerac, less flavorful overall despite the proof. In muted tones, I detect baking spices, mostly clove and cinnamon, and chocolate. This is essentially impossible for me to drink straight and enjoy. I would have guessed the proof was even higher if I didn’t know what it is. With a little water, it’s tamed down, but given that the flavor isn’t exactly robust to begin with, it just fades away.

William Larue Weller 12 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 64.1% ABV ($90)

Given how much I enjoy the regular 12-year-old bottling of Weller bourbon, this was probably the whiskey I was looking forward to the most. The aroma was pretty typical of a wheated bourbon, a sweet, breakfast cereal scent like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Once I sipped it, though, the alarm bells start ringing. This bourbon is en fuego, with a finish that seems to last forever. It’s slightly sweet with some caramel and toffee. Maybe confectioner’s sugar. That taste lasts through the mid-palate, before turning dry and slightly astringent. I could have done without the astringency, but there’s still a lip-smacking quality to it. However, this is another whiskey that is, in my opinion, a challenge to drink neat. As I have no need to show off my masculine prowess, I add some water and find it quite pleasant. Given how much more you’re likely to pay for this than for a regular bottle of Weller 12, I’d have to say it’s probably not worth it. On the other hand, if you get a chance to try it, definitely do.

George T. Stagg 15 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 64.6% ABV ($90)

Last but certainly not least, the Granddaddy (never pappy) of them all. Assuming this doesn’t singe your nose hairs when you smell it — and it kinda does — you’ll get a snootful of wonderful aromas, including vanilla, molasses, even a little coconut. Take a drink (a small one) and you’ll find that its heat is tamer than you might expect, but the whiskey is bursting with flavor. It’s got elements of brown sugar, butterscotch, raisins or prunes, but then oak. Lots of oak and a very long finish. The oak is almost a little too much, but I forgive it. The Stagg has the richest mouthfeel — an almost creamy texture — of any of these whiskies, and it’s the one that I find to be the most enjoyable

I found my overall experience with the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection to be a mixed bag. I enjoyed some, not so much the others. But throughout the tasting, I found it hard to keep out of my mind what a sanctified collection this has become. (And what an expensive one.) There’s nothing wrong with any of that, of course. But for me at least, deifying a whiskey takes a little of the magic away.


Michter’s Announces First Bottling of 25 Year Bourbon Since 2008

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Michter’s Master Distiller Pamela Heilmann has approved the release of Michter’s 25 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon to the company’s distributor network for sale this November. The 2017 release marks the first bottling of Michter’s 25 Year Bourbon since 2008.

“I take the Michter’s ‘Dr. No’ position as the gatekeeper for releasing whiskey very seriously,” said Heilmann. “When I tasted this 25 Year Bourbon, I knew immediately it was perfectly aged.” Michter’s President Joseph J. Maglioccoobserved, “This whiskey has really matured beautifully. Sipping it is a magnificent experience.”

Michter’s has a rich and long legacy of offering traditional American whiskeys of uncompromising quality. With each of its limited production offerings aged to its peak maturity, Michter’s highly acclaimed portfolio includes bourbon, rye, and American whiskey.

The proof of this 2017 release is 116.2, and the suggested U.S. retail price for a 750ml bottle is $800. For more information, please visit, and follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

Michters 25 Year Old Bourbon


Buffalo Trace Distillery Releases 2017 Antique Collection Whiskeys

Here is the press release, straight from the barrel’s mouth:

FRANKFORT, FRANKLIN COUNTY, KY (Sept. 19, 2017) Whiskey lovers rejoice, Buffalo Trace Distillery is releasing its 2017 Antique Collection. The highly anticipated collection will once again feature five limited-release whiskeys of various ages, recipes and proofs. Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley notes, “The team had another great year with the Antique Collection.  From distillation, to barrel selection, to bottling, this year’s collection showed very well.  I was particularly excited about the William Larue Weller with its extra richness, and the Eagle Rare 17 seemed more rounded and full of flavor.  None of these disappointed.”

(Note from Professor Cocktail: For addition information on the individual bottles, please visit my post on the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.)

Here’s what fans can expect this year:

George T. Stagg

The powerhouse favorite of the Antique Collection, George T. Stagg weighs in at 129.2 proof this year.  Past releases of this uncut and unfiltered bourbon have won many top awards, including “5 Stars – Highest Recommendation” by F. Paul Pacult’s The Spirit Journal. This year’s release contains bourbon from barrels filled in the spring of 2002. This batch contained 309 barrels, a few more than last year.  Storage location of these barrels varied across warehouses C, K, M and Q.  This whiskey tastes of expresso, chocolate fudge and tobacco.

William Larue Weller

The Antique Collection’s uncut, unfiltered, wheated recipe bourbon is William Larue Weller. Previous editions of this wheater have won many accolades, including a Double Gold Medal at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and “Bourbon of the Year” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2017.  The 2017 offering was distilled in the winter of 2005 and aged in Warehouses D, I, and P.  This bourbon registers in at 128.2 proof.  The bold flavors include toffee, marshmallow and leather.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye

Thomas H. Handy is the uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey. Previous editions of this whiskey have been named “World Whisky of the Year” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible and “World’s Best American Whiskey” by Whisky Magazine.  This year’s Handy was distilled in the spring of 2011; aged on the third, fourth and fifth floors of Warehouses K, L, and Q, and weighs in at 127.2 proof.  The flavor is described as fig, allspice and cinnamon.

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old

The previous edition of this bourbon was honored with a Silver Outstanding Medal at the 2017 International Wine and Spirits Competition. The 2017 edition has been aging on the first, second and third floors of Warehouses C, K and P.  This 90 proof bourbon was aged for seventeen years and tastes of oak, tobacco, toffee and vanilla.

Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old

Last year Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old received “4 Stars – Highly Recommended” by F. Paul Pacult’s The Spirit Journal.  This 2017 straight rye whiskey release has notable flavors of leather, clove and all-spice.  The barrels for this whiskey were filled in the spring of 1998, and then put into a stainless steel tank in 2016 to stop further aging and evaporation.

The Antique Collection was introduced more than a decade ago and has become a cult favorite among whiskey connoisseurs. Since 2000 these whiskeys have garnered numerous awards from such notable publications as Whisky Advocate Magazine, Spirit Journal, and Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

The 2017 Antique Collection whiskeys will be available in limited quantities this October.  Suggested retail price is $90 per bottle.  For more information visit

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection


The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2017 Is Coming

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) 2017 edition is coming.

Fall is the time of year when rare and awesome American whiskey is released … and none of us are able to find any of it in stores. But someone is going to be lucky and find a bottle. So find that person and make friends with them.

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

I’m going to have more details coming soon, but in the meantime, here is some additional information on the individual bottles.

George T. Stagg Bourbon Whiskey, 129.2 Proof, 15 Years and 3 Months Old

2017 George T. Stagg

Sazerac Rye Whiskey, 90 Proof, 18 Years Old

2017 Sazerac Rye 18 Year-Old

William Larue Weller Bourbon Whiskey, 128.2 Proof, 12 Years and 6 Months Old

2017 William Larue Weller

Eagle Rare Bourbon Whiskey, 90 Proof, 17 Years Old

2017 Eagle Rare 17 Year-Old

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye Whiskey, 127.2 Proof, 6 Years and 5 Months Old

2017 Thomas H. Handy Sazerac


10 Whiskies Everyone Should Own

whisky recommended best

The folks over at Whisky Advocate magazine have put together a list of their “10 Essential Whiskies Everyone Should Own (And Why).” I love whiskey and I love lists, so I was delighted to read it.

I’m going to list their selections below along with my own commentary. The article is worth clicking through to see their thoughts — it’s a very quick read.

1. A Versatile Mixer: Jameson
Every bar needs some Jameson. I only ever use it for Irish Coffees, but it’s the perfect whiskey for them, in my opinion.

2. The Quintessential Blend: Chivas Regal 18 year old
I’ve never really explored the world of blended Scotch, so I’ve never had this. But Chivas is very highly regarded in the industry.

3. A Dependable Straight Bourbon: Evan Williams Single Barrel
A staple of the bourbon world, this is as reliable as Old Faithful. Which is why I included it in my recent Good Bourbon You Can Afford (and Actually Find) post.

4. A My-Oh-My Rye: High West Rendezvous Rye
I’m a big fan of High West ryes. They are very gifted in the art of blending. This one has long been on my list to try, but haven’t done so yet. But their Double Rye is a staple in my house.

5. A Dram with Universal Appeal: Highland Park 12 year old
One of the legendary Scottish distilleries, this one makes most lists of the best. I haven’t had it in years and really need to revisit it.

6. The Power of the Pot Still: Green Spot
Pot still Irish whiskey has grown increasingly popular in recent years. (Redbreast is probably the better known one.) I have a bottle of Green Spot hidden in a box somewhere, so have not tried it.

7. A Guileful Persuader: Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or
Glenmorangie doesn’t get the attention that the better known “Glens” do, but it’s a top-notch distillery. This whisky is finished in sauternes casks before bottling, given the spirit a slight honeyed sweetness to go along with all the malty goodness.

8. A Japanese Grand Master: Yamazaki 18 year old
If you can find it, this is a $400-500 bottle of whisky. I have not had the pleasure of tasting it. But the 12-year-old version is wonderful, so I assume this is a real delight.

9. A Smokin’ Good Islay: Lagavulin 16 year old
I have been slowing coming around on the topic of peated whisky. It’s definitely one of those flavors that takes some getting used to in my experience. I have not yet tried this one, but it’s on my list.

10. A Trophy Whisky: Glenfarclas 40 year old
“Trophy Whisky” is right. A bottle of this will run you close to a grand. I would never spend that much on a whisky, but if you would, please share.


Sazerac’s Tennessee Whiskey Distillery Begins Operations

On July 5, 2017, at a yet-to-be-named distillery in Newport, Tennessee, Sazerac launched a new chapter in the history of this storied company. Master Distiller John Lunn and Distiller Allisa Henley filled the distillery’s first barrels with new-make Tennessee Whiskey.

Nobody’s going to be drinking this whiskey for years. (How long has yet to be decided.) And it doesn’t even have a name yet. But given the Sazerac company’s reputation for excellence, we can expect that good things will happen.

sazerac tennessee whiskey distillery


Good Bourbon You Can Afford (and Actually Find)

glass of bourbon whiskey

We’ve all heard of the great bourbons that exist somewhere, even if we’ve never seen or tasted them. Pappy Van Winkle, George T. Stagg, Parker’s Heritage, and A.H. Hirsch Reserve are just a few. The problem is you’ll never see them on the shelves of your local liquor store. And if by some miracle you did actually find them, you probably wouldn’t want to pay the price tag.

But fear not! Despite everything you might have heard or read about bourbon shortages, strict allocations, and skyrocketing prices, there are still plenty of top-quality whiskeys that can be found without too much trouble and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

These aren’t bargain bourbons, per se. They’re reasonably priced, but aren’t the cheapest, and they generally come from a slightly higher spot on the quality scale.

If you’re more interested in getting good booze for cheap, I’d recommend trying bourbons such as Very Old Barton, Benchmark, Evan Williams Black, Old Grand Dad, and Jim Beam Black. Each of them can usually be had for under $20. They might not be as good as these, but I think you’ll find them quite acceptable.

On the other hand, if you want to drink some really fine whiskey, here are some suggestions that I enjoy.

 eagle rare bourbon whiskey Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Bourbon ($30-$40)

Made by Buffalo Trace, this still has an age statement and remains a fine bourbon no matter the price. This is made with a “low-rye” mashbill and is an excellent balance of sweet and spice.

makers mark bourbon whiskey Maker’s Mark Bourbon ($25-$30)

A wheated bourbon — just like Pappy! — that you can always find and always enjoy. Maker’s is a shining example of Kentucky distilling excellence on proud display. There are few spirits in the world that reflect such a high level of craftsmanship as this. (The cask-strength version is a more expensive, but even better.)

 1792 small batch kentucky straight bourbon whiskey 1792 Small Batch Bourbon ($25-$35)

This brand, from Sazerac’s Barton distillery, seemed to fly under the radar for a long time. But with the new variations they’ve been producing (full proof, sweet wheat, etc.), it’s suddenly become a hot brand. You probably won’t be able to find those other labels. But that’s okay because the regular expression is very good, too.

 weller bourbon whiskey W.L. Weller Special Reserve Bourbon ($30-$40)

You’re unlikely to find the 12-year-old Weller for a reasonable price, but the Special Reserve (90 proof) and Antique (107 proof) can often be found, especially the former. Weller is one of the original wheated bourbons and if you’re craving Van Winkle, this is probably the next best thing.

knob creek bourbon whiskey Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon ($30-$35)

Another old standby from Beam, this is a high quality whiskey at a good price. With nine years in wood and a full 100 proof, Knob Creek packs a wallop, both in alcohol and flavor. If people say there are no good, affordable bourbons around, hand them a bottle of this and see if you can’t change their mind.

evan williams single barrel bourbon whiskey  Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon ($25-$35)

One of the best ongoing releases in the bourbon world, these annual single-barrel picks from Heaven Hill never disappoint.

four roses small batch bourbon whiskey  Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon ($30-$35)

Despite not producing a whiskey with a Pappy-level cult following, Four Roses is one of the most popular distilleries with bourbon conniseurs. The reason is no surprise: they made damn good bourbon.

 henry mckenna single barrel bourbon whiskey  Henry McKenna Single Barrel ($30-$40)

This is probably the least well-known bourbon on this list, but it’s also one of the best. A single-barrel, bottled-in-bond whiskey from Heaven Hill for around $35? Yes, please!

There you have it. Good whiskey at good prices, and any halfway decent liquor store should have several of them on the shelf. So drink up! The good folks of Kentucky are hard at work making more.


New Whiskey: Hirsch 8 Year Old High Rye Bourbon

Here’s a press release from Anchor Distilling that I thought might be of interest to whiskey fans. They’re releasing a blend of high-rye bourbons from MGP under the Hirsch label. You might ask: do we need another MGP whiskey on the market? To which I say: the more the merrier. Especially when it’s a bourbon and not a rye.

hirsch high rye bourbon whiskey


The story of American whiskey is not complete without mention of A.H. Hirsch and A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old, widely considered the best American bourbon ever produced – even inspiring revered whiskey expert Chuck Cowdery to write the book, The Best Bourbon You’ll Never Taste. The True Story of A. H. Hirsch Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Distilled in the Spring of 1974 (Made and Bottled in Kentucky; May 2, 2012). Today, Anchor Distilling Company seeks to keep the legend alive through a range of sourced whiskies inspired by the Hirsch heritage. Following the sold-out introduction in 2016 of the Hirsch Small Batch Reserve Straight Bourbon, of which F. Paul Pacult, Spirit Journal, said, “I’d give it a solid Four Stars,” Anchor now introduces Hirsch Small Batch 8 Year Old High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey (46% ABV; $52 SRP).

A.H. Hirsch was an investment banker that invested in the Schaefferstown Distillery in the decades leading up to its shutdown in 1989 in an effort to keep it operational. The distillery was a historic landmark for American whiskey in operation for more than two centuries, and while it would eventually close, his contribution would ultimately result in the legendary A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old.

The newly released Hirsch Small Batch 8 Year Old High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey marries together two mash bills – one with 21% rye and another with 36% rye, resulting in a high rye content that adds spiced character while balancing the sweet notes of corn sourced from Indiana and Ohio. The oak barrels are a #4 char around the base and a #2 char at the head; the whiskey is barreled at 60% ABV.

“This is a whiskey that is punching far above its weight,” says Morgan Robbat, Vice President of Marketing at Anchor Distilling. “With a high rye content that makes it ideal for American whiskey fans as well as craft cocktail enthusiasts, this 8 Year Old expression over delivers on quality – as you’d expect given the Hirsch heritage.”

Hirsch Small Batch 8 Year Old High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey is distilled in Lawrenceburg, IN. For more information, visit or email


Celebrate the Holidays with Nick Offerman and Lagavulin Whisky

lagavulin scotch whisky

Don’t be lonely or cold (or thirsty!) this holiday season. Let Nick Offerman and Lagavulin warm you up with a little whisky and a crackling yule fire. Here’s the video in all its 45-minute glory.

But that’s not all! You don’t have to settle for just one helping of Nick and Scotch. Because he’s got you covered with your New Year’s Eve countdown as well!

I don’t know about you, but I find these highly amusing. Kudos the Lagavulin and whomever produced the spots.


Rye Whiskey Tasting from the New York Times

The New York Times recently convened a panel of experts to taste several rye whiskies. If you’re a fan of Professor Cocktail’s, you’ll know we’re rye lovers around here. So we were interested to see the results.

The tasting panel consisted of Eric Asimov, David Wondrich, Robert Samuelson, and Florench Fabricant. I think we can rest assured that this quartet knows their whiskey very well.

The article includes a lot of interesting background on rye whiskey and what’s happening with the category these days. So I highly recommend reading it.

Here were their favorites. (They mention several others as well.)

#1: Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey 100 Proof (3 stars)
#2: Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye 90 Proof (3 stars)
#3: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Rye 90.4 Proof (3 stars)
#4: New York Distilling Company Ragtime Rye 90.4 Proof (3 stars)
#5: Michter’s U.S. 1 Straight Rye 84.8 Proof (2.5 stars)

The only two I have tried are the Knob Creek and the Michter’s. I liked both of them, but I don’t think either would be in my top five.

rye whiskey tasting best