If you like whiskey, even in the slightest bit, you would probably have to be living under a rock to not have heard of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection or "BTAC" for short. Released annually, these limited run bottles are each a unicorn in their own right and highly sought after by Bourboneurs the world over. Each bottling represents the best of the best in terms of the Buffalo Trace's varied mash bills. Consider them the premium version of many of the distillery's core offerings. Below we outline five things that you probably didn't know about these coveted bottles of brownwater.
As sought after and prized as the BTAC lineup is, even more esteemed and valuable to many Bourboneurs are any of the Pappy's from the famous Pappy Van Winkle line of bourbons. What many don't realize is that Buffalo Trace only uses a single mash bill for its wheated lineup. Explore the Buffalo Trace mash bills in our post Mash Bill for Bourbon. What that means is that both the Weller Bourbon line and Pappy share the same DNA, just aged and blended in different ways.
A Buffalo Trace fan according to Chief Executive Officer of the distillery Mark Brown put forward the original idea for a premium, unfiltered, barrel-strength bourbon. An idea which first materialized in 2002 with the initial release of George T. Stagg, named in honorarium of the former distillery owner. Stagg Jr., now just "Stagg" is a spin off from this concept given the popularity.
There's a fair bit of interesting nuance to the BTAC lineup, such as how the 2015 botting of the 18-Year-Old Sazerac Rye was the end of "The Steel Tank Batch" and an era that many have no knowledge of; if you're curiosity is peeked, we have a whole post on the History of Sazerac. As each bottling is unfiltered and cask strength, there's typically a number of other subtle differences in proof and character. Some years are just better than others...but let's be honest, even the worst years aren't exactly terrible.
In 2000 the Antique Collection officially was born and at the time it was only three bottles: Sazerac 18-Year-Old, Eagle Rare 17 and William Larue Weller, a 19-year expression. The current form of the lineup didn't take shape until 2006. It's not always been a five-bottle lineup either, take for example just last year, there was no George T. Stagg because of quality issues. There was also one year when there were three releases of George T. Stagg. If only that were an every year occurrence!
When the Sazerac cocktail was first conceived, it drew its name from Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils, a cognac, which later was substituted in the late 19th century with rye whiskey when the phylloxera epidemic in Europe devastated the vineyards in France. Phylloxera is a microscopic insect native to North America that was introduced to Europe by English botanists who collected specimens of American grape vines and brought back, harboring the non-native pest which European grapes had no historic exposure or resistance to. As it's told Thomas H. Handy who owned the Sazerac House, which was a New Orleans coffee house, bar and lounge made the decision to swap cognac for rye given the shortages of the time. This innovative move earned him a place in the history books as well as emblazoned on the Thomas H. Handy uncut, unfiltered rye whiskey bottle.
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