Baseball fans have opening day, but what do whiskey drinkers have to look forward to all year? If you're talking bourbon and rye, it's the annual release of the Antique Collection from Kentucky's Buffalo Trace Distillery.
According to John Hansell, publisher and editor of Malt Advocate--think Wine Spectator for the whiskey crowd--this year's antique collection has now been bottled, and will be going into distribution later this month. The collection consists of five whiskies--three bourbons and two ryes--and if this year's demand is anything like that seen with previous releases, the bottles should be snapped up in a matter of weeks.
Why is this such a big deal? The short answer: Buffalo Trace is making quite possibly the finest American whiskies available today (earlier this year, the company was selected as Distiller of the Year by Whisky magazine). For the longer answer, look at what's about to be released: the 17-year-old Eagle Rare bourbon (Hansell notes the whiskey is actually 19 years old); the smooth and mellow 10-year-old wheated William Larue Weller bourbon, uncut and unfiltered; and the true bourbon blockbuster, the 15-year-old George T. Stagg, bottled straight out of the barrel at a muscular 144.8 proof. The Antique Collection's ryes are also spectacular: the Sazerac 18-year-old rye has long been considered the standard bearer for fine, aged rye whiskies; and last year Buffalo Trace added a new selection to the collection, the rich and luscious Thomas H. Handy Sazerac rye, aged more than six years and bottled at barrel proof.
Spirits aficionados have been known to dismiss American whiskies in favor of those from Scotland, but Buffalo Trace is proving that bourbons and ryes can be as nuanced and spectacular in a glass as any Islay malt. Try to track down a bottle during the brief window of availability; these whiskies won't be around nearly as long as baseball season.
About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.