This is the 2015 release of the Thomas H Handy rye. It’s an NAS expression that is assumed to be around 6 years old, and it’s bottled at 63.45% ABV.
Nose: Warm, buttery rye bread heavy on the yeast notes. Cocoa powder/rich fudge with butterscotch notes.
Palate: Bold rye with peppery oak, tobacco, vanilla, fresh mint, and chocolate covered cherries.
Finish: Heat is quite strong on finish and washes out some of the notes except dry oak and fresh ground rye grains.
Rating: 90/100 – Typically one of my favorite of the BTAC releases as it really is close to the sweet spot for me in the age of rye whiskies I prefer.
Value for the money: If found at retail, it’s a great buy at $80 or so. This is the cheapest of the BTAC on secondary and can usually be found for around $200 which is a bit too much for me personally.
This is the 2014 release of George T. Stagg from Buffalo Trace which was bottled at 69.05% ABV.
Nose: Big, bruiser of a bourbon full of french vanilla, heavy burnt oak, sweet corn, and pipe tobacco.
Palate: Nice mouthfeel with more charred oak, tobacco, and a bit of vanilla. The high proof on this makes it harder for me to really explore it in depth.
Finish: Burnt oak, cola, and creamed corn.
Rating: 89/100 – The 2014 Stagg was very well regarded in general, but for me, it strikes me as an average Stagg – not one that I would put far above the others I’ve tried in the past e.g. 2012 GTS and 2013 GTS
Value for the money: As with any BTAC – I would never pay secondary prices (currently probably $450ish). At retail, they’re a fantastic buy if you can find one.
This is the 2011 release of Thomas H. Handy rye which was bottled at 64.3% ABV.
Nose: Rich rye with anise and biscuits. Honey and ginger in the back half with blueberries emerging after a few minutes.
Palate: Anise again in the forefront before rye spice comes in. Heavy dose of vanilla with very faint oak.
Finish: Turns quite dry with caramelized oak, gingner, and cereal notes. Astringent, but lasts a good while.
Rating: 88/100 – Just as good as any other year THH.
Value for the money: This year probably goes for $250+ on secondary at this point, and it is not worth that. It would make a great buy at retail of $99.
This is one of the five expressions released as part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) each year. This is the 2013 release of the Sazerac 18 – an 18 year rye bottled at 45% ABV.
Nose: Very grain forward with massive rye up front followed by a damp, earthy oak with plums and blackberries.
Palate: Again, rye dominant with a bit of soapy/bitter oak.
Finish: Short, dry, and somewhat boring with the soapy notes lingering.
Rating: 84/100 – Like most older ryes, that soapy/bitter note that can appear sours it slightly for me.
Value for the money: BTAC is stupidly overpriced on the secondary, so I would avoid it on that front. These will go for $500+ on there. At retail ($99), it’s worth a buy if you can find one.
This is the 2012 release of George T. Stagg which is NAS and bottled at 71.4% ABV.
Nose: Huge vanilla bomb with lofty, rich cinnamon, dark chocolate, and charred oak.
Palate: Big tobacco notes with french vanilla and sweet oak.
Finish: Dry and oaky with smoke and ash with cinnamon.
Rating: 93/100 – The best GTS I’ve had so far.
Value for the money: These are going for $400+ which I can’t justify, but if you’re looking for a GTS and prepared to spend secondary values, it’s one of my favorites.
A buddy of mine was kind enough to share a small sample of this that he acquired. It’s the 2006 release of William Larue Weller – widely regarded as the best of them all. These are commonly believed to have been distilled at Stitzel-Weller, but some people dispute the source. This is NAS and bottled at 64.95% ABV. This is probably the darkest colored bourbon I’ve ever tried.
Nose: Huge sweeping nose – same loftiness as 2009 PVW 15 for me. Blast of oak with resounding wheat following. Strong dark chocolate and dark stewed fruits.
Palate: Wheat reigns supreme up front giving this a very sweet profile. Oak develops over time along with dark chocolate.
Finish: Oak tastes much younger here with a bit of a sawdust note. Wheat lingers with vanilla.
Rating: 97/100 – One of the best bourbons I’ve ever had.
Value for the money: These have sky-rocketed in value and are probably close to $2,000 at this point. If you have that kind of disposable bourbon income, and you’re looking for a unicorn bottle, this would be toward the top of the list for something I’d recommend.
This is the William Larue Weller from the 2010 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection release. It’s NAS and bottled at 63.3% ABV.
Nose: Black cherries, dark chocolate and airy wheat. Freshly sawn oak staves with a bit of caramel.
Palate: Heat is pretty strong with wheat up front before buttered popcorn and salted caramel appear.
Finish: Heat lingers with cherry and wheat.
Rating: 92/100 – One of my favorite WLW releases and one viewed as one of the top three by a lot of people in the bourbon community.
Value for the money: As with all BTAC, the secondary prices are insane – close to $600 for this one most likely. I would never pay that for this bourbon personally.
This is the 2013 Thomas H. Handy (part of yearly BTAC release). It’s NAS, but assumed to be around 6 years old and bottled at 64.2% ABV.
Nose: Clean and crisp floral heavy rye. Fudge, caramel, maraschino cherries – fantastic young rye nose.
Palate: Don’t get as much raw rye out of it despite the young age. Lots of toffee, barrel char, and fudge.
Finish: Very dry – rye turns a bit bitter.
Rating: 90/100 – One of my favorites of the BTAC releases typically and one of the cheapest on the secondary as well.
Value for the money: If you can find one of these at retail, it’s a no brainer. On the secondary, these are usually closer to $200+ which is too much. However, if you’re deadset on owning a BTAC bottling, this is the cheapest one to get into and a tasty one at that.
This is one of the five expressions that comprise the limited annual release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC). This is a 17 year Eagle Rare bottled at 45% ABV.
Nose: Complex profile of cinnamon, leather, thick vanilla, brown sugar, topped with some floral notes toward the end.
Palate: Brown sugar and cloves chased by heavy oak. Consistently herbal throughout.
Finish: Long with lavendar, brown sugar, and medium oak lingering.
Rating: 88/100 – I enjoy this one quite a bit, but typically it’s seen as the least popular of the BTAC releases. A solid, no-frills bourbon.
Value for the money: At retail of $99 (if you can find one), it’s a great bargain. As with the rest of the BTAC lineup, the secondary prices are pretty insane and these usually push $400+ which is an easy pass.
This is one of the most well regarded releases of William Larue Weller (WLW) to date often mentioned alongside the 2006 and 2010 as one of the best. It’s bottled at 60.95% ABV.
Nose: Very sweet wheat right up front, but some interesting fruits in there as well – primarily mango and pineapple. Fresh sawdust with baked apples and mulled spices.
Palate: Heat is pretty intense with strong wheat notes coming in soon after. Chalky oak developing with some vanilla at the end. Not quite as fruity as the nose indicated.
Finish: Mostly heat turning rather dry with some vanilla and bitter oak
Rating: 89/100 – A good WLW expression, but not quite as good as the 2006 or 2010 for me.
Value for the money: These go for $1000+ and is in no way worth that – I’d maybe pay up to $150 for one. The newer WLW’s go for around $550 and are comparable enough in my opinion if you’re deadset on picking one up on the secondary.