One of Buffalo Trace's most coveted bourbons was put on hold
Fans of George T. Stagg, I apologize.
As the hottest new Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is released, it is promptly snapped up and sold for at least triple what it would normally cost. Among the familiar brands in this series of bourbon and rye whiskeys are some that are uncut, unfiltered, and bottled at barrel proof, along with those aged for much longer than their regular counterparts.
The release of the new collection this year was delayed due to glass suppliers falling behind schedule, which was a challenge other industries faced as well. There have been some hiccups along the way this year as well. It has caused some consternation amongst the whiskey fandom recently that the beloved bourbon George T. Stagg will not be included in the collection this year, so the BTAC collection will only contain four bottles rather than five.
Unsurprisingly, Twitter and Reddit have a wide range of reactions about what really happened here, from shock to cynicism. There have been a number of accusations from real whiskey connoisseurs and self-proclaimed whiskey experts that Buffalo Trace is deliberately making scarcity, setting up a pricey limited release, or perhaps they have made a nefarious deal with the Dark Bourbon Underlord that will be revealed only when the Whiskey Illuminati position themselves to reflect the first rays of dawn light on the winter solstice... There are some people who take this very seriously.
However, according to the company, the 15-year-old barrels which would have been used for Stagg simply didn't meet the quality levels determined by the master distiller Harlen Wheatley and the master blender Drew Mayville, who were both in charge of quality. To find out more about what transpired, we talked to Mayville, who was a former director of quality for the distillery.
At the time, BTAC consisted of just three whiskeys when it was first released in 2000. Several years later, Stagg joined the lineup, and Mayville says it’s now by far the most popular of the entire collection, and certainly the whiskey that is sold the most frequently. Despite the financial and reputational toll, excluding it this year was a commitment to quality and reputation, he said.
He says he's been sitting on this disappointing news for a few months now because he and Wheatley start prepping the annual fall BTAC release during the preceding spring. Because of how many casks are married together, having barrels that aren't ready wouldn't be a problem if he was dealing with a larger release, like Buffalo Trace Bourbon.
Despite these quality control issues, Mayville said it will continue monitoring the barrels, and will probably find a way to use them in a future release.
The reality is that Buffalo Trace could have released this year’s George T. Stagg as is, and most people likely wouldn’t have noticed (if they even opened one of these bottles that are more likely to be flipped for a hefty sum). Sure, people compare BTAC releases from year to year, and that is a fun exercise as some vintages are indeed better than others. But it seems unlikely most bourbon fans would be able to pinpoint exactly why this whiskey wasn’t fit to be released as this year’s George T. Stagg—unless, of course, there was really something drastically wrong with the liquid, which Mayville says was not the case.
Regardless, Mayville and Wheatley saw excluding Stagg as the only unfortunate choice for this year.
Here’s what you will find in the 2021 BTAC lineup. Suggested retail price is $99 per bottle, but expect to pay well beyond that if you find one.