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The Lost Brands of Buffalo Trace - The Prohibition Collection

Updated: Mar 6

Buffalo Trace The Prohibition Collection

Image Edited by The Whisky Ardvark

Buffalo Trace has reintroduced some of the whiskey brands that were produced at the George T. Stagg distillery during Prohibition. This move has pleased many of the distillery's fans. The Prohibition Collection was launched in October 2023 in the US and was overseen by Buffalo Trace master distiller Harlen Wheatley. The series will be an annual release that brings back the distillery's lost whiskies from its archives, with the possibility of rotating or changing labels.

The initial set consists of five 375ml bottles featuring four discontinued whiskey brands, namely Three Feathers, Old Stagg, Walnut Hill and Golden Wedding, as well as a newly crafted reminiscent of medicinal whiskey called 'Spiritus Frumenti'. This name was commonly used during Prohibition to refer to medicinal whiskey in America. While these brands could technically be considered bourbons, they are labelled as 'whiskey' to pay homage to the labelling practices of that time period. It's worth noting that bourbon wasn't officially recognized as a native US spirit until 1964.

Between 1920 and 1933, the United States government implemented a ban on the manufacturing, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages under the 21st Amendment, also known as Prohibition. During this time, only six distilleries were granted permission to produce whiskey for medicinal purposes, with one of them being George T. Stagg, which later became Buffalo Trace (renamed in 1999). Due to the restrictions, many distillers entrusted their stock and brands to the distillery to distribute to licensed pharmacists.

The back label of a medicinal whiskey bottle George T. Stagg distillery

Image by Whiskey ID - The back label of a medicinal whiskey bottle

At that time, obtaining an alcohol prescription cost $3 (equivalent to approximately $50 today), with an additional $3-4 required to fill it. Almost anyone who had the funds was eligible to receive a prescription. As a nod to medicinal whiskey, each newly created label has a small blank section where doctors would have written their prescriptions.

In 1921, Colonel Albert B. Blanton became the president of the distillery right after Prohibition was imposed. Despite the challenges faced by the distillery, he remained in charge and even oversaw the transition of ownership in 1929 when the site was acquired by Schenley Distillers Corporation.

Nick Laracuente, the bourbon archivist at Buffalo Trace, has stated that the distillery has a record of over 400,000 items, including memorabilia, letters and labels. The new collection will delve into the mind of Albert B. Blanton and revive old labels that celebrate the history of the distillery.

'Each of these brands disappeared slowly in the years after Prohibition, but they were integral to our survival. Without them, today there would be no Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare or Weller bourbons. The Prohibition Collection is a tribute to these great whiskeys of our past.' - Buffalo Trace Global Brand Director Andrew Duncan

The suggested retail price for the set upon release is $1,000 (~£820). The price is likely to increase after release due to high demand and limited stock, which Buffalo Trace has not disclosed. The number of sets produced is unknown. The price is expected to reach its height on the secondary market, with the possibility of selling individual bottles and breaking down sets to maximize profits.


Old Stagg

Old Stagg replaced O.F.C. bourbon towards the end of Prohibition, and it inspired George T. Stagg, Stagg Jr., and the now-discontinued Stagg bourbons. The namesake of the flagship brand, George T. Stagg, was the former owner and operator of the distillery for the last 25 years of the 1800s.

The brand was originally bottled at cask strength between the ages of 18 and 24 before being sold as four- to eight-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon expressions. The last bottlings were introduced in the mid-70s.

Buffalo Trace George T. Stagg in the past

Image Combined by The Whisky Ardvark - Old Stagg Then

An old advertisement showcases the details of a white-label blended Stagg whiskey named DeLuxe, with a 65% content of neutral grain spirit.

Buffalo Trace distillery Old Stagg The Prohibition Collection

Image by Buffalo Trace - Old Stagg Now

The 2023 edition of Old Stagg bourbon has a high alcohol content of 132.4 proof or 66.2%. Its label closely resembles the original and does not indicate the age of the whiskey. Like other Staggs that followed, this whiskey may be made with a low-rye bourbon mashbill.

Tasting notes from the producer: 'An oaky, vanilla aroma on the nose. Has a sweet and mellow taste with notes of leather and dark cherries, with a smooth vanilla finish.'


Three Feathers

The earliest record of Three Feathers whiskey dates back to 1812 and was given a name associated with 1800s royalty. Initially a luxury rye whiskey, it later became a bonded and blended American whiskey bottled at 86 proof. The latter was bottled until the 1950s when the brand was eventually discontinued.

Buffalo Trace distillery old bottlings of Three feathers whiskey

Image Combined by The Whisky Ardvark - Three Feathers Then

The back label from 1944 reads: 'The straight whiskies in this product are 5 years or more old. 40% straight whiskey, 60% cane products neutral spirits. 12% straight whiskey 5 years old, 12% straight whiskey 6 years old, 15% straight whiskey 7 years old.'

It is uncertain how closely the new release follows the 1944 recipe, which contained 60% natural cane spirit. However, it is required by current regulations that Blended American whiskey blends must include at least 20% straight whiskey - balanced by unaged neutral spirit or a young high-proof whiskey.

Buffalo Trace distillery Three Feathers The Prohibition Collection

Image by Buffalo Trace - Three Feathers Now

The 2023 release of Three Feathers Blended whiskey is bottled at 100 proof (50% ABV) and created by master blender Drew Mayville.

Tasting notes from the producer: Presents a vanilla and charred oak aroma. Stone and light tropical fruit taste with a smokey, caramel and a slight cocoa finish.


Golden Wedding

The trademark for the Golden Wedding was established in 1869 and acquired by Schenley Distilling Co during Prohibition, along with the Joseph S. Finch Distillery. The brand was produced intermittently in both Pennsylvania and George T. Stagg distilleries. Later, it was moved to Schenley's Canadian distillery before ultimately being discontinued in the 1990s.

The brand was used to bottle blended whiskey, bourbon (a blend of straight whiskies), Canadian whisky and 'Pure Rye'. In the 1940s, the brand was bottled at 90 proof.

Buffalo Trace distillery old bottlings of Golden Wedding whiskey

Image Combined by The Whisky Ardvark - Golden Wedding Then

A 1941 advert states: 'A blend of straight whiskies. Bourbon or Rye. The straight whiskies in Golden Wedding are 5 years or more old. 88% three straight whiskies 5 years old, 11% one straight whiskey 6 years old, 1% one straight whiskey 11 years old.'

Buffalo Trace distillery Golden Wedding The Prohibition Collection

Image by Buffalo Trace - Golden Wedding Now

The new expression, Golden Wedding rye whiskey, is bottled at 107 proof (53%). Made in Kentucky, instead of Pennsylvania, this expression is made with at least 51% rye.

Tasting notes from the producer: 'Has heavy rye on the nose. A grainy, herbal taste with notes of dill pickle and rye on the pallet. The finish is spicy and smokey with a hint of banana.'


Walnut Hill

According to records from 1932, this enigmatic whiskey was bottled at the George T. Stagg distillery by Mr. Blanton himself during Prohibition for a second party. Unfortunately, this rare whiskey disappeared after Prohibition ended.

The brand's only known public reference, a label widely circulated on the internet, describes Walnut Hill as a rye whiskey. The label is believed to date back to the 1930s.

Old label of Walnut Hill Rye Whiskey

The 2023 expression is a high-rye bourbon bottled at 90 proof (45% ABV) and clearly celebrates the American white-red-and-blue heritage.

Buffalo Trace distillery Walnut Hill The Prohibition Collection

Image by Buffalo Trace - Walnut Hill Now

Tasting notes from the producer: 'A slightly citrus aroma with light corn and oak notes. Sweet molasses, stone fruit and vanilla taste and a smokey, woodsy finish.'


Spiritus Frumenti

During the Prohibition era, a type of whiskey called Spiritus Frumenti, which translates to 'Spirit of the Grain' in Latin, became a common name for medicinal whiskey. This type of whiskey had already been around during the Civil War and administered by doctors. The name was an obvious choice for apothecaries and doctors alike who had learned many Latin words and phrases during their trade training. George T. Stagg and other distilleries produced this type of whiskey throughout the 1920s.

Buffalo Trace distillery old bottlings of Spiritus Frumenti whiskey

Image Combined by The Whisky Ardvark - Samples of Spiritus Frumenti

This recreation of traditional medicinal whiskey is a fascinating addition to any collection. It's designed for whiskey enthusiasts with a keen interest in history and takes us back 100 years. The 2023 edition is a wheated bourbon bottled at 110 proof (55%) for potency and its supposed 'medicinal healing power.'

Buffalo Trace distillery Spiritus Frumenti The Prohibition Collection

Image by Buffalo Trace - George T. Stagg Spiritus Frumenti Now

Tasting notes from the producer: 'An aroma of caramelized brown sugar. Fruity yet floral taste with notes of cherry and oak. The finish is vanilla with notes of wheat and citrus.'


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