George T Stagg Background
George T Stagg is of course the flagship release in the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. It’s pretty much right up there with the Pappy Van Winkle line in sought after bottles.
George T Stagg for 2014 comes to us from a long slumber in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouses C, H, I, K, L, P, and Q. So, a wide variety of barrels, although still very constrained number of bottles. The good news, however, is starting with this year’s release there should be more bottles to go around as Buffalo Trace ramped up production of George T Stagg starting in 1997. Of course, demand is disproportionately higher, so it’s likely still a net negative. This batch was distilled in the spring of 1998, which makes it officially 16 years old, but at least 17 summers old.
16 Years Old. 69.05%. Buffalo Trace #1 Mash of less than 10% rye.
Dark fruits of raisin and figs. Old wood, wood polish. A little musty. Dark caramel. Deep, dark, and old. A little water brings out more lighter fruits and spices.
Lots of sweetness and alcohol heat up front. Fruity. Thick syrupy. Resiny wood and tannins make for a nice thick mouthfeel. Char lingers in the finish. With a little water I get a bunch more caramel, vanilla, and cinnamon spice up front that the heat may have been hiding along with chocolate and coffee. Still has some heat.
So, I have no idea why I’m posting this review. Odds are if you’re interested in George T Stagg, you either will buy it on sight or can’t find it. What I may say here probably won’t persuade you and certainly won’t change your chances. But hey, I managed to get a bottle, so lets have some fun.
This is my first go around with George T Stagg. I never got a bottle before, so I don’t have much frame of reference to previous releases. I do know some old Bourbon and barrel proof, so we’ll go from there. George T Stagg is a flavor bomb. It’s big, old, and packs a punch. After a respectable pour uncut from the bottle it probably doesn’t much matter what you drink afterwords. Adding some water brings out a lot more nuanced flavors pulled from at least 16 years in the barrel and dials down the heat.
The downside on George T Stagg is it is an old Bourbon, which may not be everyone’s thing. It’s heavy on barrel character and has some dullness compared to more lively younger Bourbons. Personally I prefer Bourbons in the more conventional 8-11 year, depending how they’re aged. Still, a nice old Bourbon is quite enjoyable as a change of pace and special occasions. It also has some fire with its high proof, but a sensible person can solve that with a splash of water. It’s not the most delicate and nuanced pour out there, but it’s a treat that doesn’t come around often.
I don’t know if George T Stagg is the best thing ever, but it’s very nice, very interesting, and a fun pour. Considering how rare this is, given the opportunity, my hoarder instincts would push me to buy as much as I could at a relatively reasonable price. If this was plentiful, however, I think I would be content with this bottle and just replace it when it was eventually gone. I don’t see it as a frequent pour, nor something to stock up just in case the world ends. That’s based on price and characteristics of age. I do love barrel proof Bourbons, however, so I’m down with that bold power.
So if you can find George T Stagg anywhere near list price you must buy a bottle. I only ask you actually drink it. In fact, drink it with friends. If you can’t find George T Stagg, there’s a lot of great stuff out there right now on shelves.
Buy Again – 4.5/5.0 Rating
(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)
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