George T. Stagg – 2014 – Straight Bourbon Whiskey | 69.05% (138.1 Proof) £112.50
Color/Appearance: Deep and darkly amber. It’s so amber that amber is jealous. George T. Stagg is an iconic low rye bourbon made by Buffalo Trace Distillery and a cornerstone of the Antique Collection. The bottle looks awesome. Even if you knew nothing about bourbon just looking at this thing you know you want to take it home. Lots of open glass lets the light really show the rich looking bourbon inside. The stag horns and simple look are nice and easily recognizable to any bourbon fiend from far across a crowded bar. The bottle is so unfussy it doesn’t even list the year of bottling, you have to go by the unique proof. This 2014 version was aged for sixteen years, and the barrels used lost 74.81% to the angels. Let that sink in for a second. Nearly 75% of the original whiskey was lost. Lets see what wonders remain here on earth.
Nose: Honeyed oak, chocolate, soft leather, candied walnuts, orange infused oil, There are hints of the power that lurk beneath, but the nose is all rich and inviting. Dark cherries in molasses. Incense, cardamom, clove and cinnamon. A deeply evolved vanilla note is also clearly there, but as if millions of vanilla pods were split and the contents aged in a used bourbon barrel. If smelling this stuff doesn’t make you need to take a sip, you are reading the wrong blog.
Palate: As dense and powerful as a neutron star, It explodes in your mouth like a supernova, but oh so drinkable. I guess when the burning intensity comes from perfectly aged old bourbon your palate is smart enough to quickly adjust. Old wood, cherry preserves, hard cinnamon candy, condensed maple syrup. Everything feels like an evolved variation. Deep, dark, cooked down and old. Normally I prefer higher rye bourbons but I think the minimum of rye spice lets the age, power and sheer density of the whiskey speak clearly. Spice cake, marmalade and sandalwood. If you like cask strength whiskey as I do, there is some sort of perfection here. It is close to the maximum your palate can handle. I think this kind of proof can expose flaws in a whiskey and this stuff just exposes the Stagg’s lack of flaws.
Finish: Endless. Sugar and spice and everything nice. All of the notes from the palate and nose seem to be here too, winding down backwards. Not sure I have had any other whiskey that lingers with such a high level of enjoyment and complexity. With such a dense old bourbon it seems to take forever for the complex compounds to slowly break down. It stays with you for a good ten minutes and even then you are left thinking about it. Well done.
Overall: So powerful that when it hits your palate you respond defensively at first, then your guard is let down as the most wonderful cascade of flavors coat your entire mouth. But it is not contained there, a spicy warmth extends across your entire upper body. This stuff rocks. Days of lingering spice and warmth. Another bourbon that I wish I did not like as much as I do. It is a bottle that I don’t have to tell you to buy since if you are lucky enough to find one close to retail, you will pounce on it. As I continue my journey further and further into whisky I am starting to wonder why anything is watered down. This stuff is close to seventy percent and yet it just tastes amazing. For me it doesn’t need even a drop of water, though it can swim well too. I think the most interesting thing about drinking George T. Stagg is not what most people seem to gravitate towards, its extremely high proof, but its age. This is a very complex, classy, and refined bourbon that is also just happens to be firing on all cylinders at nearly seventy percent. The strength gives it an extreme vibrancy and never lets it feel too old. Just wonderful stuff.