Here in a very timely manner is my review of the George T. Stagg from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection release for 2013. Along with the Eagle Rare 17 it is the straight ahead bourbon in that collection—I believe they’re made from the same mashbill; someone who understands these things better will surely be along shortly to explain what the differences between the two whiskies are (other than the Stagg’s always massive abv—though this 2013 release didn’t get as close to 70%, or above, as some others have).
I’ve previously reviewed the 2010 and 2011 releases, both of which I liked very much indeed. I don’t believe I even bothered trying to locate any of the series in 2013. Anyway, complaining about how annoying the mania around the various American whiskey unicorns has gotten is now annoying as that mania itself. And I suppose if I really wanted to take a genuine stand against participating in this hype and all the folly attendant on it I would stop reviewing these bottles altogether. And so I will stop here and get straight to the review.
I got this sample from Michael K. His review is here.
George T. Stagg (64.1%; 2013 release; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Dark caramel and maple syrup with clove and cinnamon cutting through the sticky notes. Then chocolate begins to build, getting darker, along with some dried orange peel and toffee. Some rye below all of that. With time and air it gets fruitier with some apricot jam and some heavily reduced plum sauce. With a few drops of water the fruity notes really expand, and there’s a leathery quality too now along with a bit of powdered ginger.
Palate: Far more approachable at full strength than the few single malts in the mid-60s I’ve had have been. Which is not to say it’s not hot, but the notes from the nose are palpable, if somewhat tightly bound. Even with time and air, the citrus and some dusty wood are the only things that stand out; a bit of the rye too (pine). Okay, time to add some water. As on the nose, it’s the fruit that expands with water but here there’s some red fruit: cherry (liqueur); more cinnamon too. Gets brighter and spicier as it goes, with more citrus (lemon rather than orange now).
Finish: Medium. It’s mostly drying—it’s here that the abv is most apparent. With water the sweeter fruit begins to hang around but as it goes it begins to sour and the rye gets more talkative; more and more spicy wood at the very end too. The finish is much longer now.
Comments: As has happened before for me with the Stagg I liked the nose a lot more than the palate (not that I didn’t like the palate). On the whole, however, I don’t think this is anything worth mourning not being able to get your hands on: it’s very good bourbon; there are other very good bourbons.
Rating: 87 points.