George T. Stagg

Maker: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky, USA (Sazerac)

Age: 16 y/o

Proof: 141.2 (70.6% ABV, the 2005 edition)

Appearance: Dark copper with thick, luscious legs.

Tasted neat and with a splash of water.

Nose: Neat: alcohol, oak, almond extract, mace. W/water: Weaker, but the sweetness really comes to the fore, even a little spearmint. Water does bring out some varnish notes that are a bit unpleasant at first but they seem to disappear after a few seconds.

On the Palate: Neat: Vanishes on the tongue without a trace in a matter of seconds. When swallowed Stagg burns all the way down in what seems like an all-out assault on the upper digestive system. W/water: much more palatable. Still plenty of burn, but it doesn’t overwhelm the complexity of this amazing bourbon. Dry but with undercurrents of caramel, clove, mace, allspice, black pepper, almond extract, pecan.

Finish: Neat: None, evaporates almost instantly. W/water: Still pretty quick, but the caramel and wood linger in the mouth. My lips were tingling for a long time afterwards.

Parting words: George T. Stagg the man was the co-founder (with E.H. Taylor) of what is now the Buffalo Trace Distillery. George T. Stagg the whiskey is the king of bourbons, and hence the king of American whiskeys. It is the most sought after and consistently the best of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection released annually in the fall. The other members of this series are William Larue Weller (a barrel-proof wheat bourbon), Eagle Rare 17 year old, Thomas Handy Rye (a barrel-proof rye) and Sazerac 18 year old rye.

Each year is slightly different, but always excellent. Many of the top-shelf offerings from Buffalo Trace are not worth the price, but George T. Stagg is truly worth every penny. Highly recommended, but don’t be a hero, add some water after nosing it. Your esophagus and stomach will thank you.