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.

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7 thoughts on “George T. Stagg

  1. The only reason I’ve never bought a bottle was because the finish was so short. On the palate it has never been anything but awesome, but it ends right there. Last time I had it, it made me think of a very good barrel-proof Elmer T. Lee, which I love, so I always have it on my list but never pull the trigger.

    1. Interesting. Maybe that speaks to differences in how we all drink. Finishes aren’t really something I look for in whiskeys or other beverages. The nose is what really gets me going. Maybe that’s why I love Four Roses so much, their big, floral noses. I could just sit and sniff a glass of Four Roses Single Barrel for hours. Literally. Anyway, the short finish never bothered me about Stagg.

      Have you ever tried the BT version of Eagle Rare 101 proof? My man Oscar discovered that it bears a strong resemblence to Stagg, and this it was confirmed by people at BT that ER 101 and Stagg come from the same warehouse locations.

  2. I guess either way, long nosing or long finish, you are getting a lot more out of the whiskey than the fleeting time it’s on the tongue 🙂 Sometimes I like to sit with the glass near me and let the fragrance fill the air, tracing its evolution as it mingles with the elements, but for whatever reason I value the finish more. Like you said, it’s just a different approach.

    I’m coming around to Four Roses – the ones I’ve had from them have complex noses and long finishes, which would make us both happy. The floral notes have been difficult for me, but I’m getting better at teasing apart the myriad fragrances into component parts.

    No, I haven’t been lucky enough to get to know ER101 and its chest-thumpingly patriotic label. Do you know whether the mash bills are similar?

    1. The mashbills are identical:
      Buffalo Trace Bourbon Mashbill #1: Benchmark, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare (old 101 and current Single Barrel), Col. EH Taylor (the new one), George T. Stagg
      #2: Ancient Age, Elmer T. Lee, Hancock Res., Rock Hill Farms, Blanton’s
      Wheated Bourbon: Weller line, also used in some of the Van Winkle bourbons

      Anyway, the floral notes in Four Roses are not for everybody. They’re so different from anything else they can take some getting used to. But that’s part of the fun of exploring whiskey, imo.

  3. Wow, go figure, Elmer and Stagg are different mashbills. I was thinking about the nose vs. finish preference, and at least for me, the source is easy to spot after a bit of reflection. I started out drinking Islay scotches, where the nose often is interesting but only hints at what lies beneath. The finish on those is like half an hour, so I was conditioned to assess what happens after the sip.

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