By Kurt Maitland
George T. Stagg is often regarded as the flagship of the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) release, second only to Pappy Van Winkle in the affection of many enthusiasts, a very aged, cask strength bourbon made from Buffalo Trace’s rye mashbill. This year’s batch was drawn from 142 barrels, minimum age 15 years and 4 months, and bottled at a potent 144.1 proof (72.05% ABV).
Color: Burnt umbra
Nose: Cherry, stone fruits, with hints of vanilla and tobacco
Taste: This is what we wait a year for. Fruity, spicy, in near equal measure. Cherry, caramel, citrus (I get grapefruit) and spice greet you in this release. The flavor is shorter than I’d like but despite the high proof, it is drinkable without water. The mouthfeel starts out semi-slick and rapidly turns drier and spicy.
Finish: Spicy, astringent, and long (although not as long as I’d expect). It has a rubbery bitterness that sits tight with the citrus I picked up at first taste.
With some water, I get an apple note that I did not pick up at first. The water makes it more astringent and takes away the sweetness. I can’t say that the water makes it better.
If I came across this release at a good price, I would definitely buy it and add to my collection.
Addendum By Father John Rayls
This is another very dark colored bourbon of dark brown with copper highlights. The legs are long and the almost Vermont Maple Syrup like appearance is evident in the glass. It is a semi-thick bourbon that goes down easily. The nose is enticing with elements of slightly spicy vanilla, oak, caramel and an absence of alcohol burn. The mouthfeel is an exquisite, luxurious coating. The action begins at the back of the mouth and moves quickly to mid-mouth. The finish doesn’t leave the other areas, but begins a slow march to the front and even to the lips. It’s a long finish that is very satisfying. The dark chocolate drives the flavor profile with notes of coffee and vanilla. The dark chocolate is very present in the finish.
All of this year’s BTAC release have a SMRP of $90, but for most people, you will be paying much more if you are determined to acquire it.