Monthly Archives: January 2011

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection: George T. Stagg Bourbon Review

2010 George T. Stagg Bourbon, 71.5% abv (143 Proof), $70-$80/bottle

Color: Deep Mahogany

Nose: Rich and flooding with almond toffee, ripe banana, vanilla, sweet spices, popcorn, and a tangy sweetness of sorghum and molasses. A scant teaspoon of water to a 2 oz. pour ramps up the spices, dried fruits, and deep oak notes.

Palate: On the palate this bourbon just hits you with flavors in waves and it keeps on coming. Few whiskies can match it in that department. Deep dark sticky caramel, Rum Bananas, vanilla, Dried Dark Fruits, root beer, fudge, and intense sweet spices of cinnamon, clove, and mint are dominant when sipped neat. A teaspoon of water brings out the barrel flavors and rounds out the alcohol edge and heat.

Finish: Candied sweetness, smokey oak, and woody spices. Very long.

Overall: The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection produces five of the most highly anticipated releases each year. Finding them can be a real pain in the rear. Allocation of this stuff, particularly the bellwethers of the group, George T. Stagg and William Larue Weller, is frustrating. Both are huge whiskies at barrel proof, but certainly different. George T. Stagg is the leader of this pack. Some may argue Weller or one of the ryes (Sazerac 18 or Thomas H. Handy) are better, but I don’t think anyone would argue that Stagg is probably the single biggest bruiser of a whiskey on the planet. At 140+ proof, it packs a hell of a punch. Some may find it lacks a little grace and tact akin to taking a bazooka to a knife fight, but there is no arguing that it’s special. It’s also fun to sip a whiskey that is over 1.5 times the strength of todays more standard 90 proof offerings. But if that sounds like a novelty only, it’s not. George T. Stagg is is seriously fantastic whiskey. I’d recommend taking all the time you need and enjoy this one neat first. But for me, a splash of water helps to cool the alcohol flames enough to where those flavors shine even further. Don’t dilute it too much – after all you bought it for the beast that it is.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.6 (Epic classification)

Don’t fret, more Pappy is on the way.

If you haven’t seen my review of Pappy Van Winkle 15 please take a look. It’s a fantastic bourbon and I dare say about as complete as whiskey gets to my tastes. The sad part is the allocation is so sparse that it takes a lot of effort to locate bottles. Believe me, it’s worth the trouble, but a pain in the rear nonetheless.

Well, a little relief isn’t too far off if you can wait a few months. I’ve just been informed by Julian Van Winkle that the next allocation of products will go out in March/April time frame. No specifics yet on a firm date, but this will hopefully give you a shot at securing some bottles if you missed this most recent batch of product.

I’d recommend not waiting until then. If your reading this and want to ensure you get a bottle or 4, I’d suggest calling 2-3 local liquor shops in your area. Ask them if they typically get allocated Pappy Van Winkle products. If they do, make them aware of this allocation news so they can be informed. Also tell them to put your name on a bottle.

I’d recommend the 15 above all given it’s price to quality ratio is extremely high. Beyond that, I’d also recommend securing some Old Rip Van Winkle 90 or 107 proof and/or the Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 Year “Lot B”. I did a review of the 90 proof version of ORVW here. You cannot go wrong with any of them, but you know my feelings on the 15.

Yep, it’s silly when we have to plan 3+ months for a Bourbon purchase, but folks, there’s just not a lot of the stuff to put out there. And when the product is this high quality, a little planning is worth it. Good luck to you!

Drink your Bourbon!