It’s time for another review of my favorite limited edition bourbon! George T. Stagg has been a fairly consistent release year over year and I think a lot of that consistency has to do with the mashbill (Buffalo Trace #1) and approximate 15 year age used for this series.
After eight straight years of “hazmat” whiskey (above 140 proof), the 2013 release of George T. Stagg was noticeably lower in strength at 128.2 proof. To a casual whiskey consumer, even whiskey above 50% ABV can be intimidating. George T. Stagg isn’t a whiskey for casual consumers. The appeal of GTS to many bourbon aficionados (myself included) is that a huge, bold flavor set is inherent in Stagg’s DNA. It’s funny to think back on it now, but I can clearly remember the outrage from the bourbon community when this “weak” Stagg was introduced. For the record, I saw these same exact complaints when GTS 2019 was released a few years ago. Lower proof GTS is often the result of using barrels located on lower floors in the rickhouses. These locations are typically more temperate with less significant heat cycles. The result is a whiskey with more water left in the barrel. In other words: lower proof.
As we all know, however, a whiskey can’t be judged on its technical specs alone. The proof and age of a whiskey are merely numbers on a label. The real measure comes from tasting it.
George T. Stagg 2013 was distilled in the Spring of 1997 and was bottled 15 years and 11 months later at 64.1% ABV. Stagg uses Buffalo Trace’s low rye Mashbill No 1. The 2013 release was crafted from 157 barrels selected from floors 1, 2, 4, and 8 of Warehouses I, K, and Q. With over 73% of the original whiskey lost to evaporation, the yield was estimated to be just over 11,000 bottles.
|Nose||Creme brûlée, cherries, orange peel, hint of fresh mint, fig jam, surprisingly heavy oak. With time and water, raisins and more deep toffee sweetness as well as some aromatic pipe tobacco.|
|Taste||Cherry pie filling, oak, vanilla, cinnamon, more deep citrus, hints of bramble fruit, leather, toffee, prunes, a bit of maple syrup, allspice. Water brings forward vanilla to the point of vanilla ice cream along with a bit of earthiness. The wood presence remains just a bit too forward for my preferences but it’s better balanced with water.|
|Finish||Long and lingering, rich baking spice, pie crust, cherry cough syrup, white pepper, old oak. The finish improves greatly with water—a bit of dark chocolate, clove, dark dried berries, sharp spice, and more mint.|
|Overall Thoughts||Let me start by saying that as always with GTS, this is a tremendous whiskey that I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would. This is a Stagg for the bourbon drinker that really loves the kind of oak-dominance that you find in old whiskey. The tannins are out in full force along with a subset of flavors that range from dark dried fruit to heavy vanilla with some peppery spice to round things out. This drinks above its age and while this isn’t my preferred profile, I know plenty of people out there are big fans of this kind of whiskey so if you regularly love 20+ year old bourbon, this would be right up your alley.|