After a conspicuous absence in 2021, George T. Stagg is back in 2022 as the Mashbill No. 1 powerhouse of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.
2022 Stagg also marks the return of much higher proof whiskey relative to previous years. This is the highest strength GTS since 2016 and at 138.7 proof, it sits just a hair under “hazmat” (i.e, 140+) proof. With such a high bottling strength, one would assume that most of the barrels for this release would come from the hotter and drier upper floors of the Buffalo Trace warehouses. Surprisingly, the whiskey for 2022 GTS was all pulled from the first three floors of Warehouse K. This is a good reminder that lower floor barrels can still pack quite a punch.
George T. Stagg 2022 was distilled in the Spring of 2007 and was bottled 15 years and 5 months later at 69.35% ABV. Stagg uses Buffalo Trace’s low rye Mashbill No 1. The 2022 release was selected from floors 1 and 3 of Warehouse K. After 15 years, 75% of the original whiskey was lost to evaporation. As has been the case in recent years, the barrel count is not disclosed so it’s difficult to estimate a bottle yield.
|Cinnamon dusted cherries, a huge toffee note, deep oak, vanilla, pie crust, sweet corn, candied walnuts, apple crumb cake, tobacco, waffle cone. Water brings out bananas foster and some dried fig.
|I was immediately struck by how drying this is on the palate. It’s hot but not “near-hazmat” hot. Ripe, juicy black cherries, cinnamon and nutmeg, a bit of ginger, dried apricot, lots of old oak, leather, hints of chocolate, almond, hint of prunes. More tannins are revealed with water as well as some sharper baking spice and a cherry flavored hard candy note.
|There’s heat again but it doesn’t finish like 138 proof. More pie crust (slightly overcooked this time), clove, vanilla ice cream, tannic oak, dried cherries, graham cracker, raisins, fig jam. Baking spice and sweet oak notes linger for quite a long time. Water brings out more of a cherry syrup note along with a hint of mint, molasses, and sticky toffee pudding.
|After a year off, GTS didn’t miss a beat in 2022. This bottling has everything bourbon lovers look for in a Stagg release: well-aged, high proof whiskey with big flavor all around. Hazmat hounds may see a bottling proof of 138.7 as a missed opportunity to break 140 but rest assured that this whiskey still packs quite a punch. After referencing a few past GTS bottling, I like this more than the 2016 hazmat release as well as the lower proof 2019 edition. However, 2020 and 2018 GTS are more up my alley in terms of flavor profile. Of course, nitpicking various editions of a consistently great whiskey is a good problem to have. Highly recommended as always.