George T. Stagg – Buffalo Trace Antique Collection
Every year the time comes around when the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, or BTAC as I’ll refer to it, is released. It’s always early fall these bottles start hitting the shelves of your local liquor store and everyone gets super excited to track down the bottles. I still plan on going BTAC & Pappy Hunting this year, but luckily I was able to receive sample bottles of the entire BTAC line for 2014. We’re kicking off the reviews with the George T. Stagg!
For the longest time this had my most desired bottle out of the BTAC. I love the packaging on it more than the others and I was never able to find any. Heck, I haven’t even been able to find any of the Stagg Jr either. It’s a pretty hot commodity down here in Nashville. Anytime someone sees a bottle it’s never on the shelf very long. This bottle is considered to be the favorite among all of the BTAC. Last year it won the Chairman’s Trophy at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge. So it’s set a pretty high bar for itself to say the least.
This year’s George T. Stagg selection was distilled back in the spring of 1998 and it comes in pretty hot at 138.1 proof. Definitely one of most potent bourbons thats I’ve ever sipped on. According to the fact sheet, Buffalo Trace began distilling more of this bourbon back in 1997, so luckily allocation is going to begin increasing slowly over the years. However, I don’t think that’s going to make it any easier to find it on the shelves.
As I said above this bottle’s packaging has made it my favorite before tasting out of all the other BTAC bottles. I love the arched George T. Stagg that is printed on the bottle. One thing that is common across these BTAC bottles is that they’re all somewhat screen printed on the bottle. Instead of using a paper label. I think it’s a very interesting approach to the packaging and I’m a big fan. Also, the deer antlers on this bottle make it an immediate favor as well.
This juice comes out of the barrel uncut & unfiltered. In fact I could even seen particles floating around at the bottle of the sampling bottle that I received. The bourbon also is never less than 15 years old. 1998 doesn’t seem like that long ago, but I guess it’s been 16 years! Not quite going down memory lane yet. We’re gonna hop into this review and see what’s going on with this George T. Stagg.
Swirling this bourbon around in the glass offers the bouquet of aromas to start taking shape. Initially hit with that strong dose of caramel and vanilla that you would expect. It’s actually hard to fight through some of the strength of the alcohol. Coming off at 138 proof you know it’s hitting hard. Hints of chocolate appear on the nose, but again, hard to fight through the alcohol.
I dropped a couple splashes of water into it to open it up. As suggested by the distillers. There are hints of more caramel and oak that begin to shine through. Not overly complex though.
The first sip of this George T. Stagg brought a heap of char. You can imagine sitting in that deep charred barrel for 16 years, it’s going to pick up on that. Once I powered through that lots of leather notes and tobacco starting showing their faces. Finishing with a good sense of vanilla. Not entirely complex, on the palate which is a bit disappointing. That chocolate note that appeared on the nose never showed up on the palate which was a bit of a bummer.
I was a little let down by the finish to be honest. It was very hot, as to be expected coming out at 138 proof. It just seemed to be missing something. Even pre-cutting it there was just something missing. It didn’t seem complex at all, and in fact it swept away pretty quick. It was a very thin finish. It had hints of banana notes along the way, but it barely stayed around long enough to pick up on them.
To be honest, I was a little let down by this George T. Stagg. I’m not sure why, it was the first one out of the gate that I tried. I think after trying them all I had to put this one as #4 out of the 5. A lot of people tend to shy away from bourbons because they have too much strength on them. That wasn’t the problem on this particular bourbon. To me, it just didn’t wow me. I was expecting something outstanding after sitting in a barrel for 16 years. I felt like it could have been so much more than what it was. Maybe previous years have been better? I’d love to see what others that pick up this bottling say though. For me, if I come across it in the liquor store I’m still going to pick it up because it’s part of the BTAC, and I’d love to have a real bottle of it, but if it was any other bourbon I’d pass on it.