Spirit of the Month March ’18 – George T. Stagg Jr. Barrel Proof Bourbon

Taking every conceivable whiskey metric to its furthest extreme is George T. Stagg Jr. Barrel Proof Bourbon. Suffice to say, this is bold stuff, measuring in at no less than a whopping 129.5 proof. Yet emanating through the heat and spice is unmistakable flavour, the type of which can vary depending on year. Nevertheless, the spirit will kindly remind you of its own formidable strength with every sip. As a result, it can be an acquired taste, more so than its older counterpart, George T. Stagg. Thankfully, we have plenty of hair on our chests to burn, so we picked up a bottle of Stagg Jr. and dubbed it our Spirit of the Month for March 2018. Read on for background and tasting notes.


You’ll also like:
Spirit of the Month January ’18 – Laphroaig Triple Wood
Spirit of the Month February ’18 – Mezcales de Leyenda San Luis Potosi Mezcal
Spirit of the Month December ’17 – Fortaleza Reposado Tequila


history of stagg distillery

History

George T. Stagg Jr. Barrel Proof Bourbon is crafted at Buffalo Trace Distillery, reportedly the oldest operating distillery in the USA. As one might imagine, this place has seen it all over the centuries–everything from massive fires to disastrous floods. Similarly, a number of the industry’s biggest titans once roamed the property, often at the same time–names like Edmund H. Taylor, Albert B. Blanton, Elmer T. Lee and, of course, George T. Stagg himself.

stagg make warehouse

It was Stagg who bought the property in 1878, though he continued to let previous owner Edmund Taylor run the day to day operations. Eight years later, the two men introduced the first climate-controlled aging warehouses in the nation. Thanks to all that innovation and craftsmanship, the brand was earning itself quite the loyal following, and setting a number of industry trends. By 1904, Albert Blanton was was on board and the operation had officially changed its name to George T. Stagg Distillery.

full view of stag distillery

In the face of endless of obstacles, Stagg continued to grow his empire, one bottle of good stuff at a time. One of those obstacles was Prohibition–when the US banned recreational alcohol consumption. However, Stagg was allowed to continue production (for “medicinal purposes”) during the infamous era. Consequently, the distillery was among the last few standing after Prohibition finally ended. Substantial growth followed, and by 1953, Warehouse V–the only “single barrel” warehouse in the world at the time–celebrated its two millionth barrel.

stagg distillery company side view

In 1999, the distillery changed its name to Buffalo Trace, but the craftsmanship upon which the operation was built remained firmly intact. Indeed, the label’s lineup pretty says it all, being dominated by wildly popular (and award-winning) expressions such as E.H. Taylor, Blanton’s, and George T. Stagg. Put simply, if you can’t find something to love from Buffalo Trace, then bourbon is just not your spirit.

 

stagg delicious taste whisky

Tasting

Once a year, Buffalo Trace releases its Antique Collection, a supremely rare range of exclusive whiskies that taste delicious and commonly fetch outrageous prices on the secondhand market. It’s within the Antique Collection that you’ll find George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Aged for no less than 15 years in new charred oak barrels, and housed inside a tall, gorgeous bottle, George T. Stagg is downright life-changing bourbon, exploding with the kind of dense, butterscotch flavour that could very well turn you onto top-shelf whiskey for good, or at the very least expand your horizons. Unfortunately, George T. Stagg is supremely high in demand and extremely limited in supply. To give enthusiasts something to sip on in the meantime, Buffalo Trace offers Stagg Jr.

george t stagg bottle size

Touting a rich, amber colour, Stagg Jr. is made using the same mashbill as George T. Stagg, but aged for about half the time. Expectedly, a certain tier of smoothness and distinction gets lost in the process, but that doesn’t mean Stagg Jr. is without character or appeal. On the contrary, there’s plenty of flavour to be found hovering beneath the expression’s top layer of heat. Here’s a breakdown:

Nose: A wave of heat gives way to notes of brown sugar, raisin, orange and spice. That aroma permeates the air, almost as if you could taste the fumes just by swishing the liquid around in the glass.

Taste: A robust, surprisingly smooth body of burnt sugar is laced with notes of raisin and spicy rye, joined by an oaky backbone. All the whiskey’s flavours open up with a few drops of water.

Finish: The spirit rides out on a wave of spice and oak, leaving a robust (but pleasant) heat in its wake, the kind that you can feel in your nostrils or on the tip of your tongue. Lingering on the palate are touches of sweetness and a mild bitterness.

They say George Stagg was a larger than life man who rarely made compromises. If that’s indeed true, then Stagg Jr. definitely takes it name to heart. As we mentioned before, this is bold stuff. That said, it’s bold, good stuff, assuming you can handle the heat. Does Stagg Jr. deliver the same exquisite, unforgettable taste as its elusive father? No, it does not. But it’s a worthy substitute while you save up to score the real thing.

Check it out

stagg front view

stagg Kentucky straight bourbon whisky

logo of george t stagg


You’ll also like:
Spirit of the Month January ’18 – Laphroaig Triple Wood
Spirit of the Month February ’18 – Mezcales de Leyenda San Luis Potosi Mezcal
Spirit of the Month December ’17 – Fortaleza Reposado Tequila


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