Author: Paul Ables
This award-winning bourbon label from Buffalo Trace Distillery is truly a one-of-a-kind product and definitely stands out from the crowd. George T Stagg is a $70 bottle of fine Kentucky bourbon that is known for one thing: knocking you out. The
uncut & unfiltered edition has a standard 142-proof that is among the highest in the bourbon industry. This particular review bottle is 143-proof and it takes you for a crazy ride.
Using Your Senses
Despite the bourbon’s sky-high alcohol content, it actually has a very pleasant smell. There’s a lot of complexity here and you pick up on notes of corn, sweet fruits, grain, leather and a nice smokey char smell. It simply smells as a fine, mature bourbon should. I passed it to a few friends of mine who do not drink strong bourbons, but they agreed that it smelled wonderful.
The aroma is very attractive, as is the actual color of the bourbon. You can tell that it has been aged and carefully crafted, as its deep golden color illustrates. As for the bottle, it is pretty standard fare with a basic label but it does present well on display.
When pouring it into a glass, you can immediately see the thick legs running down the sides. This is evident of the extremely high alcohol proof and is a good forewarning for the assault on your senses that is soon to come. The texture is very smooth but not too thick.
Now it’s time for a sampling of this crazy 143-proof concoction. Taking in that first sip is an experience unlike any other – and I mean that in a good and bad way. For old-school bourbon drinkers who like it rough, it does not get any better than this. The proof literally takes your breath away and leaves you gasping for air.
This is without a doubt the strongest bourbon product I have ever sampled and wow, does it take you for a ride. If you like it straight, just know that you have been pre-warned. Once you start breathing again, you will actually notice the flavor and all of the ingredients that go into this fine product.
You will notice strong hints of corn, smoke and grain. There is not too much sweetness to it; it is more on the spicy and dry side. Granted, some of that also comes from the high proof itself.
To my surprise, I preferred drinking George T. Stagg straight instead of on ice as the water diluted most of the flavor. It may have been a bad mixture, but for whatever reason I really did not like the taste on ice at all. However, it did help tame the spirit down, if only a little bit. If you are a beginner in bourbon drinking, then the ice is probably essential to make it drinkable. But the full flavor profile comes through better straight from the bottle.
Conclusion & Recommendation
I have a love-hate relationship with George T. Stagg’s bourbon label. On one hand it smells wonderful and has a mature and appealing aroma. The bottle and color make for an attractive pairing and you can simply tell that this is a fine bourbon product. As for the fun factor, this might take the cake over any other product as the 143-proof simply begs for you to share it with a friend and compare notes.
At the same time, I am of the thought that the proof is a little bit too high. I have sampled bourbons such as Angel’s Envy 121-proof Cask Strength and Knob Creek’s 120-proof Single Barrel label. The proofs are in perfect harmony as they provide a strong bite, while also allowing for plenty of flavor to come through and shine. Those products are delicious.
As for George T. Stagg, I just did not get that same positive impression. There are some nice ingredients to enjoy and the flavor is not bad, but it is not worthy of all the hype that it receives. Taking the proof down from 143 to 120 would do wonders for this product and could showcase its flavors and aroma better. Instead, the alcohol content shocks the senses so much that a lot of that is hidden. Also, I hated the flavor on ice. I will chalk that up to a one-time fluke on my part, as I hear from many Stagg fans that they prefer it on ice.
In the end, though, bourbon comes down to what you prefer. If you like your bourbon to punch you in the mouth and sit you down silly, then the buck stop here. This is the spirit for you. Even though it is not my personal favorite, I certainly can appreciate the good qualities in it and will still keep it on my bar as a fun bourbon to sample with friends.
Rating: 7 / 10
For more information on this distillery, visit their official website here: http://www.buffalotracedistillery.com/brands/antique-collection
Also, please feel free to ask questions about this bourbon or leave feedback in the comments section below or on Twitter @PaulAbles