Review: George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey / by Jason Hambrey

George Stagg 3.jpg
18.5 yrs; Charred Virgin Oak
~75% Corn, 10% Rye, 15% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Of course, each year of Stagg varies in age, barrels, and ABV - the above is for the 2011 batch I have reviewed, the oldest Stagg ever, I believe. Indeed, it is not often you find an 18 year old bourbon, let alone one bottled at cask strength greater than 70%!

Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2011

  • Bottling Code: K237 119:44

  • Bottling Date: 2011

This is an oaky beast! The nose has vanilla and oak, dried cherry, almond, corn husks, dried apricot, and the lightest hint of strawberry and hibiscus. Nuttiness grows with time. If you drink at higher proofs, wonderful oiliness and beeswax reveal themselves along with Elmo’s craft glue, dried cranberry, leather, black tea, dried flowers – surprisingly, on the nose, I get more at full proof. Oak is here, there, and everywhere – it is relatively clean though – you aren’t getting a sense of really earthy, mossy, oak or very spicy oak – at least not relative to the magnitude of straightforward oak. It really does smell like a stave of sweet, luscious oak. The palate is loaded through with oak, strawberry, clove, old tough dried fruit, and light bitterness. Nice tanginess, and incredibly rich dried fruit. The finish is full of light fruitiness, vanillla, baking spices, spearmint and stewed apricots and peaches. The finish is dense, slowly unfolding with time.

The whole thing, really, is chained in oak – it is terrific for a powerful, oaky bourbon but in terms of complexity and intrigue – it’s not quite there. The nose is really nice, but the palate is too constrained by the mighty oak and isn’t quite together. I keep wanting to rate this higher because I know it is a Stagg – it is ever the error with non-blind tasting. However, tasting in a flight brings back that advantage...and it isn’t the caliber of the ones I’m tasting beside it. The nose is fantastic, and it develops beautifully, but the palate and the finish don’t meet expectation. But that was a pretty high expectation – this is terrific bourbon.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $150.