George T. Stagg 2018 recently dropped in our area, to much anticipation.
After last year’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection announcement that George T. Stagg would be much more plentiful than previous years, consumers hoped that the same would hold true for 2018. Indeed, it nearly did, with the 2018 numbers showing not quite as much Stagg as 2017, but still much higher than past years.
George T. Stagg is a barrel proof bourbon from Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Mash Bill #1 that is aged 15+ years. George T. Stagg 2018 was distilled in the Spring of 2003. After at least 15 years and 4 months of aging in warehouses C, H, I, K, P, and Q, it was bottled in the Fall of 2018 at 124.9 proof.
Though 124.9 proof is hardly considered low, compared to George T. Stagg’s previous releases, it is. In fact, it is the lowest proof ever for George T. Stagg, which was first released in 2002.
For helpful context, George T. Stagg 2018 was tasted side-by-side with the 2017 release.
George T. Stagg 2018 (124.9 proof, 15 years 4 months)
Nose: A very fruity bouquet, full of plums, blackberries, raspberries, black grapes, raisins, figs, and overripe strawberries. There is a light leather note, mixed with some ground cinnamon, brown sugar, and a hint of nutmeg. The wood is more cedar than oak, but with some char. This is a very inviting nose, and not the nostril-singeing experience that prior releases were. 4/5
Palate: A brief burst of cinnamon sugar and rye spice before giving way to the fruit from the nose – plums, blackberries, and strawberries most predominately. The palate rounds out with raisins, oak, and light tobacco leaf. Like the nose, the palate is very approachable. It does not need water to be able to sort through the flavors. The mouthfeel has a creamy texture that pairs well with some of the spicier notes. 5/5
Finish: Tobacco and a sweet port wine, with lingering black cherries, dark chocolate, caramel, and raisins. It stops just short of becoming dry and tannic, maintaining the creamy, mouth coating texture from the palate. 5/5
Overall: The first word that comes to mind is “approachable.” This may lack some of the complexity and depth of prior releases, but not at the expense of a very pleasant experience throughout. There is a careful balance to achieve high-proof and full flavor, without overwhelming the taster. This release maintains that balance in spades. 5/5
Value: The price for this varied locally from as low as $129 to as high as $299. Though we would prefer the price stay closer to MSRP in our local stores, rather than being priced according to the secondary market, the simple truth is that 15+ year old barrel proof limited release bourbon commands a high premium. We’ll score this as if it’s $199, which is still more than satisfying. 4/5
George T. Stagg 2017 (129.2 proof, 15 years 3 months)
Nose: A lot of fruit, like the 2018, but more towards strawberry/cherry/raspberry. Some faux leather and cinnamon red hots, with some soft-serve ice cream. Overall, a much sweeter nose than 2018, but just as inviting.
Palate: Cinnamon sugar and red hots leap out immediately, followed by brown sugar, cherry, and caramel. There is a bit of Tabasco sauce on the back-palate that differentiates this the most from the 2018. With it comes some very dark chocolate that is a bit drying, making the mouthfeel on this not quite as pleasing as 2018. Nevertheless, this is a great drink.
Finish: Long; the leather, caramel, and overripe strawberry make for a terrific combination that linger for some time. It does take a brief turn towards some tannic notes, but not so much that it becomes overly bitter. It has become a bit more tannic than when it was tasted earlier, which knocks it down just a hair.
Overall: The approachability, with the uniqueness of notes like the Tobacco sauce, make this an exiting pour. It has held up well since last year, with only the slightly increased tannic note on the finish being a criticism.
Stephen is a regular writer at FlightClubICT.com