Another excellent Stagg, and considering its alcohol level, it’s also a good value if you can get it at this price. Notes of toffee, pot still rum, nougat, dates, tobacco, roasted nuts, polished oak, and leather. Great depth and nicely balanced. A masculine bourbon of character and structure.
No age statement, but distilled in 1998. A beautiful expression of Stagg, and a lot of bourbon for your buck. Easy to drink with the addition of water, showing caramel, nougat, dates, dark chocolate, polished oak, along with a hint of leather and tobacco. Slightly better than last year’s release—richer, thicker, and more balanced. I’m enjoying Stagg’s more rounded, less aggressive demeanor of late. A classic! Editor's Choice.
Like the William Larue Weller releases a couple years back, I felt that the Stagg releases (after being brought down in strength) were almost too easy-going. Like the new Weller release, this bourbon has improved greatly, to classic status. Clean, balanced notes of toffee, molasses, nougat, polished leather, dates, roasted nuts, cinnamon, subtle summer fruits, teasing mint, ground coffee, nutmeg, and a hint of tobacco. Long, balanced finish. An outstanding bourbon!
Less alcohol than past Staggs, even at 128.2° proof. This whiskey has always been one of the best in the portfolio, and its reputation is intact. Sweeter and fuller in body than recent releases, and not as masculine, making it easier to drink. (Don’t worry; it’s still a big Stagg, but with a smaller “rack.”) Vanilla taffy, nougat, dates, polished oak, roasted nuts, leather, and tobacco: it’s all there. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2013.
At this strength, it’s almost like getting two whiskeys for the price of one. A great value, considering its age. (It’s not identified on the label, but was distilled in 1993.) Try to find a great 18 year old, cask-strength single malt scotch for this price. Very mature — with a good dose of oak — but not excessively so. Notes of toffee, tobacco, dark molasses, roasted nuts, dried vanilla, leather, and a hint of dusty corn. Dry on the finish, with lingering leather and tobacco.
The first release of Stagg was our 'American Whiskey of the Year' for 2003. I couldn’t imagine this one being better, but it is. This is a textbook example of what older, more mature bourbon should taste like: great depth and maturity, yet nicely balanced without excessive woodiness on the palate. It is spicier and creamier on the nose than the first bottling with more vanilla tones and not quite as dry on the finish. Indeed, it hints of a softer, gentler side. But with a name like Stagg, it can be nothing more than a hint. Other flavors you’ll enjoy in this bourbon include spearmint, teaberry, candied fruit, leather, and toffee. Given its high proof and reasonable price, it’s also a great value. (Like Campbell’s soup, just add water.)
No age statement, but distilled in 2000. A great value if you can find it for $80. An aggressive whiskey, but complex too, showing toffee, nougat, dates, black raspberry, dark chocolate, and resinous oak. Leather and tobacco on the finish. Masculine and exciting. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2015 Release.
Very close to last year’s release in personality, with great balance between the sweetness, spice, and fruit. Nicely structured, with clearly defined notes of toffee, molasses, cinnamon, vanilla bean, dried citrus, brittle mint, roasted nuts, tobacco, and polished leather on the finish. (Editor's Choice)
Antique amber color. Thick, mature aromas of toffee, leather, candied fruit, and mint. The aromas are tightly bound at cask strength but open up with a bit of water to reveal spicy wood resins and a hint of tobacco. Thick, almost chewy in texture. Its flavors are similar to its aroma (and nicely balanced), with the sweeter notes (toffee, candied fruit) up front and the drier, more spicy notes (mint, wood resins, leather) beginning in the middle and continuing to its finish. A lovely balance of flavors and not one bit too old or woody.
The fourth limited release Stagg in as many years. While there’s no age statement on the bottle, this one is 16 years old. And in the same vein as its three predecessors, this Stagg is an extremely seamless affair. What impresses me most about the annual Stagg releases is the whiskey’s incredible drinkability at remarkably high alcohol levels. Be stingy when adding water to this whiskey to appreciate its soothingly smooth, oily texture and lovely notes of maple syrup, vanilla cream, dried corn, candied fruit, polished oak, supple leather, pencil shavings, and subtle mint.
No age statement, but this whiskey was distilled in 1992. At 144.8 proof, this is almost two whiskeys for the price of one. In true Stagg form, this whiskey is dangerously drinkable -- even at higher strength (although you will still need to add copious quantities of water to this supercharged whiskey). Its dominant character is chewy toffee sweetness with maple syrup, vanilla fudge, and nougat. Additional notes of berried fruit, tea, spearmint, and suggestions of tobacco. Very soothing. An incredible value, considering its strength.
These Stagg releases are becoming legendary. This one, while not the best of the bottlings, maintains the Stagg reputation. When compared with the earlier release in 2005, this Stagg expresses a shade less oak. It’s also more subtle and creamier on the palate. It’s clean, superbly balanced, and very drinkable-even at higher strengths. Light toffee, maple syrup, and caramel corn provide a bed of sweetness. Layered on top are notes of candied fruit, crisp mint, vanilla, and polished oak. Soft finish. Just don’t add too much water to it because the flavors seem to lose their cohesiveness at lower strengths. Drink this whiskey at a strength higher than you normally would to fully appreciate it.
Stagg is so smooth, it’s quite drinkable at higher proofs. On the other hand, when you bring it down to the strength that you would normally drink your whiskey, it’s almost too easygoing (I made the same comment about last year’s William Larue Weller bottling). The main theme to this whiskey is lush toffee sweetness and, like last year’s expression, some vanilla fudge, nougat, and molasses. Underlying notes of dates, tobacco, dark berried fruit, spearmint, and a hit of coffee round out the palate. Given the higher strength, it’s a true value bourbon -- almost like getting two bottles in one. A very nice whiskey but, when brought down to comparable strength, the Eagle Rare 17 has more complexity.
Distilled in 2001, this year’s release is a departure from recent releases, which were complex and nicely balanced. It’s more aggressive, with tannins and oak dominating, and lacking the body and sweetness to balance it. It’s my least favorite of this year’s offerings. Dark chocolate, toffee, tobacco, and dried fruit round out the palate and offer some comfort. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2016
The new, younger sibling to George T. Stagg. George T.’s signature is its bold nature and high proof, and Junior follows in its footsteps. The aromas are very nice: bold spice (clove, dusty mint, cinnamon, evergreen) with layers of burnt sugars, cocoa, charred oak, and berried fruit. However, on the palate, those sugars become dominated by aggressive spice, leather, and unnecessary tannin, most notably on the finish. Spend a little more and opt for George T. Stagg instead (also reviewed in this issue).