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.
George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020), 65.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
Bakery notes, orange blossom, allspice, dark berries, raspberry preserves, butterscotch, chocolate, leather, and cedar chest integrate superbly on the nose. The show continues on a very full-bodied palate packed with dark fruit, orange slices, brown sugar, almond, cinnamon, and an overlay of allspice. A deliciously thick, viscous finish goes on and on, completing this tour de force with flavors of chocolate-covered marshmallows, cinnamon, more allspice, old leather, tobacco, and polished oak.
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!
George T. Stagg 15 year old (2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), 62.45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
This offers up warming ginger, candied orange, and wisps of furniture polish. The lavish and leathery oak flavors are apparent but don’t overwhelm the abundance of zippy, bright citrus—orange oil and yuzu—as the palate unleashes wave upon wave of spices that keep you guessing where it will head next. In the end, more lingering ginger and dusty cocoa.
George Dickel 11 year old Bottled in Bond (Distilled in Fall 2008), 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $40
Lush, rich, and deep from the start, with blackberry, cherry, spiced plum, cinnamon, mint, and maple syrup aromas. Even more density on the palate, which has deep flavors of cocoa powder, Raisinets, roasted walnuts, cinnamon, mint, maple syrup, and chewy oak. Extraordinary length on the finish, which carries the chocolate, dark fruit, spice, mint, and rich oak notes for minutes. A phenomenal follow-up to its 13 year old antecedent, our 2019 Whisky of the Year.
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.
George Dickel 15 year old Single Barrel (No. L2029-5k-1010), 52.3%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
This has Dickel’s distinctive oily grain aromas: It’s packed with corn and peanuts, and also sweet with brown-sugar oatmeal and maple candy. Add a little water and voila! Orange peel and Luxardo cherry appear, creating an instant Old Fashioned. The palate is chewy and full-bodied, pepped up with cinnamon and dried ginger, and lengthened by grape jelly, Coca-Cola, Corn Nuts, and dried cherries. A full and lengthy finish sings with ginger, peanuts, and chocolaty oak.
Highland toffee, dried banana, salted caramel, seashells flipped from rock pools, and crispy-skinned oily fish barbecuing over a fire. Sweet toffee meets cinnamon, pepper, and clove, as an express train of smoke clatters through, leaving intense citrus peel oils and green fruits in the backwash. A spasm of spice marks the finish: arid, amid baked fruits and toffee. Leave me now, I have everything I need.
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.)
George T. Stagg (2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), 64.6%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
Caramel. Caramel. Caramel. It comes early and remains to the finish. In between this caramel sandwich, it’s nutmeg, cinnamon, jasmine, rose petals, baked apples, fudge, pecan pie, peanut brittle, and roasted peanuts. Over a mouth-coating palate, its complexity tingles and every note plays just under the rich and layered caramel that presents itself as a chew on the extremely long finish. This is a must-have sipper.
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.
George Dickel Bottled in Bond 13 year old (Distilled in Fall 2005) Tennessee Whiskey, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $36
Following Tennessee’s practice of charcoal-filtering the distillate before aging, this whiskey is soft around the edges yet delivers plenty of intensity. The mouthwatering peanut aromas evoke memories of cracking open a school lunchbox while the palate delivers abundant fruit: orange marmalade and caramel apple. Fine bitter-sweet balance suggests burnt sugar, Mexican chocolate, chocolate-covered almonds, and toffee. Indeed, sweet nuts, like French burnt peanuts, candied pralines, and marron glacé, seem to be the common thread here, lending this a consistent chord from initial nose through the drying, pleasantly spiced finish. As recently as 2016, Dickel appeared to be reeling, following the departure of two longtime distillers. In 2018, 33 year old Nicole Austin, a chemical engineering graduate who got her start with New York craft distiller Kings County Distillery, took over as general manager and distiller. Austin set about cherry-picking the warehouses for exceptional barrels, a dramatic change of course from the just-released George Dickel Tabasco Brand Barrel Finish, finished in hot sauce barrels. The result is this 13 year old whiskey, which like all bottled in bond spirits results from one distilling season—here, the fall of 2005. In this way, bottled in bond whiskey is similar to a vintage wine, making this release a limited edition by definition. We relish well-aged, delicious whiskey at a bargain price—and all whiskey lovers have reason to applaud George Dickel on hitting its stride. Number 1 in the 2019 Top 20
George T. Stagg 15 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon (2019 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), 58.45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
Aromas of concord grape jelly, vanilla crumb cake, dusty baking spice, leather, tobacco barn, iced tea, and peanut shells are offset by citrus peel and rose oil, especially prominent with a bit of water added. The bold, rich palate is packed with dark berries, baking spice, semi-sweet chocolate, and espresso, with pops of citrus fruit and spearmint adding liveliness and verve. It finishes with blackberry cobbler, dark chocolate, leathery oak, and undercurrents of black pepper and baking spice that don’t quit. Restrained and elegant, even at full proof.
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)
Stagg Jr. Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon (13th Edition), 64.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $50
This kicks off with a bounty of dark fruit—dark berries, cherry cough drops, and currants—coupled with heaps of vanilla, mocha, and rich oaky notes. Big and brawny on the palate, it pours bold and viscous, the blueberry and blackberry fruit balanced with the sweet-bitter notes of burnt sugar and pipe tobacco. The flavors harmonize beautifully, culminating in a finish of dark jam, coffee, and semi-sweet chocolate.
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.