...and thank you for staying tuned in. We've jumped a year ahead and now we are comparing the 2012 Stagg with the 2011. I am VERY fortunate to have the opportunity to taste these side by side. @Victor provided the 2011 sample; @thecyclingyogi provided the 2012! I'm a lucky, lucky man (raps knuckles on table, dodges ladder, kicks away black cat, kisses rosary). As with all Staggs, this is at least 15 years old, uncut, unfiltered.
The colour, of course, is a deep mahogany with those reddish overtones. On the nose, we have something a little softer than the 2011 - fruitier, with more cherries and dates, menthol and wood furniture polish. Vanilla, absolutely, but a touch less than the 2011. Elements of a deep, dark, very aged rum. Strangely, water seems to have little effect. It's definitely a powerhouse, but it does have an elegance to it.
On the palate, tons of spice, more so I think than the previous year's release. Big, big heat, and big, big spices, with apples and plums, huge tobacco and leather, and tons of oak. I'm getting more rye in this edition; am I imagining things? Water tames the heat but retains those mouth-pulling tannins, while adding more mint. Again - brilliant.
The finish is almost hoppy, like a wort - then comes raisins, more tobacco and late-arriving cloves. It's very interesting to see the subtle - very subtle - differences between these two editions. I wonder how consistent the mashbill is between years; I could swear there is a little more corn in 2011, and a little more rye in 2012. But what do I know? I need @Victor to weigh in on this one! Incidentally, John Hansell rated this is 96, the highest rating he's given any in the 2012 Antique Collection. Also winner of Best American Whiskey in the 2013 World Whiskies Awards, and deservedly so.
@talexander, it is good to see you reviewing releases of George T. Stagg. I do not think that Buffalo Trace changes the mashbill at all from year to year. George T. Stagg bourbon uses the standard Buffalo Trace mashbill, which is relatively low in rye content, around 8%, compared to most bourbons which use 15% and higher as a standard. If there is corn to be tasted past 15 year old wood and rye grain, it would be more likely in a bourbon such as this in which the rye content is only about 8%.
For me tasting corn in bourbon usually ranges from extremely subtle to completely impossible. Rye grain and new wood flavours are so much stronger than the flavours of corn. Standard Buffalo Trace mashbill #1 does let the corn flavour peek through a bit, though. So yes, if you look for the corn flavours in George T. Stagg, you can probably find some of them, though to my palate they are still pretty subtle in the company of such intense wood influence.
Where corn really shows itself in bourbon to me is in the thick oily body which it gives to the whiskey. That thick body is typical of bourbons and also of US straight rye whiskeys, which usually have about 30-40% corn content in their mashbills.
So why might one taste more rye flavour in the 2012 release of George T. Stagg than in the 2011 release? I am not at all sure, but the guess that I would hazard is that the differences in the wood of the two releases probably either emphasised or cloaked one set of flavours relative to the other. In other words, the differences in the wood flavours of the two batches may have emphasised the ability to more easily identify the taste of corn in the 2011 release and the taste of rye in the 2012 release.
This is a subtle game, trying to figure out things like this. I think that it comes down to the flavour influences of the wood used in the specific barrels in the two releases...how did you get that last post read and responded to in 2 minutes flat?!?