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Sometimes tasting whiskey isn't straightforward. The first thing to consider about trying George T Stagg 2014 is that it's almost 70% abv.
In the glass is clear dark chestnut brown. A good looking rich colour.
The nose is a delight of complexity, but the first whiff is a big wave of alcohol like rocket fuel and it takes a few goes to get the senses under control. After the booziness there's caramel, toffee, Christmas pudding, aged mahogany wood, raisin, dark rum, dried fruits, light sherry, dry grass, sawdust, cedar wood, beeswax polish, stone fruits, chocolate. I can't remember a whiskey with so many aromas in it. I can sit sniffing this for hours. Superb nose.
The first sip and boom, a great big hit of choking alcohol burn. I try to cope with it by just coating my lips. It burns but the texture of the liquid is gorgeous. Thick, oily, luscious, sticking to and coating my lips. After the burn, It has a distinctive grapey, cognac texture, then toffee, caramel, that aged mahogany wood. It's too hot though so I need to recalibrate it with water.
Hard to get the water content right. I add just a few drops. Opens up and after a hot and spicy tingle it's a smooth, aged wood, mahogany, caramel, stone fruits, figs, dark fruit, Cognac.
I'm trying to pin down the finish. It's not really long and deep, but smooth and complex, a multitude of soft dark fruits and dark wood. Not much vanilla oak but rather aged antique wood, a little raw rough cut oak, sawdust and some herbal, grassy, sappy notes.
This is a complex and interesting whiskey, but it's not in the sublime category for me. I'd take simpler more clear cut flavours and a longer and bolder finish over this interesting complexity. Bottom line is that I wouldn't buy this whiskey even if I could find it. It's head over heart. Shostrakovich complexity, but I like the simplicity of Beethoven. I'll take Van Winkle 13 Year Family Reserve Rye over George T Stagg. I know because I drank one straight after and it was like a rainbow on my tongue after the George T Stagg storm on my senses.