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I was lucky enough to pick this up on my last trip to Myrtle Beach on August 9th. I opened it almost immediately. It has taken a beating by critics. And yet getting your hands on a bottle is just as difficult as getting your hands on George T. Stagg. Now, I am unashamedly a fan of big barrel proof whisky. George T. Stagg is without question my favorite bourbon (that I have had the pleasure to own – I have tasted a Willett that makes me wonder . . .). So I come to this biased. I want to like it. Here are my thoughts after three “official” tasting session with pen in hand.
Nose: Leather, tobacco and alcohol! Candy canes and red hots. I love this nose. Rich wood flavors mix with sweet brown sugar. More alcohol and simply more “bourbony” then the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, and it goes without saying it is more muscled and austere. This is way more about power: raw bourbon power. It certainly reminds me of Stagg. Less sour then ECBP, but then it is also less sweet. This is a deep one: it is like approaching the earth’s core. After a little time I am finally dialing into the right frequency: bourbon hell fire, volcano lava, and charcoal. There is brown sugar here, but it is far in the background. With time the brown sugar moves to the fore. It is a nose that grows on you. There is something new and intense every time I nose this. My only complaint is that it doesn’t have the utter depth and richness that the big Stagg Sr. (and to an extent the EC) has. Water only brings out the intensity.
Taste: More balanced then ECBP. Nice balance of sweet and wood oak. Feels great in the mouth as it destroys your mouth.
Finish: Huge wash of bourbon . . . leather, brown sugar, charred wood, charcoal, out door BBQ, smoked meat . . . this is a huge finish. It is lasting for an age . . . and the salt pulls out every bit of moisture from your mouth. This is decimating! This is way more power then the EC has. And it lasts much longer.
Balance, Complexity: While it misses the depth of complexity that the ECBP has it is still extremely complex in a way I like. The balance is also wonderful: the sweet and the sour really balance out nicely. And the power . . . my goodness. This is Thor to the George T. Stagg’s Odin.
Aesthetic experience: It is a smaller more squat version of the tall slender Stagg bottle. I don’t love the “hand written” label because it is much more fake then the standard Stagg. And I don’t like that they are tying to make it look darker with the back label. Still, a 9yo at 67.2% . . . I love the idea of a younger Stagg.
Conclusion: I really, really like this bourbon. I do think that @Victor is correct – they should have called it Buffalo Trace Barrel Proof. But they wanted to capitalize on the Stagg name. I get it. I have a hard time faulting them when Stagg Sr. is the same juice just older and more carefully selected. Will I buy another bottle? Absolutely. Is it worth it at $49.99 a bottle? Absolutely. Is it as good as Stagg Sr.? No. But I find it does what only Stagg Sr. can do – it blows my socks off with power.