I remember when I first tried George T. Stagg seven years ago. I was amazed at how great this whiskey was. I actually got this bottle by chance at Hokus Pokus. At the time, Hokus sold their Pappy and BTAC bottles by drawing. That year I picked Pappy 20, and a lady who picked George T Stagg saw the proof on it, and decided not to buy it and allowed me to buy it. I remember debating with myself and others whether the Stagg was better than the Pappy. After a few years of drinking these whiskies, I would definitely pick Stagg and William LaRue Weller over Pappy. I nevertheless look forward to cracking these bottles each year, and then nipping on them at various times over the course of a year. On a day I might accomplish something, or maybe a day where I just want to congratulate myself for surviving, I allow myself a dram and then move on to something else. But, today is the day where I review these, think and analyze these magnificent whiskies.
This year’s George T. Stagg was aged 15 years and four months, and most George T. Stagg bottles are around 15 years old. The proof is back up this year, at 130.4 proof. The color is a deep amber, and the swirl reveals a thin film and skinny legs. On the nose is a heavy brunt caramel/burnt sugar note, with charred oak, dark chocolate, and a slight pipe tobacco note. On the palate is rich vanilla, dark almost burnt caramel, leather, baking and rye spice, with the caramel and vanilla notes carrying over into a complex finish of cinnamon, graham cracker, and lots of oak tannin.
Big old Kentucky hug on this one. Very rich mouthfeel. Really a delicious whiskey that hits all the right notes, This probably isn’t the best George T. Stagg I have ever tasted, but it is definitely better than last years.
This year’s William LaRue Weller was aged 12 years and six months, and weighs in at a heavy 134.5 proof. Given that the wheated mashbill at Buffalo Trace is barrelled at 115 proof, while the rye recipe bourbon is barrelled at 120 proof, this whiskey underwent a great deal of water evaporation, more so than the Stagg.
The color is a deep deep red mahogony. Just gorgeous. Much thicker film and legs on the swirl. On the nose, we have cherries, oak, brown sugar, freshly baked pie notes. Really nice. On the palate, Amarena wild cherries in syrup, red fruits, brown sugar, and baking spice mingle on your tongue with a coating thick mouthfeel. The finish is amazing with big baking spice, a hint of pipe tobacco, leather, a hint of clove, and wonderful oak. A little thicker and bolder than last year’s release.
This year’s bottling really is all that. This isn’t hyped up by allocation and I could say there are better cheaper bourbons out there. This is the best wheated bourbon out there, period, full stop. If you get the right place in line, the right pull in a drawing, know the right people, or however you get there, if you happen to be confronted with a choice of of limited release bottles – Van Winkle, BTAC, Four Roses Limited Edition, Old Fitzgerald, you name it – and this bottle, William LaRue Weller, is part of the mix, you pick this bottle every day of the week and twice on Sunday. It is just that good.