Barrels and Mash has yet to see a 5/5 review (whiskey or beer), but that’s because the site didn’t exist yet when I tried the 2013 George T. Stagg. That bourbon had it all, high proof, straight from the barrel, complexity, and just an intangible character that made it so amazing I understand why it’s one of the hardest bottles to find these days. In the summer of 2013 Buffalo Trace released a new, younger expression the same vein as George Sr. but instead of being aged around 15 years, this one is aged less than 10. The first couple of releases really didn’t seem to be very well received. I don’t know if people were expecting the full punch of George T. or what, but it seems the reviews are starting to level out with this latest release. Either Buffalo Trace is dialing it in, or people have just lowered their expectations to a reasonable level, who knows. Having not tried the first 2 releases, all I can do is judge this one, and judge this one I will. Here we go.
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Location: Frankfort, Kentucky
Mash Bill: Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1 (low rye)
Age: NAS (Rumored 9 years)
ABV: 66.05% (132.1 proof)
Released: Ongoing (currently on 3rd Release)
Color: Deep amber
Nose: The first thing I noticed was the funky fruit punch nose similar to the E.H. Taylor Cured Oak. There was a staggering (ha! word play) amount of ethanol at first so I let the glass hang out a little bit longer which let it taper off a bit, but not enough. I transferred the pour from my Glencairn glass to my NEAT glass in hopes that it would dissipate the alcohol a bit and it totally did. Once I got the ethanol out of the way, the leather and oak came out to balance that fruit sweetness. Some notes of molasses hit me every now and then as well. While killing the ethanol helped, there still was something off about the nose, I just can’t put my finger on it.
Taste: Any negative thoughts from the nose were immediately forgotten once this whiskey hit my tongue. The mouthfeel is super velvety with caramel, oak, and big fruit notes. The characteristics from the nose carry to the palate, but everything is amplified and in perfect balance. Some heat comes in on the back of the palate in the form of baking spices that really adds to the complexity and depth of this stuff.
Finish: Cinnamon heat continues to build from the baking spices on the palate and leads into the finish where it hits in full force. Like on the palate, the finish is still pretty balanced, but the weight shifts slightly to the spice and heat and lets the fruit fade into the background. The finish is long and leaves cinnamon and oak behind as the other flavors fade.
Overall: Well, this isn’t Papa George, but it’s still damn good. This is actually a fairly difficult bottle to find (at least in these parts) but this 3rd release has been popping up in a few stores here and there usually at around a $60 price point. I was lucky to find a bottle of this with a sub-$50 price tag and honestly, thats probably a fair price for it. If I had to pick the most recent release of this or the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Elijah would get my vote hands down, so I couldn’t see spending an extra $15 on this stuff.