Whiskey Review: George T. Stagg 2017

Editor’s Note: This week, we’re reviewing the 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys. Check out our previous reviews as well: Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old, Sazerac 18-Year-Old

Referred to as the “powerhouse favorite” of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, George T. Stagg is a cask-strength bourbon geared towards people who like their whiskey unapologetically big, unashamedly bold, and lip-stingingly spicy—at least, that’s its reputation.

The expression is named after one of the founding fathers of today’s Buffalo Trace. In 1878, a St. Louis whiskey salesman named George T. Stagg bought what was then called the Old Fire Copper Distillery from E.H. Taylor Jr. In 1904, he rebranded it as the George T. Stagg distillery, a name it carried for almost 100 years. In fact, when the Buffalo Trace distillery was named Distillery of the Year by Whisky Advocate in 2000, it was still going by the George T. Stagg name.

Any George T. Stagg release has a lot of hype to live up to – past expressions have routinely won double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and garnered awards like Best North American Whiskey (World Whiskies Awards), Best Non-Age Statement Bourbon (Whisky Magazine), and Kentucky Straight Bourbon Chairman’s Trophy (Ultimate Spirits Challenge).

The release of the Antique Collection—BTAC for short—is a hotly anticipated event in the bourbon world, and while the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is a modest $90, most people end up paying a lot more, either because they buy their bottles on the secondary market, or because their retailers mark up the bottles in response to enormous demand.

Each year’s release always has the same five whiskeys: Eagle Rare 17-year-old, Sazerac Rye 18-year-old, William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Hardy Rye, and George T. Stagg. However, each year’s blend is usually slightly different, with barrels coming from different locations in different warehouses. This year’s George T. Stagg was distilled in spring 2002 and aged in warehouses C, K, M, and Q. According to Buffalo Trace, “this batch contained 309 barrels, a few more than last year.”

Tasting Notes: George T. Stagg 2017

Vital Stats: 129.2 proof, 15 years old

Appearance: Warm, orangey amber 

Nose: Well, yep, it’s bourbon. A bright, fruity handshake introduces caramel, vanilla, fresh tobacco leaf, and leather, with a firm oak texture and just the right amount of vaporous tingle. Pretty darn canonical.

Palate: Spice leads off, with a flash of fresh, fruity flavors in the mid-palate before settling into a lovely array of chocolate fudge, leather, tobacco, and polished wood. There’s a strong mineral backbone, too, with more spice—nutmeg, pepper, clove—coming through in the finish. Lush and flamboyant, this is classic bourbon with presence and chutzpa.

Water kills it. I tend to prefer cask strength whiskey with a bit of dilution, but this one seems to be at just the right proof.

The Takeaway

George T. Stagg manages to be bold yet graceful, masculine yet nuanced. It hits every bourbon button head on, and somehow manages to be dangerously drinkable even at this huge proof. Nice work, Buffalo Trace—this is my favorite of the 2017 Antique Collection.

4.5
User Rating 3.04 (112 votes)
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About the author

Margarett Waterbury

Margarett Waterbury is a food and drinks writer based in Portland, Oregon. She's the managing editor of The Whiskey Wash, the managing editor of Edible Portland, and a regular contributor to local and national publications.