Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Buffalo Trace. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
The pandemic, still in full rage, has filled 2020 with uncertainty across the country. Conversely, Buffalo Trace Distillery managed to give whiskey lovers and collectors the gift of certainty they look forward to each year by releasing the Antique Collection. For the past 20 years, Buffalo Trace has doled out this special collection. It includes the George T. Stagg, the William Larue Weller, the Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, the Sazerac 18 Year Old, and the Eagle Rare 17 Year Old.
The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) has received multiple accolades and praise throughout the years. While the retail price for the collection is $99 per bottle, the secondary market has continued to push the price threshold. Some bottles have been sold for over $700. While the George T. Stagg has been the powerhouse of the collection, and a fan favorite, it wasn’t my top out of all the 2020 BTAC.
The George T. Stagg in the BTAC honors the man who helped keep O.F.C. Distillery afloat and then formed E.H. Taylor, Jr. & Co. with partner E.H. Taylor Jr. After Taylor parted ways, Stagg grew the distillery to be America’s leading bourbon producer. With this achievement, the distillery took on Stagg’s name, but we all know it as Buffalo Trace Distillery today.
For those that don’t know this Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, here is what Buffalo Trace said of it for 2020:
The proverbial powerhouse favorite of the Antique Collection, George T. Stagg, comes in at 130.4 proof this year. Last year’s release was awarded 97 points in the 2020 Ultimate Spirits Collection, and fans will find the familiar Stagg taste profile they know and love with cinnamon, caramel and cherries on the nose, and a creamy vanilla with lightly smoked oak on the palate. The finish is black coffee, dark cherries and herbs.
This year’s release contains bourbon from barrels filled in the spring of 2005. Storage location of these barrels varied across warehouses L, K and Q. The evaporation loss for this year’s batch was 59%, a bit higher than the last few year’s releases.
Tasting Notes: George T. Stagg (2020 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection)
Vital Stats: 65.2% ABV, 130.4 proof. Distilled in spring 2005. Aged 15 years and 4 months in #4 charred new American oak from warehouses L, K, and Q. The sour mash bill consists of Kentucky corn, Minnesota Rye, and North Dakota malted barley. 750ml $99.
Appearance: Tawny/burnt ochre
Nose: Spearmint graces the nose almost like menthol. I get a bit of black cherry mingled with cola almost like Dr. Pepper. The oak for this one is less prominent.
Palate: I first notice espresso and dark chocolate before the heat from the proof. The mouthfeel is oily. Maraschino cherry and orange zest provide a fruity background. The spearmint from the nose is present, but not as bold as it is on the nose. Almond or marzipan peak through near the end. Lastly, the sweetness on the finish is reminiscent of toasted marshmallow.
I am a huge fan of the George T. Stagg in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. They all are stand out whiskies, but after tasting the entire 2020 collection, I rank it third. It is the only one that drinks hot with it’s 130.4 proof, but with water and/or ice that is easily quelled. Obviously you’ll want to scoop this up regardless, and I say congrats to those who can find it not at black market prices.
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Courtney Kristjana is a leading whiskey taster in the country. She left a career in Gerontology after an article on Heather Greene inspired her to follow her passion for whiskey. She is studying to become a Master of Scotch and someday hopes she is nominated for the Keepers of the...