Buffalo Trace 2015 Antique Collection: George T. Stagg

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George T. Stagg 2015
George T. Stagg 2015

Buffalo Trace’s annual Antique Collection of whiskey has become an extremely hot commodity. Several of the entries have won major awards including “Best Rye Whiskey” and “Best in Show” at top spirit competitions. Of the five whiskeys released each year, George T. Stagg is one of the most sought after. George T. Stagg has become known as a powerhouse whiskey that delivers a bold flavor experience.

George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 2015 (69.1% ABV, $80) – As with years past, the nose on this year’s George T. Stagg is bold and highly aromatic. Oak is the lead note out of the glass, which is no surprise given that this whiskey is around 15 years old. What is a surprise is just how well integrated it is with the other aromas in the nose. Beyond the oak is marzipan, caramel, and cinnamon. The nose is absent of any fire or edge, something you wouldn’t expect from a whiskey at this high ABV. All these elements come together to create an extraordinarily inviting nose.

On the palate, this year’s George T. Stagg starts out rich with deep caramel. The mouthfeel from the start is exceptional. After the caramel has had its chance to shine, the spicy elements of this whiskey begin to emerge with cinnamon, leather, black pepper, and charred oak. As you’d expect, the spice ramps up in the midpalate, but the pure fire that was the signature of many of the previous incarnations of George T. Stagg isn’t there.

It’s almost shocking just how balanced and integrated this year’s George T. Stagg is. The midpalate is spicy but it manages to hold on to the sweet undertones of caramel from the opening, honey, and cherry. The oak in the midpalate is really something special. This whiskey has been plucked out of the barrel at the absolute perfect time, right as the conversation between the whiskey and the barrel has gotten intensely interesting.

The finish on this year’s George T. Stagg preserves the balance and character from the rest of the whiskey experience. It’s not overly dry or sharp in any way, and after a nice long finish it leaves the mouth cool and minty fresh.

This year’s George T. Stagg is a little bit of a departure from the monster that it used to be, but that’s not a bad thing. Here George T. Stagg is more a gentle giant, with a lot of flavor and character to deliver but done in a balanced and pleasant way.

The bad news about this year’s George T. Stagg is that it’s going to be impossible to find. Buffalo Trace’s release of Stagg Jr. two years ago has only served to bolster the George T. Stagg brand. Adding to that, this year’s release of Stagg will be significantly less than years past. The 2015 batch of Stagg was drawn from 128 barrels, which was a similar sized batch as previous years. Unfortunately, this year Buffalo Trace discovered a significantly larger angel’s share with a staggering 84% of the original whiskey lost to evaporation, and with some barrels only containing 1 or 2 gallons of whiskey. Of course, we’re only going to make things worse with our rating: 96 Points. 
2015 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Reviews: