George T. Stagg Bourbon 2012 142.8 Proof
I’ve always thought of George T. Stagg’s modern packaging as unremarkable. Like the other brands in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, it comes in a clear glass bottle that could be a white wine bottle, and with a discrete sense of labeling. The one plus of that understated approach is that the bottle shows off lots and lots of the whiskey’s appearance, and with a super strong, aged bourbon like Stagg, that ain’t a bad thing: this bourbon has a full-on, syrupy rich amber coloring.
Before I proceed with the tasting notes, a word on adding water is in order. I usually disdain to add water, even for whiskeys as strong as 120 proof, and find that claims of “unlocking flavors” are overblown. Instead, I think water merely enhances only some aspects of a given whiskey, emphasizing one part over another. Adding water is therefore only an improvement if you like what it does to that particular whiskey, and is therefore only rarely a truly objective improvement.
That opinion of mine holds up even for cask strength whiskeys up to the 120-proof range, but I’ve found that stuff stronger than that requires a little water. 2012’s George T. Stagg is a case in point, as at 142.8 proof it’s almost strong enough to run your car on it. I put two capfuls of water into my 5 cl sample and found it improved the whiskey dramatically. Without the water, I found the alcohol gave the nose a bite that prevented me from taking a good sniff of it, and it also smothered the flavor just a bit. It doesn’t really burn with alcohol, but the stuff is so strong that it just seems like it’s harder to get at what’s there without the water.
With that splash of water, the whiskey came into a much better balance. The nose had a syrupy-thick sweetness, heavy with caramel and vanilla, with a bit of vanilla and even a little chocolate in for good measure. There is also a slight, leathery woodiness in there, but it’s half-buried under all the sweet stuff. Stagg 2012 has a rich scent, full of bold notes, and even with a little water, it retains a bit of a strong alcoholic kick.
The taste delivers that same, rich and bold vanilla and caramel sweetness. Underneath is a bit of oak and a dab of peppery spice. It ain’t subtle and it ain’t complex, but it is big and bursting with flavor. The finish is spicy (but not burning), warm, and almost bottomless.
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A wine list from Flask published in the early 1970s
Driving down Ventura Blvd in Studio City in the 1960’s has something in common with today, Flask Fine Wine & Whisky- Flask first opened its doors to the public in 1962. Decades later and it still remains a respected fixture in the Los Angeles community.
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