The 2011 release is somewhat less fruitier on the noise and is generally a bit lighter in character despite one of the higher barrel proofs in a while.
Notes: This is the latest release of George T. Stagg – the Fall of 2011. However, the release is far smaller than the demand so if you don’t get a bottle soon, it will be hunted to extinction by everyone else in short order.
This whiskey is produced at the scenic Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort (close to Woodford Reserve Distillery if you are touring) home of numerous other whiskies such as Ancient Age, Ancient Ancient Age, Eagle Rare 10 year-old, Eagle Rare 17 year-old, Blanton’s, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock Reserve, Elmer T. Lee and their Wheated Bourbon Series; W. L. Weller Special Reserve,and W. L. Weller 12 . (See our Adventure Section for a tour of the distillery). They also now produce the Van Winkle series of wheated bourbons and Van Winkle Rye.
This is not a single barrel (see above) but a small batch, from the mixing of a very small group of barrels which are picked for this bottling and released at barrel proof (which varies from year to year) as part of their Antique Collection which is a collection of their oldest and rarest each year (including at least one rye) and anticipated by bourbon lovers in the same way a Harry Potter book or new Playstation is anticipated by their respective enthusiasts. One of the most aged bourbons on the market, but unlike some of the older ones, this was bottled at its peak – not aged for the sake of bragging rights past its prime.
This is an extremely rare whiskey, but not priced the same way as most whiskies of this quality and rarity.
Appearance: Wonderful patinated copper red in the bottle, similar to the color of a chunk of jewelry grade Baltic Amber. The color of this whiskey tips you off that it is well aged. Nice edge line on the glass when you swirl it, smooth layer of whiskey. On swirling, with some minor legs and scalloping of the swirl line.
First Impression: Corn and rye, with the usual, seeming signature, from this distillery, which end up smelling like leather, toffee, tamarind, papaya, and mint. You can smell the oaks influence on the whiskey in the peppery scent towards the end. Lots of dark fruit/ fruitcake like smells at the end as well. However this years release does not seem as scent forward, almost tame or understated compared to earlier release until you add a little water.
Taste: Wonderfully heavy mouth feel, it is a sweet fire at full strength.
However, the fact that you can drink it at that proof and actually like it speaks volumes as to how good it is. There is a definite sweetness to the corn with a intense rye sourness to it , kind of like the bitter you get from a intense piece of high cocoa chocolate – and for me the same cascade of endorphins to the pleasure center of my brain.
Sweetness for a second then the oak fruit and finally oaky dryness roll over the tongue with a intense but pleasant warming all the way down . A shorter presence and finish with slightly less astringency from the oak than past years.
Addition of some water (bottled or filtered, no chlorine!) knocks down the alcohol and opens up the bouquet nicely.
Drinks: Given how magnificent this whisky is, it seems sinful to mix it in a
drink. Such a great whiskey should only be sipped with a little water (after trying it straight) if you must but we are not above the occasional sin the same way the sea is not above the clouds so. . .
First remember you are dealing with a much higher proof whiskey than normal so either add some FILTERED water to it or use fresh good quality ice (if you make your own be sure to use filtered water – (chlorine in ice sucks).
If you are going the ice method use slightly less,shake the drink longer- about 30-45 seconds total to get the dilution down to where you want it (also add a little more of the other ingredients as they will be diluted). Experimentation will fine tune it for you. Makes for a wonderful Julep also.
Final Thoughts: Another great release and example of what is possible in bourbon making. This year’s release is somewhat less fruitier on the noise and is generally a bit lighter in character despite one of the higher barrel proofs in a while ( even though the whiskey is probably distilled at the same proof bourbon is the rare whiskey that actually increases in strength during aging – so this would not necessarily be a result of taking the spirit off at a higher proof.)
Bottle: The long, thin, clear glass, and small labels show off the color of the whiskey to good effect. The clear glass bottom lends a nice visual effect and give the bottle a decanter type feel and weight. A spare design that does not distract from the centerpiece, the bourbon.
Fast loading with a slightly annoying intro (no need for it). This however is
followed by a display of all the bourbons they make (over 20, not counting
overseas variations). Extensive information and good pictures of each one, with reviews and ratings by different people and organizations.