At 134.4°, this is a whiskey that you just don’t inhale deeply without a good shock to the system. No, this is a whiskey that demands some respect. Giving it a careful whiff reveals a rich aroma of dark cherry, vanilla, caramel, red apple, straw, sweet tobacco, overripe pear and a good burn, if you’re not careful. Nose it delicately and it’s very rewarding.
At full proof, its a bold, flavorful whiskey with a robust burning sensation that fades fairly quickly, leaving behind a sweet, leathery mix of vanilla, tobacco and dark fruit. That initial burst of flavor is full of honey, cherry, tobacco, hay, lemon drop, molasses, ginger, black pepper and vanilla.
Adding a few drops of water tones down the burn just a bit, allowing me to smell everything a bit better without losing any aromatic intensity. Similarly, the burn in my mouth is slightly subdued, but the flavors burst forth more quickly before fading to make way for the finish, which is still long, mildly tannic, peppery, slightly leathery and accented with the same sweet tobacco, dark fruit and vanilla.
I still haven’t tasted George T. Stagg, but I really like this whiskey. I prefer the darker fruit emphasis without water, but it is a bit hot like that… not to the point of being objectionable for me. I do add a few drops on occasion just to change things up. It reminds me of a bolder version of Eagle Rare 10 with more dark fruit and candy. It is bursting with flavor! Even at twice the price, I think this is worth it. It’s my favorite bourbon to date aside from the immensely better Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year, and that’s just too expensive and hard to find. I highly recommend Stagg, Jr. if you’re not averse to a bit more hot alcohol burn than normal. By the way, this is bottling B1319607:27M (July 15, 2013 7:27am).