Table Of Contents
George T. Stagg Bourbon 2023 Review
Another year, another George T. Stagg. (Though as the lack of a 2021 release showed, this is far from a guarantee). This year’s George T. STagg bourbon sits right at 135 proof, plenty high to satisfy proof-hounds without creeping to 140+ “hazmat” territory; after all, the line’s most ardent fans have been known to raise eyebrows when proof drops below 120.
This particular “GTS” bourbon is about in line with what we’ve come to expect on age at 15 years and four months old, meaning it was distilled in the Spring of 2008. The barrels were then aged across warehouses C, I, K, L, and M on Buffalo Trace’s campus.
Of the five releases in Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, George T. Stagg often carries the banner for bold, unapologetic flavors. It’s developed something akin to a cult following while remaining a favorite among the broader bourbon drinking public. It’s also a pour with significant variance in both proof and flavor from year to year.
Can the 2023 version stand up with the best of the line? The only way to find out is to taste (and smell, and savor). Let’s dive in!
George T. Stagg Bourbon 2023: Stats and Availability
The suggested retail price for a bottle of 2023 George T. Stagg Bourbon is $124.99. If you see it for that on a shelf, I’d suggest buying first and considering your purchase later.
Like all Antique Collection releases, this commands a premium on many retail shelves, not to mention the secondary market. (To be clear, those price hikes are the decisions of retailers, not the distillery itself.) Those prices tend to vary based on year and perceived quality, though I’ve recently spotted a number of 2022 bottles on New York City shelves for around $1,000 — a steep price to pay for even the most highly regarded spirits.
George T. Stagg Bourbon 2023 Review
As with all of VinePair’s whiskey reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.
Stagg is here! This is a big, bold nose to start things off: red hot cinnamon candy, concentrated root beer syrup, and drying tobacco leaves. Vanilla extract is also present a layer or two in, a note I sense with just about every George T. Stagg release in various quantities. There’s also plenty in the way of wood influence, and it’s not just oak (though there is plenty of that). Sawdust, applewood, and even a touch of cedar come into the fray, and the wood continues to evolve with time in the glass.
There’s also a touch of smoke, not peaty or in any way acrid, but more in the realm of a recently-doused campfire. Cherry appears later on the nose, almost an afterthought behind all that rich cinnamon spice. That fruit gradually develops into caramel-drizzled baked apples after enough sniffs.
Sweet and spicy cola bursts across the palate, carried by a thick mouthfeel that feels familiar for longtime fans of George T. Stagg. Toasted coconut, heavily spiced eggnog, and nutmeg appear just behind, but they’re similarly bold and pronounced on the tongue. On the second or third sip, I taste the deepest, darkest syrup-soaked cherry I can imagine. However, this isn’t a medicinal cherry note like I’ve sometimes tasted on the expression (and one that was in full force with this year’s William Larue Weller).
Baked apple is present here again, and it’s mouth-watering, a note that extends across all parts of the palate and nearly through to the finish. Interestingly, there’s also caraway seed, something both herbal and earthy that’s altogether new for me among George T. Stagg releases.
The midpalate is tannic and leathery, the bourbon tasting every bit its 15+ years, but it’s far from an oaky mess. Instead, the oak makes other flavors seem more robust in comparison, lifting them up instead of drowning them out.
I’m looking for a touch more fruit or another herbal note, and while the sweet and spicy notes don’t bog things down too much, a hint of freshness could have taken this already delicious bourbon up even another notch.
Like any good George T. Stagg — and this year certainly falls in that category — the finish lasts and lasts. There’s something like damp soil here, not dirty but earthy, mineral, and grounding. Cherry and apple continue and dissolve into coarse brown sugar as flavors slowly fade.
Water is anyone’s friend here, so use a dropper accordingly. A few drops open things up into baked pie territory — chocolate and chess pies — and bring out a capsaicin note at the same time, like chili-spiced hot chocolate. This is a bourbon I could write two or three separate reviews on based on small variations in the tasting environment, plus dilution.
George T. Stagg Bourbon Rating
I hesitate to call this release the best George T. Stagg ever, and even calling it the best in recent memory is a high bar to clear. But it’s a great Stagg, through and through. The 2023 release stands on its own as a delicious, powerful bourbon; no punches pulled, no notes tucked away into recessive corners of the tasting experience.
If you’re lucky enough to score a bottle or pour, enjoy it neat, then add some water at your own discretion. And most importantly, enjoy it with friends if you have a chance. This is a bourbon where experience will vary from one drinker to the next, though quality is undeniably high. Make sure to have fun comparing notes.
*Photo sourced from the Buffalo Trace Distillery