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2008 George T. Stagg Bourbon Flash Review - A Short Exploration of How Things Were Back Before the Bourbon Boom



Old school Stagg is hard to come by these days. This is one of the earlier releases, actually, since George T. Stagg was first introduced in 2002 in response to the whiskey world calling for more high proof, well-aged bourbon. I wrote a little more about the history of this release in my review of the 2022 George T. Stagg bottling, a wonderful whiskey that matched the energy of the 2020 release quite well.


2008 George T. Stagg Review

As for how and why I am afforded the luxury of sipping on this whiskey, I'd like to thank my good friend Matt for sending a surprise sample of this along to me which was completely unexpected. I don't normally talk about value, but when a whiskey is going for north of $2,000, you know it probably has some kind of cult following in the whiskey community. As a self-proclaimed "Stagg man", I'm pretty excited to review this one with an honest lense towards quality - what I hope is something that you value, my dearest reader. Without further ado, I present to you 2008 GTS.


 

Company on Label: Buffalo Trace

Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Mash Bill Percentages: Undisclosed proportions of Buffalo Trace's sources for distillers grade #1 and #2 Kentucky corn, Minnesota rye, and North Dakota malted barley

Proof: 141.8°

Age: 15 years (& 6 months)

Further identification: The 2008 bottling of George T. Stagg was released at an MSRP of $65 (believe it or not), with further specs being laid out in the annual release letter:

2008 George T. Stagg BTAC Letter
.pdf
Download PDF • 426KB

 

Nose: Waves of vanilla can be discovered on a telegraph from the glass which is emanating aroma from several feet away on my desk. As I bring the rim of the glencairn to meet my nostrils I discover huge volumes of brown sugar, leather, and ripe cherries still sitting on their supple stems. Caramel folds into rich espresso tones, crafting a delicious macchiato for the nose to savor. Deep inhales stoke up embers that push forth black pepper, allspice, and salted caramel cookies. I find myself wanting to dip that cookie into a cup of warm coffee which still seems close at hand, though the 3 cups I enjoyed today are far removed from this tasting. Diving the nose deep within the danger zone of hazmat whiskey illustrates coconut oil and old oak in an odd handshake between Kentucky oak and tropical Hawaiian suntan lotion. Woah, talk about leaning in on the weird... suddenly this puts me in a tent, camping under the tall pines of Myles Standish State Forest. There's a wet, sandy towel drying on the clothes line while a low fire crackles between the three walls and top grate of the iron fire pit. I continue to find that sandy vibe as the fog of that powerful memory begins to fade back from whence it came. Prevalent oak cannot be understated here, but it's classy, tannin-free, and well balanced with the caramel and coffee tones. I'd say it's time for a sip before I work any further here.


Coming back to the nose I find the linger lifts up an aroma of old newspaper clippings tucked away with neat intention in an old photo album. It feels oddly memorializing, which makes me wonder if I forgot about something that happened on this day. I'm immediately refocused by dark maple syrup drizzled atop a thick, bready waffle that says, "this breakfast diner doesn't fuck around". The waitress is standing awkwardly close with a hand-wringing towel folded over the side string of her cotton apron. I'll have another coffee, thanks. Goodness this is a creamy, beautiful old bourbon. Late in the glass bright vanilla bean and confectioners sugar dances a sweet dance up through the nostrils. Hints of vintage cherry cola rise out of the pool of liquid molasses, served handily shaken out of a warm vending machine. The return of old barrel funk completes the journey of this glass, pressing to sip and savor the last of the liquid in the glass. Nosing the empty glass reveals leather-bound books, Chantilly cream, and wood tones that remind me of a classy furniture store.


Palate: My first sip is a damn doozy of cherry flavors clambering over every taste bud that is susceptible to it. Oak immediately replaces the shimmering sweet before the linger puts forth sugared berries and plenty of vintage barrel funk. Candy sweet raspberry, fresh mint, and strawberry filled crepes loaded with whipped cream do well to exemplify the breakfast tones like the nose first introduced. Sipping further into the glass, the proof begins to make itself quite apparent. Unbridled ethanol punches through the dream I was initially cozily living in as bright creme brulee and cinnamon character sizzles on the tongue. Nearing the bottom of my exploration I find better balance between sweet and spice. Strawberry shortcake dances between turmeric & ginger. Molasses is complicated by fennel and clove. Gingerbread cookie is transformed into something more savory by black pepper. My last sip is quite enjoyable with an appreciably hefty wood influence leading me through to a white tablecloth dinner amongst friends. Clean plates, polished silverware, and an insatiable hunger for bread leads my mouth to dream up a well-balanced rye-forward old fashioned for me. The finish is just long enough that I'm not considering sipping too fast, but it doesn't raise my eyebrows and tickle my heart like some of the most exceptional whiskeys do.


TL;DR: An assertive, dominating, and thought-provoking aroma backdrops a reserved & proofy fun sip


 

Rating: 4/5


What an exciting nose. The palate, while quite enjoyable, didn't nearly produce the same complexity. As I nosed this glass I was blown away by wave after wave of memory, subtle comparisons to life experiences and nuanced parallels to that of the material world. This is one I might choose to never drink if I had the chance to try it again. I'd sit for hours with a dear friend and tell stories as we found new things to love about the whiskey-ladened air that passes through. Overall it carries with it an oak characteristic that I don't find often outside of 1990s and earlier whiskey releases, unfortunately bestowing more weight to the old adage, "they don't make 'em like they used to." Otherwise - from a mash and general profile perspective - this isn't all that different from more recent examples of George T. Stagg, despite my lengthy exploration through scents and memory here tonight.



Perhaps the most salient comparison for this release would be to look at it against the 2023 release of George T. Stagg. The barrels utilized in the 2023 release shared space in warehouse I & K for 6 short months before the 2008 barrels, which were distilled in 1993, were dumped for release. Sipping the 2023 release, I'm surprised by even more imbalance than the palate carried on the 2008 release. It's sharp, bold and reminds me once again, as I said in my review, of Stagg Junior batches. The 2008 release firmly wedges itself directly between 2022 and 2023, solidifying the correct score was earmarked for this flash review, unfortunately only comprised of one glorious tasting.

2 comments

2 Comments


This review is one of the most beautifully written things I've read recently. Cheers, Nick!

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That means so much to me, thank you Chris!

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