Why You Won’t Be Drinking One of This Year’s Most Coveted Bourbons

The annual George T. Stagg release was not "up to par," according to Buffalo Trace

A bottle of George T. Stagg, missing from this year's Buffalo Trace Antique Collection
A bottle of George T. Stagg, missing from this year's Buffalo Trace Antique Collection
Buffalo Trace

The fall release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) is an important annual event for whiskey lovers and collectors. This year, the collection features an assortment of uncut and unfiltered whiskies as old as 17 and 18 years, which will inevitably go on to win several major spirits awards and also, inevitably, sell for much more than their $99 retail price.

But no George T. Stagg. A cornerstone of the BTAC releases, the distillery notes that this year’s 15-year old Stagg “did not meet … taste standards for the Stagg brand.”

“Before any barrel can be dumped and bottled, it goes through rigorous testing procedures numerous times to ensure it is meeting the quality standards set forth for that brand,” said Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley in a press release. “Unfortunately, this crop of barrels earmarked to be Stagg back when it was put in the barrel in 2006 did not meet the Stagg profile today. We discussed at great length how to proceed, and ultimately decided we did not feel right about lowering our standards or the age, by dipping into next year’s supply of barrels. We know fans will be disappointed, as are we, but we could not release a bourbon that we did not feel was up to par with the flavor profile expected of George T. Stagg.” 

The 2021 releases of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection
Minus Stagg, the 2021 releases of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection
Buffalo Trace

The distillery notes that while testing includes everything from checking turbidity and testing samples using gas chromatography, most of the final decision falls on the human palate via a team of trained taste testers — and even one taster disagreement can mean a barrel will be left to age longer. According to the New York Times, the whiskey’s distinct flavor of dark chocolate, leather and dark cherries wasn’t met; this year’s marked batch was too light and undeveloped in character (no reason was given for this year’s discrepancy).

As we noted earlier this year, the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collections includes the aforementioned George T. Stagg, along with a William Larue Weller wheated bourbon, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, 100-proof Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old and 90-proof Sazerac 18-Year-Old. Each bottle is accompanied by a letter detailing the minutiae of its production, from distillation date to the warehouse floors where its barrels were matured to how much liquid was lost to evaporation.

Those whiskies, minus Stagg, will be available in late October.


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