Posts tagged ‘George T. Stagg’

Phil’s Favorite Bourbon

What better way to kick off my favorite whiskey series than bourbon?  In honor of awards season, I will present five nominees for the category, with the winner being revealed along with other winners at the end of the month.  In cases where two of the same whiskey might be nominated (i.e. two different releases of George T. Stagg), I have chosen my favorite iteration of the bourbon to be nominated.  These nominees achieved their status based on their taste profile alone; unlike most of what I do at Bargain Bourbon, price was not a consideration.  Without further ado, here are the nominees for Phil’s favorite bourbon (in alphabetical order).

Name: Booker’s

Distillery: Jim Beam

Age: 7 years, 5 months

Batch: C05-A-12

Release Year: 2012

Proof: 128.5 (64.25% abv)

Price: $50-60/750ml

Notes: This uncut, unfiltered, barrel strength bourbon rarely disappoints, and each batch tends to have something worth enjoying about it.  This particular batch was my favorite because there were some cinnamon and oak spice notes that rounded out the big caramel and vanilla notes that Booker’s is known for, giving the whiskey a depth and complexity that stood out above other Booker’s batches I have tried.  Unfortunately, as this was an older release, it is extremely unlikely that there are still unopened bottles of this juice floating around, but Booker’s bourbon is readily available at most liquor stores.

 

Name: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Distillery: Heaven Hill

Age: 12 years

Batch: 3rd release

Release Year: 2014

Proof: 133.2 (66.6% abv)

Price: $45-50/750ml

Notes: This barrel strength bourbon is another one that could have placed multiple releases on this list.  What set this particular release apart for me was the layers that the bourbon had when diluted at various levels.  The flavors were deep and complex at barrel strength, and as water was added, the bourbon just peeled back layers of flavor to reveal a sweeter profile, softening some of the coffee and dark chocolate notes that stood out at full strength.  Unfortunately, this release is probably long gone, and people have started to realize the quality of this bourbon, so current releases are harder to find, and they are selling for a good deal more than they did three years ago.

 

Name: Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch

Distillery: Four Roses

Age: 11 years

Batch: 2012

Release Year: 2012

Proof: 111.4 (55.7% abv)

Price: $90-100/750ml

Notes: Four Roses could have had multiple limited edition releases make this list, but their 2012 small batch release is my favorite because of the balance between all the flavors that make bourbon great.  It was sweet, oaky, and spicy, all in perfect harmony.  Like many great whiskeys, a little water brought out different twists on each tasting note, making for an even more diverse experience.  Four Roses releases a limited edition small batch bourbon every autumn, but this specific release is undoubtedly unavailable excepting only the rarest and most esteemed of bourbon collections.

 

Name: George T. Stagg

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Age: 15 years, 11 months

Batch: 2013

Release Year: 2013

Proof: 128.2 (64.1% abv)

Price: $80-90/750ml

Notes: This is one of the most famous and most sought bourbons in the world, and for good reason.  Many years, George T. Stagg could make an argument that it’s the best bourbon released that year.  However, the 2013 release caught my taste buds because it was bottled at a slightly lower proof than the Stagg usually is, and I believe it did the Stagg a lot of good, peeling back rich oak and cigar box notes not often found in bourbon.  This was a bourbon that worked to transcend bourbon.  If you know where to look and are willing to pay the price, there are always bottles of Stagg floating around, but this one is going on 4 years since its release, which makes me think that it is probably extinct.  However, more Stagg is coming this fall, so keep your eyes peeled.

 

Name: William Larue Weller

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Age: 12 years

Batch:  2012

Release Year: 2012

Proof: 123.4 (61.7% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: This wheated bourbon was one of those bourbons that brought wave after wave of rich, sweet flavors set upon a board of rich mahogany and oak.  Dried fruits, maple fudge, and vanilla all roared over the palate when sipping this bourbon.  There have been many worthy Weller releases, but this one was my favorite to pour after a delicious meal.  This one falls into the same category as the Stagg as far as availability.  There will be more coming out this year, but the old releases are hard to find and often have massive price tags on them.

 

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Top Ten Bourbon Bottle Designs

Like every product ever sold, bourbon depends on packaging.  Great bourbon deserves great packaging.  Of course, what defines a great bottle of bourbon is just as subjective as the bourbon itself.  I like an iconic bottle of bourbon that brings forth an air of confidence that the product inside is going to be good.  If that is properly balanced with a bottle that looks cool, then you’ve got the ingredients for a great bottle.  Now all that remains is to fill it with great bourbon.  With that in mind, I present my Top Ten Bourbon Bottle Designs.  (Note: I have not reviewed all these bourbons, nor I have I even tried all these bourbons.  I am judging primarily on the packaging.)

10. Maker’s Mark – The wax-dipped top of Maker’s Mark is probably the most iconic symbol in the bourbon world.  However, the rest of the bottle leaves something to be desired.  Nevertheless, any whiskey drinker recognizes the red wax as Maker’s Mark.

9. Buffalo Trace – The epic bison on the front makes for an epic packaging.  It also makes for an awesome logo for Buffalo Trace Distillery.

8. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon – I believe that Old Forester is one of the best value bourbons you can find.  However, Brown-Forman also produces the Birthday Bourbon, a higher-end version of Old Forester.  It comes in an old-fashioned decanter-style bottle that exudes class.

7. Rock Hill Farms – This single barrel bourbon comes in a sleek, square bottle with horses and forest landscapes decorating the bottle.  It is a bottle design that could inspire some fine bourbon-induced poetry.

6. Angel’s Envy – The Angel’s Envy looks divine, with its angel wings and massive size.  It seems to tower over almost everything else on the shelf at the liquor store.

5. Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel – Speaking of tall bottles, there are few bottles taller than the decanter-style of Willett Pot Still Reserve.  It just looks awesome.  You can’t buy a bottle and not feel on top of the world.

4. Eagle Rare 10 yr. Single Barrel – This bottle is just plain epic.  It is tall and elegant, but the eagle on the front and the jagged edged label also makes it seem bold and rugged.

3. Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve (15 yr., 20 yr., 23 yr.) – All three of these bottlings are recognizable by the picture of Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr. on the front of the bottle.  He is puffing on a big cigar (and most likely drinking some good bourbon).  There are few things more iconic than a bourbon legend like Pappy.

2. Woodford Reserve – I love the simplicity of this bottle.  To me, Woodford Reserve’s bottle design says, “The bourbon contained herein is a great bourbon; it needs no embellishment.”

1. Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, and Eagle Rare 17 yr.) – These three bourbons are consistently among the contenders for bourbon of the year, and there bottle designs are indicative of the quality.  The bottles are tall and powerful.  There are no fancy designs on the bottles, allowing you to see the perfect color of the whiskey.  Even more so than Woodford Reserve, the Antique Collection’s bottle designs say, “No frills needed, this is great whiskey.”  And judging from the only one I’ve tried (William Larue Weller), the bottles don’t lie.

These are my favorite bottle designs (I’ve included pictures below), what are yours?  Leave me a comment, and let me know if I missed any.

The Top Ten Movie Characters to Drink Bourbon with

If you are anything like me, you’ve watched movies before where you have thought, “I would love to hang out with that character.”  I’ve often thought like that with drinking bourbon in mind, so here is my list of my top ten(ish) movie characters that I’d like to drink bourbon with.  Since the list is completely hypothetical, I’ve also tried to guess what bourbon I think the different characters on my list would drink.  For the record, I’m assuming the movie character is buying the bottle, not me, so I’m not necessarily sticking to value bourbons on this one.

10.  The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) – Pirate Radio.  The Count is a rebel, with a certain attitude of reverence where it is needed.  Therefore, I believe The Count would be a great bourbon companion.  He can also tell some great stories.  The Count’s bourbon:  Woodford Reserve.  The Count lives at sea, so he has to drink something he can readily get his hands on, but I also believe that he knows a great bourbon when he sees it.  Woodford Reserve might be the best readily available bourbon on the market.

9.  Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) – The Lord of the Rings.  There are many characters from Lord of the Rings who would be good drinking companions, but the first scene at the Prancing Pony were we meet Strider convinces me that Strider/Aragorn drinks bourbon, and he drinks it neat.  Aragorn’s bourbon:  Eagle Rare 10 year Single Barrel.  It is a bourbon that packs more punch that you might expect.  It is not pretentious, but it knows it is great bourbon.

8.  The Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) – The Man with No Name Trilogy.  A dangerous, but entertaining character, and definitely the person you want on your side during a gunfight.  The Man with No Name’s bourbon:  Wild Turkey 101.  It is rye-forward and in your face, plus its available almost everywhere for those who travel a lot.  I don’t see this cowboy going for the top shelf too often.

7.  William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) – Gangs of New York.  This is a dangerous choice because Bill the Butcher is a dangerous character.  However, he is rich, so he would probably pay for the drinks.  He has some crazy stories, but I would probably only want to drink with him once.  One thing is for sure, the Butcher drinks bourbon, and he is always an entertaining conversationalist.  The Butcher’s bourbon:  Booker’s.  It is a big bourbon that will put hair on your chest, ranging from 123 to 129 proof.  It has great flavor and complexity, but unlike other bourbons of Booker’s quality, Booker’s is pretty young (6 years aged), which suits the Butcher’s style.

6.  John “Doc” Holliday (Val Kilmer) – Tombstone.  Like Bill the Butcher, Doc Holliday would be much higher on my list of people to drink bourbon with if I was not so worried about being shot and killed when I drank with him.  Also like Bill the Butcher, Doc Holliday is always good conversation, full of brilliant one-liners, making him a very good bourbon companion.  Doc Holliday’s bourbon:  William Larue Weller.  I’ve got Doc drinking a bourbon that tastes great, but will also have the alcohol content to cure his tuberculosis.  Although William Weller is hard to get, I have a feeling that Doc might know a guy…

5.  Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) – Black Snake Moan.  The blues go well with the bourbon, so my favorite bluesman from film should be on my list of people to drink bourbon with.  I could sit for hours and listen to Lazarus play the blues (while we drank bourbon).    Lazarus’ bourbon:  Four Roses Yellow Label.  In the sultry Southern heat, a soft summer bourbon is necessary.  Lazarus is also a man who likes to keep things simple, which is why Four Roses would be the bourbon for him.

4.  Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) – The Lord of the Rings.  Seriously, who wouldn’t want to drink bourbon with a wizard who puffs a pipe and can blow three masted Spanish Galleons with the smoke?  Although, I have a suspicion that after he became Gandalf the White, he switched over to scotch.  Gandalf’s bourbon:  George T. Stagg.  It’s a big bourbon, with a huge flavor profile and a huge alcohol content, a bourbon fit for a wizard.

3.  Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) – Bull Durham.  Baseball and bourbon go very well together, indicated by the career minor leaguer, Crash Davis.  He is shown drinking whiskey several times in the film, including once while he is ironing his clothes in his underwear in the middle of his living room.  As the movie indicates, Crash Davis would have some great stories as well.  I would love to sit and discuss bourbon and baseball with Crash for hours.  Crash’s bourbon:  Jim Beam Black Label.  Crash Davis is a classic, old-school ball player, so I suspect he would drink something pretty standard.  He can put back the white label if he has to, but the 8 year Black Label is his favorite.

2.  Han Solo (Harrison Ford) – Star Wars.  Come on, everyone over the age of 21 who has ever watched Star Wars has wanted to drink with Han Solo.  Obviously, as a bourbon drinker, I am assuming that Han would have drank bourbon were it available to him (although the honest truth is that he probably would drink anything you put in front of him).  Han Solo’s bourbon:  Angel’s Envy.  Han Solo is an original.  He is smooth, with a dark side.  Angel’s Envy is a Kentucky straight bourbon that is finished in port wine barrels, giving it a universal drinkability rarely found in bourbon whiskey.  It is original just like Han Solo, himself.

1.  After much deliberation, the top spot on my list is a tie between two of my favorite Paul Newman characters: “Fast” Eddie Felson (The Color of Money) and Henry Gondorff (The Sting).  It is difficult to say whether I would rather drink bourbon while playing pool with Fast Eddie or while listening to Henry Gondorff’s stories about playing the big con.  Nevertheless, I would most like to drink bourbon with one of these two movie characters.  “Fast” Eddie’s bourbon:  Buffalo Trace.  He’s a value man, and there is no better value bourbon than Buffalo Trace.  Henry Gondorff’s bourbon:  Pappy Van Winkle 15 year.  It is hard to find, but it is might be the best bourbon money can buy.  Several bourbon connoisseurs have told me it is the best bourbon they’ve ever had, regardless of price.  Henry Gondorff likes the finer things in life, and if anyone can get Pappy Van Winkle, its Henry Gondorff.

Those are my favorite bourbon characters (and the bourbons I think they might drink), let me know how I did.  In the meantime, drink your bourbon, watch some good movies, and let it ride!