Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: George T. Stagg

A good start to the week – my beloved Detroit Tigers won the first of three against the division rival (and division leading) Kansas City Royals yesterday afternoon, closing the pennant gap to one.  The Detroit Lions beat up on the New York Giants last night on Monday Night Football to kick a new season off the right way.  And the temperature here in Detroit leads one to think autumn is right around the corner.  My favorite time of year.

For this week’s Bourbon of the Week, however, I return to those dog days of summer.  I was fortunate enough this year to accompany my lovely wife on a work trip to Los Angeles back in July.  It was a fantastic trip, full of sun, beaches, wonderful entertainment and great food.  We got to see Chris Isaak (a favorite of mine) at the Hollywood Bowl, and take in a show at the Comedy Store, including Marc Maron and Ralphie May. But, while LA has all the glitz and glamour, there is one thing it is definitely missing: bourbon.

Now, that’s not to say I didn’t find some good times and good bourbon.  A visit to the Dresden made me feel like I was in Swingers, and three fingers of Maker’s Mark certainly helped with that.  But from establishment to establishment, it was more of the same: Jim Beam, Wild Turkey and Makers.  No Buffalo Trace, no Woodford, not even Knob Creek.  Finally, I went online to find somewhere in this sprawling expanse to procure a glass of something…special.  And sure enough, I found it, in Hollywood, of all places.

The bar is called the Township Saloon, and I will review the bar itself in the near future.  It’s a cool, hipster-meets-divey bar on Sunset, away from the Hollywood hullabaloo, and on that Friday night, kind of quiet.  Perfect for sampling one of the rarest of treats, because they had George T. Stagg.

For some reason, I have been unable to locate a bottle of GTS in Michigan, even third party, and Kentucky has fared me no better.  So I was excited to take a drink of this much respected and crowed about product for myself.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: George T Stagg
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: George T Stagg (photo from Wikipedia, as my camera stopped working that night!)

Some say George T. Stagg is the best bourbon made – another fine member of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  It’s age varies (I have been told the 2013 was 16 years old), and it is a proud product of Buffalo Trace mashbill #1.

It has a very high proof – 129 on this bottling – so a keeping a little ice handy isn’t a bad idea, although I first tried it neat.  After all the raving I’ve read, I was looking forward to trying it.

The nose took me a minute.  Like most high proofed bourbons, the alcohol sears a bit on first blush, and should be given a minute to breathe.  Then, the world opens on this glass.  There was a dark sweetness to it, toffee and caramel, but not overwhelmingly so.  Plum, raisin peeked through, maple sugar, and a soft oakiness that was dry and had a hint of tobacco.

The taste was dark as well.  The toffee remained, along with an almost dark chocolate character. There was a hint of bitter, like coffee, before giving way to a wood that seemed fresh.  It is a strong drink, so I added a few ice chips, and found the sweetness seemed to dissipate a bit, while the oak and slight bitter remained.

The finish was surprisingly short for such an aged and high-proof pour, although I did get hints of cinnamon on the back end.

Did I enjoy it? Thoroughly.  Is it in my top five?  Well, not this years, but that just gives me a reason to try again next year.

Dan’s Rating: 8.8

 

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project Barrel Number 136

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project Barrel Number 136

A bittersweet weekend to be sure, but one deserving of a nice bourbon.  My Missouri Tigers beat Ole Miss on Saturday night, propelling them to a number five ranking in the country – exciting times indeed!  Next week it’s a matchup against Texas A&M, for the chance to play in the SEC championship game.

Unfortunately, Sunday led to a feeling all Detroit Lions fans know to well: the dismay of watching our beloved Motor City Kitties grab a defeat from the jaws of victory.  Four interceptions, a fumble, and a blocked punt to boot (pun sadly intended).  A brutal game watching experience while the November cold howled outside.

If that wasn’t enough, this week we raise our bourbon glasses to the passing of one of the best television characters I can remember rooting for (Spoiler Alert): Richard Harrow on Boardwalk Empire.  In my 36 years of television watching, I have grown fond of a lot of shows and certain characters – Silvio Dante (Sopranos), Jim Halpert (Office), Boyd Crowder (Justified), and on and on.  But few, if any, did I root for as much as I did for the sad, sharpshooting war veteran from Boardwalk Empire.  I (and we) rooted for his salvation, and felt true joy when he found it.  He was often the conscience on a show full of dark, evil deeds.  And last night, in the season finale, he was laid to rest after saving those people he cared about most, and was done in by the very soul he had found.  Rest in peace Richard – we drink to you!

So without further ado – our bourbon of the week!

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project Barrel Number 136
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project Barrel Number 136

Today we try another bottle from the ever fun and interesting Buffalo Trace Distillery‘s Single Oak Project, and today’s comes from batch number 136.  A few details about 136:

Barrel # 136
Distillation Date: 1/6/2003
Age: 8 years old
Entry Proof: 125 info
Bourbon Recipe: Rye
Char Level: #4 Char
Months: Seasoned 6
Tree Cut: Bottom
Warehouse: L
Warehouse Type: Concrete Floor
Warehouse Location: L-3-27

I do love trying these unique one-of-a-kind bourbons, for the reasons I’ve stated before – much of the fun for me is in comparing the differences, the subtleties of the character that so many bourbons have, and by making each barrel so different, Buffalo Trace has really given us something to enjoy in that special way.

My take: There was much disagreement in the house on this one between my wife Jen and I. This particular batch exemplifies the differences in what each of us likes in our bourbons.

The nose was warm and inviting – a rich caramel and toffee gave way to notes of dried fruits and an almost sticky sense of molasses and honey.  One of the best noses I’ve encountered.

The mouth-feel was rich and thick, although not overwhelmingly so.  The taste was quite smooth, carrying through on the toffee and caramel, with a bit of molasses and nutmeg thrown in for good measure.  It was a little too smooth for Jen, who likes her bourbon spicy and punchier.  The finish was medium and also smooth, not overwhelming or harsh in the least.

To conclude – I liked this one – alot!

Dan scale (1-10): 8.1

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Calumet Farm

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Calumet Farm

Ahh, What a bittersweet weekend. The name of this blog may be “baseball and bourbon,” but if you’ve read a few posts, you know that I am equally a football fan. Last night, my college – the University of Missouri – lost a nail-biter of a game in double overtime to South Carolina. This hurt as Missouri was in fifth place in the BCS, and could have been headed for a national title chance. When I woke up this morning, the loss still lingered. But with the Detroit Lions playing Dallas at 1 o’clock, and a new bourbon to try, hope sprung eternal.

The Detroit Lions. Oh what an exasperating team they can be. In my 36 years on this earth, I have been able to witness one playoff win. Optimism has been high this season, and the Lions have responded by playing the style of up and down, win one lose one football they have played most of my life. Today’s game against the Cowboys seemed particularly important, as losing would definitely move them to the far edges of the playoff picture.

The game was thrilling, but the ending…what an ending. Taking the ball 80 yards in less than a minute, with quarterback Matt Stafford diving in to score the winning touchdown with mere seconds on the clock: amazing. So maybe my newly uplifted spirits guided my review of this weeks selection, the Calumet Farm bourbon. But like the Lions, this drink was sweet.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Calumet Farms
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Calumet Farm

My take: Calumet Farm comes courtesy of a recommendation (like many of my selections) from the guys at Kakos in Birmingham, MI.  It’s a newer bourbon line, with the name from a farm well known for it’s Kentucky Derby winning steeds. I do not know the source of Calumet Farms, and it has no age statement. This one was right up my alley.

The nose was sweet – vanilla, corn, caramel.  

The taste is a little thin, but full of butterscotch, vanilla, caramel,charred oak and a slight, white pepper. It didn’t taste like an older bourbon, so my guess is that it’s 6 years or under. But it was still flavorful and smooth.
 And the finish – absolutely delicious, sweet and so very smooth.  I actually had  more than my usual first tasting because it was so smooth.  I should mention Jen found it a bit bitter, and she is less of a fan of smooth than I am (she likes single barrels more, where I am a bigger fan of blends).

I feel weird saying this about a bourbon that is so new on the scene, but I loved it.

Dan scale (1-10): 8.7

*Update – I have since been told that Calumet Farm Bourbon was a very limited run, and will probably not be available again after this year.  If you’ve heard something different, please let me know.  Otherwise, best gettn’ while the gettin’ s good!