December 26, 2013

Fantasy Bourbon GAME 2: George T. Stagg vs Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

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Now on to today's battle...




Barrel Proof Beasts

Today's contest is a battle between two barrel-proof beasts.  George T. Stagg is the powerhouse of the yearly Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  This year's bottling comes in at a whopping 128.2%.  Stagg certainly wasn't the first straight-from-the barrel whiskey ever produced, but the degree of smoothness and drinkability without dilution that Stagg has achieved over the years has set a high bar and Stagg has championed a huge trend towards barrel proof releases in the industry.  Barrel proof bourbon might not be a good starting point for whiskey novices.  But once you start drinking it, the sheer intensity of the flavor can make it hard to go back to the watered-down standard proof brands.

In March of this year, Heaven Hill announced that they'd be releasing a non-chill-filtered, barrel strength version of their popular 12-Year bourbon.  Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (ECBP in bourbon-speak) became an instant hit.  It leapt off the shelves in three different releases that barely saw the inside of a store between the delivery truck and the shopping bag.  Retailing between $35 and $50, it's hard to argue that ECBP was the buy of the year.  The release we're tasting is 134.2%, topping Stagg in the ABV department.

So, from the literal height of the bottles, to the brand status (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is almost as hard to find as Pappy Van Winkle this year), to the price tag, we've got ourselves a real David v. Goliath match on our hands.  Could the short cheap rookie contender upset the big daddy of barrel proof beasts?  Let's pour!

2013 George T. Stagg (128.2%) and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, 1st Edition (134.2%)



Nose-to-Nose

GTS: Blistering shishito peppers oozing spice, salt, and rich oils.

ECBP: Way deep into the old men's club aromas of cracking leather, furniture polish, oak, and cigar tobacco.  Elijah has won the nose by a hair.

Body-to-Body

GTS: So smooth for the rocket fuel proof that is Stagg.  We've never quite gotten used to how drinkable this stuff is at this level of power.  Explosions of wood, char, resiny sweetness, & huge spice across the tongue.

ECBP: Holy crap, it's even stronger (134.2 proof!!!) and...  we'll just come out and say it, it's smoother.  The wood sucks that alcohol burn right up and it's just stunningly drinkable.  The crowd goes wild as Elijah takes the Palate!

End Game

GTS: The finish is probably George's best moment.  You can be drinking whiskey all night but this one just cuts right through with such intensity of flavor, again with the striking balance of restraint at this immense power.

ECBP:  Not so for Elijah.  He's nowhere near the end-game of the Stagg.  While the nose and body are up in the stratosphere, there is a bitterness to the finish that gives big points away in the last quarter.


The Final Score

We've got our first big upset!  Despite a near come-back at the end, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has defeated George T. Stagg, our 3-seat (not to mention double the price at retail!).  What a stunning victory for the rookie.  One for the highlight reels.

Brackets




Standings

Round one games are worth one point.  It's a wide open contest as we move into Game 3...

(technicality: some people confused the order of Game 2 and Game 3 in the comments, but the intent was clear so we have decided not to count this against them.  if we do this again next year we'll have a proper bracket to fill out...)

Player Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5 Game 6 Game 7 Total

Bo Wang
1 0 1
BennieFF
1 1 2
Kurtis
1 1 2
Daniel Forth
1 0 1
Justin Sloan
0 1 1
JOHN REYNOLDS
1 0 1
Chris Jones
1 0 1
Zach Raymer
1 0 1
Josh Lawrence
1 1 2
Matt Zimbler
0 0 0
Stephen Joos
1 0 1
Jason Brown
1 1 2
Soko
1 1 2
Carla C.
1 1 2
espitz00
1 0 1
Joe S.
1 1 2
Kelly Beggs
0 0 0
Jake Van Nuland
0 0 0
Stefan Bing
1 1 2
jesterpee
0 1 1
Bruegengaters
1 1 2
Maggie Wafford
1 1 2
djfivenine
1 0 1
J
1 0 1
zak rotello
1 0 1
Brent Sehnert
1 0 1
ZacP in RI
0 1 1
dave nichols
1 1 2
stl cork'd
1 0 1
a-dig
1 0 1
Kevin M
1 1 2
Rush Thrift
1 0 1
Michael St.pierre
1 1 2
Sarah Ilinitch
1 0 1
Danny Cakes
1 1 2
Matt Rychtanek
1 1 2
Dan Gilbert
1 0 1
Glencairn
1 0 1
Charles Binger
1 0 1
oak
1 1 2
Tim Moon
1 0 1
Lucy Crow
1 0 1
Jeff Roth
1 0 1
paulgetto
1 0 1
Bryan Nanna
0 0 0
Max Burstein
1 0 1
Tom Kimball
1 0 1
Thomas Hurst
0 0 0
Will Moller
1 0 1
Mikel Isaacs
1 0 1
TJ
1 1 2
Arok
0 1 1
T.J. Thompson
0 1 1
whiskycorner
1 0 1
Stephen Grim
1 0 1
Vincent Licata
1 0 1
whattastesgood.net
1 0 1
britney tucci
1 1 2
Ravensfire
0 0 0
Reuven Weinstein
1 1 2
Funky Tape
1 1 2

Click here for Game 3 as the season heats up with Four Roses 125th Anniversary vs. Bowman Millennium!

2 comments :

  1. Hi! Hoping you can help me. If you were to buy a bottle of bourbon for your future husband as a wedding gift, would you spend the money to get George T Stagg or is there a less or equally expensive bottle that's better. I appreciate any recommendations you have. Thanks!!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Christine,

      Congratulations on the engagement! Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, we were traveling this week!

      GTS is a wonderful gift, as would be anything from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. These bottles retail for around $100, but they are very difficult to find in stores. If you are considering paying above retail for one, the recent years' releases should be worth around $200, $250 absolute tops.

      There are a lot of other wonderful bourbons out there like Willett Bourbon http://www.internetwines.com/rws51327.html or Smooth Ambler https://www.centralwinemerchants.com/spirits/Smooth-Ambler-Smooth-Ambler-Old-Scout-Bourbon-10-Year-100-Proof-w0167455ov if you're having trouble finding Stagg.

      Best of luck with the wedding, enjoy! /SB

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