- 104 Proof
It's not often that a bottle will have particular sentimental value to me, but when one does, it seems to stick. It's often tied to a memory or event, good or bad, that that particular bottle is forever associated with. George T. Stagg has always been one of those bottles for me, tied to events and circumstances in my life that I'll forever remember. And every time I come across George T. Stagg, I'm brought right back there.
In this particular instance, I got to try Four Roses Small Batch Select back when it was first introduced to the market. In fact, it was even before it was available here in Illinois. I had the luck to score tickets to a tasting with the late, great Al Young at Warehouse Liquors in Chicago. The event was, in part, to promote some new barrel picks that Warehouse had just gotten in, but it was also part of Al's tour promoting the new product. We got to taste this bourbon, as well as four different private picks and the 130th Anniversary Small Batch. Needless to say it was a hell of a night and one that I'll never forget. I had so much fun spending time with Al Young, and seeing this bottle actually makes me a little sad because it just reminds me that he passed away shortly thereafter.
However, a good friend of mine gave me this bottle (I actually never bought my own), and now I finally have the chance to give it the review it deserves. The nose had a lot of cinnamon, providing a sweet spiciness, along with a nice layer of vanilla. It had some chocolate notes as well, and, oddly enough, I swear I got the aroma of a snack cake, like a Twinkie. It smelled absolutely delicious.
On my first sip, the first thing I noticed was the texture. I noticed this when I had it the first time as well, and that is that this bourbon does not drink at its proof. The alcohol burn is almost non-existent, which is surprising for a 104 proof whiskey. That may appeal to some and not to others. To me, it was simply dangerous, as that proof tended to hit me harder than expected.
As to flavor, it was a bit different than what I was getting on the nose. I got a decent amount of the traditional toffee and vanilla notes. I did get the chocolate I got from the nose, but it wasn't nearly as sweet. It was more of a dark chocolate note, even with a touch of that bitterness.
It had a light cinnamon note to it, like cinnamon candy. But, what struck me more was the ginger that I got out of this. It had a distinct gingerbread note to it that, once I noticed it, I couldn't not notice. There was also a bit of oak to add to that bitter, dry quality as well.
The finish was even a bit different still. There I got a cherry note that I didn't find elsewhere. It was a sweeter cherry, and even with a touch of liqueur, kind of like a cherry cordial. It was on the finish that the cinnamon spice seemed to really come through as well.
This bourbon was unquestionably complex, and it did seem to go in a number of directions. When I had it the first time, I was, admittedly, a bit underwhelmed. However, that my have been due to the fact that this pour was immediately preceded by the 130th Anniversary, which was incredible. This time around, while it still came across a bit more watery than expected, it also had a lot more going on from a flavor standpoint, and I certainly enjoyed it a lot more. It's certainly one I'd recommend to anyone that hasn't tried it yet.