Thursday, December 16, 2010
Purchasing liquor for a restaurant can be difficult. As bar manager, I only have so much space on the back bar, and it is important for me to have a varied, yet selective, spirits list. When it comes to the more expensive spirits, you have to be especially discerning; high end products move off the shelf at a slower rate than the more moderately priced labels. About a month ago we sold the last of our Pappy Van Winkle 20 year (We still carry the 12yr "Lot B" as well as the 23 yr "Family Reserve"). I didn't feel the need to replace the 20 year Pappy for one reason in particular: Every fall, Buffalo Trace Distillery releases their "Antique Collection," a line of 5 different whiskeys. These bottles are highly sought after due to their very limited release. Especially in a control state, like Oregon, these bottles can be very hard to come by. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to procure one bottle of George T. Stagg from this years release. Out of the five, Stagg has always been my favorite. Last year, it was awarded the title: "Bourbon of the Year" in Jim Murray's Whiskey Bible. This year's release was distilled way back in the winter of 1993 and packs a serious punch at 71.5% ABV or 143 proof. It's uncut and unfiltered, and I've seen bottles that have a small amount of black soot that has settled in the base, evidence of barrel char. Stagg is best enjoyed by itself or, if you're like me, with a little water as well, to bring down the proof a bit. If you're going to mix with Stagg, I highly recommend using it in a Old Fashioned or Staggerac, which is simply a Sazerac made with George T. Stagg. Another little trick I use is: make an Old Fashioned and use 1.5oz of Buffalo Trace bourbon as well as an additional .5-.75oz of the Stagg. Since Stagg is so flavorful, you can really stretch the flavor and make the bottle last. Now, I just have to decide if I'm going back for the Thomas H. Handy Rye.