Nose: This is one of the most delicious smelling bourbons I’ve ever sniffed. It has a delightful “classic bourbon”, sweet smell to it. You really just want to keep sniffing it. You do get hints of its high proof, but it really doesn’t detract at all. Palate: Ay chihuahua! That first sip packs the usual punch that stuns the taste buds. I honestly never get used to that. Luckily, I now know (and hopefully you do too) that if you wait a few minutes and then sip again, your palate will be better prepared for it. And…..that’s the case here. It isn’t that the heat isn’t there, it is just that you’re more prepared for it. On the second sip, the heat kicks in late, mostly in the finish. It has a rich mouthfeel but you’re not going to want to keep it in your mouth for very long. After the 2nd sip, I took another good sniff and it still smells great. On the third sip, my mouth is definitely more accustomed to the heat and I could concentrate more on the taste. It has a very rich, thick flavor that has a dark chocolate, burnt marshmallow, molasses, sweet taste to it. There is a slightly bitter chocolate aftertaste. I felt obligated to try this with a few drops of water, so I went with about 7 again. Just those few drops took most of the alcohol smell out of it, but it still maintained that really nice scent. Well…after a few minutes sitting in the glass, it appears that the extra drops dropped the heat only slightly and the flavor remained about the same. I’m going to add a few more drops to the last remnants in the glass. Stand by….. OK….I added another 7 drops. Now, remember, there’s less in the glass, so this 7 drops SHOULD go a bit further than the first 7. The extra drops, as you might expect, changed the smell. It is now not as “deep” (hmmmm….how do I explain that?……it doesn’t give the impression that the sip is going to be very rich and full of flavor?) and surprisingly, I got just a very (VERY) slight hint of……soap. Odd. OK, the taste. I think the added 7 drops (on a smaller amount) brought this down to the point where the heat is no longer a big issue. (The fact that I’ve already had a few snorts at a higher proof may also have something to do with that.) The good news is, it still tastes very good. It didn’t seem to me to bring out any new flavors. What it did do is tame the heat beast enough for you to better enjoy the full, rich flavor of this. I’m always going to recommend that you at least try a high proof at the proof it comes out of the bottle, but I would not look down on anyone who adds some water to this guy. If for no other reason than to see what it does to it. After all, this supposed to be fun! Comments: When I got this several years ago, it was around $50, which isn’t really that bad for a high proof. I suspect it will cost you more now and I know that a lot of places don’t have it, so it can be hard to find. It comes out twice a year as a limited release from Buffalo Trace. It clocks it at a very respectable 132.1 proof. It is reported to be in the 8-9 year old range. It comes from one of Buffalo Trace’s lower rye mashbills (and you can see it in the fact that I didn’t pick up any rye spiciness). Interestingly, most Internet enthusiasts seem to think that this tastes closer to a barrel strength Buffalo Trace than it does to its namesake, George T. Stagg (from the Antique Collection).
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