Whiskey River Don’t Run Dry

Posted on December 20, 2009 in Spirits

Good Bourbon holds a long line in my blood—going back through generations and twisted lineage. It was drunk with a bit of room temperature branch water, to release the innate flavors. Any man who used cola with his Bourbon was not to be trusted. It was the inspiration for songs sung by men and women alike, ‘bathing their memory and mind in the wetness of its soul.’ When Bookers came out, I was not yet of legal age; though I had already managed to acquire a taste for Bourbon. Maker’s, Beam and on depraved occasion, Kessler—whose signature shown sauntering off the bottle’s edge always delivered laughter, a few drinks in.

I remember bringing the glass of Booker’s up to my nose, at which point the earth stood still. This was something entirely different. It released an instinctive craving in me—like the first time a dog tastes blood—that makes one forever changed. This soon led to an obsession that forced me to scour back alley barrios for liquor stores, from San Pedro to Oceanside, looking for unclaimed bottles of old Kentucky pride. The trick was finding those that had been there twenty-years, which still had a good fill—temperature control, while rare, was a definite plus.

It was the purity—that uncut and unfiltered nuance that I would continue to seek throughout every vertical of libations. This was the beginning of an organoleptic acquaintance which, with time, would become one of origin and place—ultimately I would come to know this expression as terroir.

It was something I again found in Armagnac—a very different experience from that of previous occasions with its better known cousin—and that same ethereal sensation was later perfected for me in the single village Mezcal of Oaxaca. The purity of its expression of earth and place.

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It’s no mistake that I was first made of aware of George T Stagg Small Batch Bourbon by Jimmy Yeager, with whom I’ve had life-changing experiences whilst traveling the back roads of Oaxaca in search of Tobala, with Olson, Cooper and Zapotec magic. And, it’s no coincidence that Tony G, an avid Mezcal fanatic, tasted me on this Bourbon last week, calling it the Del Maguey of Kentucky. Furthermore, it’s not by chance that Ron Cooper and Del Maguey have a staunch following in Bourbon country. Their common thread: purity. However, in both instances, this only occurs when properly made—which is often not the case.

The George T Stagg Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky is quintessential rustic elegance—that is completely avant-garde while, at once, familiar. Its mere scent casts one into existential fit, pondering the origins of libations and the very circle of life. And, beyond that, it’s completely unpretentious, unlike the previous sentence. It’s no surprise that this Bourbon received ‘BEST AMERICAN WHISKEY IN THE WORLD’ – from the World Whiskies Awards, 2008.

This bourbon craze is seemingly unstoppable—every dog has its day: vodka, tequila are still running strong, while rum ebbs and flows in the background. But, whiskey dollar sales have increased nearly $85 million or 4.4% in 2008, up from 2.3% a year ago. And, with products like George T Stagg, we can all understand why.

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