• Richard Murff

George Stagg's Pappy Moment


I was in a motor court motel parking lot, fittingly enough in Bardstown, Kentucky the first time that I had George T. Stagg bourbon. I remember thinking that it was like eating bacon for the first time: That big uncut bourdon flavor that carried what little heat it had beneath dark chocolate, dark cherries and, words fail me, leather. I don’t normally go in for the hype, but this stuff was solid.


The Bardstown Inn is as good a place as any for a scene like this – the nondescript motel in the self-proclaimed Bourbon Capital of the World. The parking lot is full of people who have come here on something of a bourbon pilgrimage. The rumors are that you can pick up hard to find bourbons in Bardstown, but I’ve never seen evidence of it. The truth is that George T. Stagg is always hard to find. And if you don’t have a bottle on your shelf right now, it’ll likely be another year before you see it again.


This Buffalo Trace – the same distillery behind Pappy Van Winkle – announced that the whiskey they’d laid down in 2006 for release in 2022 isn’t going to happen. According to master blender Drew Mayfield, “It didn’t look right… It didn’t match the taste profile we expect from Stagg.”


Well, the Bardstown Inn parking lot crowd is going to be disappointed, and I suppose I am too. And it is nice of the company to admit that one of its golden children is having developmental issues. If you are a real cynical bastard, you might wonder if Buffalo Trace’s distilling acumen is matched by its marketing department. The hype over Pappy Van Winkle is, well, insane. The term we used in banking was irrational exuberance – that point when demand for an asset becomes a thing apart from the asset itself. Pappy is a great bourbon but at the prices it’s getting on secondary markets, it needs to give me the power to levitate.


Perhaps, though, holding back the already hard to find Stagg for 2022 is simply a matter of superior quality control, Lord knows that’s rare enough these days. Gather enough bourbon fans together, and you’ll hear whispers that even Pappy is being adulterated to meet the demand. Is it true? Is Buffalo Trace grooming George T. Stagg for its moment of Pappy exuberance?