Whisky Magazine Issue 26
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Stuart Maclean Ramsay enjoys a whiskey tasting and tour at the imprssive Buffalo Trace Disteilery in Franklin County, Kentucky
It's not every afternoon you're surrounded by 300 years of whiskey know-how. But that's where I was on a humid Kentucky afternoon in July, sampling whiskeys with eight bourbon-making stalwarts in the Buffalo Trace Distillery Clubhouse. We were there to select the best bourbon for a bottling of George T. Stagg, a new whiskey from a distillery steeped in distilling and Kentucky history.
With seven admirable candidates to choose from, sample no. 4, a 143 proof 15-year-old robust thoroughbred, pushed out a softer, 129 proof eleven-year-old. The whiskey's namesake, George T. Stagg, was a wholesaler from St. Louis who bought the distillery and its livestock farm in 1878. Back then it was called the O.F.C. (Old Fire Copper) Distillery, and Stagg expanded the plant during an economic boom spurred by railroad development. In 1904 it was renamed the George T. Stagg Distillery and Old Stagg, a seven year- old bourbon, was launched the following year.
Mr Stagg would have been impressed by the Kentucky gentlemen who selected this born-again dram. They included a sprightly 93- year-old, Orville Schupp, who began his career at the distillery in 1939, back when new oak barrels were $2 a pop. Orville eventually took charge of production for the behemoth Schenley Distillers Corporation who owned the distillery from 1929 to 1982.
In 1949 Orville hired Elmer T. Lee, current Master Distiller Emeritus of Buffalo Trace, who became Plant Manager and Master Distiller in 1968 before ‘retiring' as...