Pre-order scrambles, instantly sold out inventory and long waiting lists are becoming a familiar phenomenon for a select group of consumers hell-bent on owning the latest and greatest... bottle of bourbon. Yup, you read that right. America's love for the distinctively Southern spirit is soaring, transforming the hunt for select rare expressions into a task that makes discovering the Higgs Boson look like a pizza run.
Buffalo Trace's potent George T. Stagg, originally revealed to the public in 2002, is one such revered offering that's nearly impossible to find these days without a friend in the liquor biz. Sensing the frustration of fans and the weight of massive piles of money left on the table, the distillery announced it would be adding a new member to the Stagg family in the form of Stagg Jr. True to family name, this first-born son is uncut, unfiltered, and bottled at a chest-hair-singeing barrel proof hovering around 134. The other good news? Buffalo Trace is committed to releasing several batches each calendar year, giving average drinkers a fighting chance of bringing a bottle home.
Clearly, pulling it all off required some sacrifices. Stagg Jr. is comprised of bourbon aged 8 to 9 years, making it half as old as its padre and noticeably lighter in the glass (a strategically placed black label makes it seem dark on the shelf). Hints of candy cherry, crushed pepper, cinnamon and burnt toffee are the first things to greet the nose -- most of which are lost when it's sipped neat. Be warned that Jr.'s rocket-fuel proof can overwhelm all but the burliest of imbibers.
Instead, this spirit is at its best with a splash of water and a couple of minutes to breathe. Only then is the young buck willing to reveal a more subtle mixture of dark char, raisins, sweet peach and a touch of citrus. Don't get us wrong: even in this light, it's still a fiery beast throwing haymakers at will, but a surprisingly sweet side definitely bubbles to the surface, especially compared to the oaken monolith of the original.
In sum, Stagg Jr. is a powerful bourbon that's guaranteed to intrigue aficionados and fans of bold spirits alike, particularly when you consider that it's retailing for $50. Given our druthers, there's no question we'd find an extra $30 in the budget to upgrade to the original, but considering just how absent the father tends to be, we're glad the son will be hanging around.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.
Motoring Watches Style Technology Sports Outdoors Home Spirits
Jeremy BergerBen Bowers