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Buffalo Trace Recreates Prohibition Era Whiskey Collection From 1920s!

 

 

Buffalo Trace has just dropped the news about their latest annual limited edition collection: the Prohibition Collection. They're bringing back to life five whiskeys from the Prohibition era that have later disappeared. These are Old Stagg, Golden Wedding, Three Features, Walnut Hill, and George T. Stagg Spiritus Frumenti.

Here's a quick recap: Prohibition was this period between 1920 and 1933 when the United States government decided the whole country should be teetotallers. "No more alcohol for you!" But, and here's the funny bit, they did allow some distilleries to produce whiskey for "medicinal purposes." Winston Churchill, a famous Scotch lover procured for himself a doctor's note when he visited the States too. I mean, who wouldn't?

 

Churchill's doctor's note (Source: Metro UK)

 

Buffalo Trace, or as it was known back then, the George T. Stagg Distillery, was one of the lucky six to get the golden ticket to continue operating to produce "medicinal whiskey".

Many of these "medicinal" whiskey brands vanished after Prohibition ended. But they played an important role in keeping distilleries like George T. Stagg afloat during those dry years. This new Prohibition Collection is Buffalo Trace's way of tipping their hat to those brands that kept the distillery afloat, albeit under the guise of producing medicine.

Andrew Duncan, the Global Brand Director for Buffalo Trace, shared his excitement about rediscovering these brands, explaining that Buffalo Trace was instrumental in keeping American whiskey alive during Prohibition by aging and selling barrels from various distilleries across the country.

The packaging itself is a nod to their historical roots. Each whiskey comes in a 375 ml bottle, and the design is inspired by the original packaging from the Prohibition era.

And here's a fun little detail: the back of the boxes have cutouts where, back in the day, physician would've slipped in your medical prescription for whiskey. Heck! The entire set, which includes all five bottles, is neatly packed in a custom wooden case and priced at US$999.99.

According to Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, without these brands, we wouldn't have the Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, or Weller bourbons we know and love today.

Now, let's dive into each of the five expressions: 

Old Stagg

Old Stagg is the forerunner of the Stagg and George T. Stagg whiskeys. It became the flagship whiskey brand for the Buffalo Trace Distillery (then still known as George T. Stagg Distillery) towards the end of of Prohibition, taking the place of the O.F.C. bourbon.

Made to honour Mr George T. Stagg, the proprietor and manager of the distillery in the late 1800s, the brand came to be prominently featured in ads and posters in the years after Prohibition. 

This is uncut (not the medical term mind you) - which means its bottled at barrel-proof, and is also unfiltered, inspiring the barrel-proof successors Stagg and George T. Stagg whiskeys. Official notes say this delivers a nose of oaky vanilla, with a palate of sweet, mellow vanilla and leather.

Golden Wedding Rye

Golden Wedding Rye has a surprisingly long heritage, with trademark records dating all the way back to 1869. George T. Stagg Distillery along with the now closed Pensylvania Distillery jointly produced the rye whiskey. The brand then exited the US after World War II, moving up north to Canada, becoming a Canadian rye before it got discontinued in the late 1900s.  

Bottled at high proof (107), this carries heavy rye spice on the nose, with a palate of herbaceous dill pickle notes and a smoky finish with notes of banana. 

Three Features Blended Whiskey

Three Feathers is even older, with records of it being produced in 1812. The logo features 3 ostrich feathers because ostriches was a recognisable symbol of royalty in the 1800s (the English Prince William's heraldic badge today also consists of 3 ostrich feathers). It was also chosen to symbolise the 3 founders of the blend.

 

Prince William's heraldic badge.

 

This whiskey is bottled-in-bond at 100 proof with official notes of a nose of vanilla and charred oak, with a palate of tropical and stone fruits and a finish of caramel and cocoa.

Walnut Hill

Walnut Hill was a brand that George T. Stagg Distillery borttled for another company. Interestingly, based on some old letters with the US Patent Office in the 1930s, Albert Blanton (namesake of the incredibly popular Blanton's Bourbon) who later became the President of the distillery personally oversaw the production of Walnut Hill whiskey back in the day.  

This comes in at 90 proof, and is a high-rye bourbon just as Blanton's Bourbon is! Official notes say it has a nose of citrus with a palate of smokiness, woodiness and sweet molasses. 

George T. Stagg Spiritus Frumenti

Back in the day, apothecaries (essentially an archaic version of a pharmacist) referred to whiskey using the latin words Spiritus Frumenti, meaning "spirit of the grain".

And because whiskey could only be legitimately used for medicinal purposes during Prohibition, guess what American distilleries did? They bottled whiskey labelled as medicine "Spiritus Frumenti". This was George T. Stagg Distillery version of the Spiritus Frumenti that was produced throughout the 1920s. 

This is a wheated bourbon bottled at 110 proof, and is the strongest medicine of this year's Prohibition Collection. Official notes say this has a nose of caramelised brown sugar and a palate of fruits, florals, cherries and oak with a finish of vanilla and citrus.

How these whiskeys were recreated from archives

According to Buffalo Trace's Archivist Nick Laracuente, a lot of work was involved in recreating these century-year-old whiskeys. 

Through old dusty records that cover over 400,000 different items, the old designs for these bottles were unearthed.

"These bottlings are like snapshots of what was happening at the distillery at that time, for the most part," shared Laracuente.  

 

 

Distribution

It appears that only a limited quantity would be made available to select retailers, bars and restaurants in October. 

So, there you have it. A trip down memory lane, courtesy of Buffalo Trace. Cheers to history and, of course, to "medicinal" whiskey!

 

88 Bamboo Editorial Team