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20161104_082159The air is cool, but there is no precipitation. The road is clean. The sun is just beginning to rise and give light to what promises to be a comfortable day.

There are two available lanes to this thoroughfare.

The speed limit is 55 mph. You and your Prius are holding steady at 48 mph. You are occupying the left lane—the passing lane. Your “#BringBernieBack” and symbol laden “Coexist” bumper stickers are made glaringly bright by my headlights. The notion to nudge you into the ditch is awakening.

There is a driver to your right—and elderly woman in a Buick—matching your velocity. A line is forming behind me. The anger is beginning to stir. Drivers are abruptly swerving in toward the median to get a better view of that which is obstructing them. Headlights are beginning to flash. A horn’s angry scream is not absent. I steer, only slightly, to the right-most edge of the lane to let the gathering nation of rage-filled travelers see that it isn’t me who holds them hostage.

Get. Out. Of. The. Way.

But you do not care if they know it’s you. You do not care what they think.

I don’t know what their problem is, rattles in your mind as you nonchalantly reach to tune to NPR on the radio, giving a carefree whistle and acting as though nothing out of the ordinary is happening. I’m driving safely, you think to yourself. These people are acting like lunatics.

No, they aren’t. But you should know that they’re about to.

There’s a primordial telepathic ability retained in man that emerges during times like these. Suddenly, and without warning, there are those of us who have the ability to link minds in order to coordinate and accomplish amazing things. The information is transferred by merely a glance, and from this the plan is set and a carefully choreographed dance—one that all itinerant drivers know—begins.

The driver immediately behind me—a black Chevy Malibu—swerves into the right lane and moves up toward the bumper of the Buick. He glances at me. I give him a nod. The elderly woman feels pressured to increase her speed to the appropriate 55 mph. Dear woman, we are so sorry to force your involvement, but it is necessary. Her compliance allows for the Malibu to gradually overtake the Prius. I remain in place behind, giving the Prius very little room to move.

Once past, the Malibu’s pilot steers sharply to the left to get in front of the Bernie supporter. Without using his brakes, he begins to slow down. There is now an ever-widening window between the Prius and the Buick which allows for all of the drivers in the line behind me to get through. And they do. One by one, they weave around the troublemaker who is now very angry and showing that he is anything but willing to coexist. The Malibu and I work to keep him contained while forcing him into an ever decreasing pace, at one point shepherding him very near to 15 mph.

And yet I must be ready for the last car in the very long line. When he passes me, I must fall in behind him without hesitation. And I do. He speeds away cheerily while I again remain behind to maintain a very slow pace directly beside the Malibu. This is our dance for at least another mile. The Prius’ operator is swerving from one lane to the other. All too soon, the wingmen exchange friendly waves, and then fly away.

Lesson learned? I don’t know. But the man in the Prius sort of reminds me of the George T. Stagg 2016 edition as it compares to the 2015 edition. If the 2016 is your only experience with this particular whiskey release from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC), then your view is obscured.

These were my thoughts regarding the 2016.

The 2015 is much, MUCH better—an adorable gem—one that needs absolutely no assistance from others in maintaining the rules of the road.

In the nose, even without a kindly nudge of water, this high-octane masterpiece is a steady pace of more-than-noticeable caramel and extremely pleasant wood spices. A drop or two of cool agua with a moment of pause and the whiskey moves into the passing lane with an enhanced warmth and nuttiness.

The palate is Mario Andretti. I know, I know, this is an American whiskey. Shouldn’t it be Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Kyle Bush or even Danica Patrick? Nope. It’s Mario Andretti. It’s a veteran. It’s not bulky like NASCAR, but rather crisp and clean like Formula 1, with little body armor. And it’s moving at 200+ in the straightaways—giving over Bonieri Italian chocolates rather than Hershey’s Kisses. No offense to my NASCAR friends—and just so you know, I love NASCAR just as much as the next guy—but there’s nothing “Bud Light and travel trailer” about this stuff. It is a top-shelf edition.

20161104_082233The finish is long and is everything given in the nose and palate. But add to that what almost seemed like a very distant smoke.

If only I could find this stuff somewhere. Yeah, good luck with that. I can’t even find the 2016—which, as you can see, is nothing in comparison.

Hey, I just had a great idea for a bumper sticker for your Prius: #BringBackThe2015Stagg. Just make sure you are driving in a way that allows for me to read it in passing.
*Thanks again to the ScotchTestDummies for the sample. And to Jim, a member from a neighboring parish, who had a bottle he’d purchased while in North Carolina and was willing to share it when I lost my notes from the first sample. I’m pretty sure they fell out of my pocket in a hospital parking lot.