I have spent this week working in the United Distillers Archive. While working there I was reminded about this brand of bourbon - Old Stagg. It is interesting that Old Stagg was the best selling bourbon in the nation in the late 1940's. One of the files in the archive has to do with Early Times suing to have them discontinue using that fact after Early Times overtook and passed them in sales and became number one in 1950. The brand has a rich history from the time of repeal up until the 1970s when it became a casualty of the drop in bourbon sales. I will say that the Schenley people certainly tried to keep the brand afloat with many advertising campaigns, but some of them where simply silly to the point of being absurd. In the early 1970's they even featured a person dressed in a Stag costume doing things such as fishing with the guys or playing a round of golf with the guys.
So what made Old Stagg so special? Looking at the files it seems that it was an early convert to 86 proof. This had the advantage of making the brand 7% more bottles available when there was no production during the war. In a time when most companies were blending their straight whiskey with neutral spirits to extend volumes, this would be a big advantage. The improved flavor of a straight whiskey versus a blend probably led the brand to the top sales mark.
The bourbon was made at the Geo. T Stagg distillery and Geo. T. Stagg was the bonded version. They also released a Stagg Deluxe at 90 proof in the 1950s. The packaging was attractive with a colorfull label and a shoulder label in a round slug plate below the neck of a large Stag similar to the one associated with OFC before prohibition. It would stand out on the shelf.
The one thing that struck me was that I have never had an old bottle of Old Stagg. I am suprised it has not been found on a shelf somewhere, but I don't even think John has a bottle in his collection.
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873