A Fifth of Old Stagg

In Chapter 13 of V. (in which the yo-yo string is revealed as a state of mind) Profane has occasion to call in a favour Pig owes him. This sends our narrator digressing away on how the favour came to be owed, a tale involving Profane saving Pig’s own mortal bacon via a radar antenna and some hamburger meat. We must note that the digression contains within it several alcoholic drinks, including the torpedo juice we’ve already dealt with here and a couple of no longer extant American whiskeys: Schenley Reserve and Old Stagg. Today we turn to the Old Stagg, or as close as we can get.

Pig, crab-infested Groomsman, and their other naval buddies are sitting around hatching prophylactic water balloon-based plots against one Knoop, Lieutenant Junior Grade and all round bootlicking snitch, when they drink the Old Stagg. They have a bottle of it, a fifth “conned from Howie Surd,” drunken yeoman (p. 375). Pynchon, not unusually, doesn’t get the spelling quite right, dropping a G.

Not wanting to drop a G of my own to obtain a bottle of whisky that hasn’t been produced since the ’70s, I’ve gone with a new Stagg instead. Buffalo Trace distillery, where Old Stagg was produced, now make a couple of products bearing the Stagg name–a very expensive George T Stagg and a relatively moderate Stagg Jr. I therefore find myself cracking a Stagg Jr–offspring of Bodine et al.’s Old Stagg!

Fittingly, given it shares this passage with that other high-octane concoction, the torpedo juice, this stuff is a pushing the upper limits of cask strength at a ferocious 65% abv. (Bodine’s bottle back in the day was a milder 86 proof). It sure is a sipper. The flavours are coconuty alcohol, lots of rye spice, a bit of banana (unless that’s just sticking around on my palate from last time), caramel, molasses, fire, lightning, hail, corn, a bit of smoke, who knows what else. It’s huge. If I were Howie Surd in no matter how drunken possession of a bottle of this, I would take some very serious conning indeed to be parted from it.

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