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Stagg Jr. Bourbon

Average score from 12 reviews and 13 ratings 87

Stagg Jr. Bourbon

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@Nock
Stagg Jr. Bourbon

I have been a big fan of Stagg Jr since it came out in 2013. At the end of 2022 it has finally dropped its “Jr.” status and is officially just “Stagg.” One of my local friends was just given a bottle of Batch #16 for his birthday in March. He asked me if I knew anything about the bottle . . . Why yes, yes I do. He graciously allowed me to take a sample. And I knew what I had to do. On Easter Sunday I again found myself alone for the whole afternoon. So, it was time for an Epic Stagg Jr. tasting. I have saved samples of 9 batches from #1 to #16. I have been saving @Nozinan’s sample of Batch #7 since he gave it to me in 2018. At long last.

The set up? I poured 15mL of all 9 samples into blue nosing glasses labeled on the bottom. Put lids on and mixed them up. I tasted them blind in sets of three (with more than an hour between each tasting set). I didn’t know it at the time but here were the groupings and order. #16, #6, #4 then #11, #2, #9, and finally #7, #1, and #5. Here were my results:

Short score in batch order:

Stagg Jr. 67.2% (Batch #1) = 95%

Stagg Jr. 64.35% (Batch #2) = 87%

Stagg Jr. 66.10% (Batch #4) = 93%

Stagg Jr. 64.85% (Batch #5) = 90%

Stagg Jr. 66.25% (Batch #6) = 92%

Stagg Jr. 65% (Batch #7) = 93%

Stagg Jr. 65.95% (Batch #9) = 86%

Stagg Jr. 63.95% (Batch #11) = 89%

Stagg Jr. 65.45% (Batch #16) = 92%

Tasting order with thoughts:

Stagg Jr. 65.45% (Batch #16) = 92% – This ended up as the first nose of the night. So, for better or worse it really did set the bar for this tasting. I will say it started off fantastic with nice baked brown sugar that was deep luscious and luxurious. What I really noticed is how much less alcohol burn it had compared with #6 and #4 right after it. It really seemed to be one of the lowest proof batches, but it still had all the depth of flavor of #4 which was impressive. There were two slight nocks. First, the finish wasn’t as big and epic as #6 and #4. Second, I ended up preferring the nose of #4 just slightly, but preferred this to #6. That is why it ended up just below #4 and tied with #6. Still, a really good batch from my friend Steve. It is his first bottle. He typically just drinks Buffalo Trace. He told me that this bottle has ruined him for bourbon. Very true.

Stagg Jr. 66.25% (Batch #6) = 92% – For a long time this was nosing dead even with Batch #16. This one had more heat to it and slightly less fruit. It was a hair more thin in the midrange than #16. I prefer this style with more of a caramel baked brown sugar and cast-iron baked crumble. But I had to give the edge to #16 on the nose. This is big, bold, spicy, and sweet. But just slightly thinner than #4 and #16. However, on the finish it took the edge back. So it ended up tied with #16. This batch is slightly thinner and slightly more powerful than #16. But that is really splitting very fine hairs. Still, one of the better batches for sure.

Stagg Jr. 66.10% (Batch #4) = 93% – Across the board this was a good batch dominated by brown sugar with only a slight fruit note of cherries. I tend to not like that sour note (of cherry or lemon) in my bourbon. So, it started off at a disadvantage. Initially my thought was I preferred #16, then #6 with this batch last. But the more I came back to it the more complex I found it to be and the more credit I had to give it. It really came roaring back on the palate and finish. It always maintained that hint of cherry and fruit, but it was always balanced by brown sugar, maple syrup, and spice. It ended up my favorite in its group of #6 and #16. And it survived well in a sample bottle since 2016.

Stagg Jr. 63.95% (Batch #11) = 89% – This was a nice batch all around. It was very much in the same vein with baked brown sugar, caramel, and baked crumble. Not bad, not sour, not overly oaky. My main complaint is that it was much thinner than the rest of the batches . . . by quite a bit. It didn’t have the depth and richness of the others – particularly in the midrange. It was thin on the palate, but still hand an enjoyable finish of brown sugar, red hots, and oak.

Stagg Jr. 64.35% (Batch #2) = 87% – This batch had a wonderfully thick and rich nose of brown sugar, maple syrup and a fruit compote. It was deep and rich across the register from low to mid to high range. One of the best noses of the night; more enjoyable than every batch except for Batch #1. Sadly, the palate and finish were both thinner and far more sour than the nose let on. Very sour lemon notes on the palate and finish kind of ruined it for me. It is possible this was from being in a sample bottle since 2015 . . . but looking back on my notes from November of 2015 I had almost the exact same reaction then – loved the nose, sour palate and finish. I scored it 86% in 2015 and only looked up my old score after this blind tasting.

Stagg Jr. 65.95% (Batch #9) = 86% – This was the clear stinker of the night. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a decent barrel proof bourbon. You immediately get brown sugar and lemon peel. But the nose had a very strong sour note to it that really puts me off. It was also very thin and drying compared with the others. Looking back at my old notes it looks like I really enjoyed it during my first two tastings (both blind) in January (93%) and then August (93%) of 2018. But by December of that year the bottle had taken a sour turn and scored 86%. So, my guess is that sample bottle has simply maintained that “soured” batch since 2018 when I rebottled it. Shame. I do believe it was much better when freshly cracked.

Stagg Jr. 65% (Batch #7) = 93% – This nose immediately came across as a classic Buffalo Trace nose with brown sugar, rock candy, and light ripe cherries. I could easily spot elements of Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, and even Weller. It was nicely balanced across the spectrum from deep sweet low tones of brown sugar and oak, a nice complex midrange of maple syrup, rock candy, and soaring high citrus and cherry notes up high. A really great balanced batch. Clearly, I wish I had owned a bottled. @ Nozinan thank you so much for the sample!

Stagg Jr. 67.2% (Batch #1) = 95% – I know I am alone in loving this batch. When it was first released in 2013 it was met with harsh reviews and criticism of being way too hot and too tannic. I loved it then. I love it now. It is my favorite batch. I haven’t tasted any since 2018. And blind tonight among 9 batches of Stagg Jr. it was clearly different from the other batches. It was much darker than all the rest. It has deep dark almost burnt brown sugar and strong wood notes that were almost tannic. There isn’t a hint of fruit, citrus, or sour cherries anywhere. It was just huge baked brown sugar and cast iron. I tasted it next to #7 and #5. Where #7 was a balanced example of Buffalo Trace distillate, this was a deep dark monster. I could almost believe this was a batch of George T. Stagg.

Stagg Jr. 64.85% (Batch #5) = 90% – This batch also had those sweet and sour notes of brown sugar and a splash of lemon juice. On the thinner side in terms of flavors, depth, and mouthfeel of the batches, but not the thinnest (that was #11). But all that thinness does make it seem younger. A decent batch, but clearly not my favorite. Maybe because it was in competition with #7 and #1. It rides the line of a good enjoyable batch.

Great labour of love to review all 9 of these batches. Thank you, @Nock!

I still have an unopened bottle of Batch # 1. Your testimony about air effects upon it have given me some hope that my thought that a lot of air time might do some very good things to it may be accurate. When you say that your bottle has become somewhat George T. Stagg-like, you have my full attention. That batch certainly has the power and intensity in spades. In an analogous sense it reminds me of that wonderful single cask Kilchoman to which you introduced me. The one whose review I titled Searing Vehemence.

I do fully understand you with that Stagg Jr Batch # 1. There is no level of bitterness and no level of tannin which turns you off. For that reason you can enjoy the intensity of the bitter tannic ride. As you allude, that is a rare reaction to this particular batch. I brought a sample of that one to Toronto one time. 10 people tried it. 10 people disliked it-- a lot.

@Nock Great line-up. I agree with your assessment of batch 7. I have to say I remember liking batch 8 just a little bit more. I'm saddened that I didn't think to get to a sample of that one. I have a spare. I could definitely put away a sample for you.

@OdysseusUnbound

I've reviewed Batch 8 of Stagg Jr before, but batch variation (and bottle variation) being what it is, I think it's worth reviewing this bottle of Batch 9.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose (undiluted): lots of juicy dark cherries, some fresh tobacco, oak, brown sugar, pepper, a little wood varnish coming through after about a 10 minute rest in the glass. A longer rest in the glass reveals more rich toasted oak aromas and some leather.
  • Palate (undiluted): rich arrival, a bit waxy, brown sugar, dark cherries, barrel char, toasted oak, and some vanilla
  • Finish: long, warming, vanilla frosting, black tea, a bit of nutmeg, black pepper and cinnamon, dark cherries lingering,

With water the cherries are toned down a little and some of the barrel notes take over. There's more waxiness and more of the black tea notes present. It's less fruity and also a bit less sweet, drier with water added. I prefered it neat. Despite the high abv, it's quite sippable without any water.

This is a fantastic bourbon. There's no other way to put it. It hits all the right notes and there is absolutely nothing "off" in my glass. The high proof allows all the flavours to come through without being overwhelming. Despite some reported early misses (full disclosure, I haven't tried any batches before Batch 8), Stagg Jr. seems to be like the great Beatles albums: each one different yet possessing an obvious commonality, and all are fantastic. This one doesn't have the cacao/dark chocolate I got from Batch 8, but seems a bit more balanced overall.

@casualtorture I must be lucky; it doesn’t come across “hot” to me at all. relaxed

Of the three recent batches I've tasted(65%, 64.75% and this one), this is my least favourite and the only one I haven't a spare to (my friend who says he bought it for me lost it in London...).

I do find them a bit "hot" on initial pour, but I tend to drink slowly, and after 30-60 minutes I find they open up nicely.

@OdysseusUnbound

Stagg Jr is, according to the interweb machine, made from the Buffalo Trace Mashbill #1 (less than 10% rye) and is reportedly between 7-9 years old whereas George T Stagg is reportedly over 15 Years Old.

The sample was graciously provided by @Nozinan

Batch 8, 64.75% ABV, opened Oct 17/2017, gassed after each use, 4/5 full when sample poured on Nov 8, 2017.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose (undiluted): lots of brown sugar, sour cherries, oak, vanilla, dark toffee, classic bourbon on steroids
  • Palate (undiluted): rich arrival, waxy feel, more cherries, deep barrel char, rye, cloves, a bit of caramel corn
  • Finish: long, oaky, and warming, with some tannins making an appearance near the end, like over-steeped black tea, ending on cacao beans and more dark cherries.

With water, the fruitiness is pushed back. Caramel pops out of the glass on the nose alongside a freshly-shucked corn note. With a bit of time, the nose becomes much oakier and an aroma of fresh pipe tobacco emerges. On the palate and finish, there is far less fruitiness with water added. It’s replaced by rich, sticky toffee and floral vanilla, while the chocolate on the finish becomes more like milk chocolate.This is terrific both ways. I like it so much that I asked my local KGBO to bring one in for me. I’d love to meet its daddy.

You've inspired me to revisit my bottle. Definitely good stuff. I have the 131.9 proof (last fall's release). I get a bunch of red apple skins, vanilla and cinnamon. So, baked red apple pie. I would enjoy comparing some of the earlier releases. I'm having this back to back with Jack Daniels SB BP. Very different profiles! I like the JD slightly better, which is surprising to me because I've never been a JD fan. Not that this isn't a great whiskey, but that JD barrel proof is something else!

Would love to try this! thanks for the great review relaxed

@casualtorture

Stagg Jr. Fall 2017 Release Bottle: L1727 I was lucky enough to grab a bottle of this. The store was allocated four bottles this year and Sal the manager was kind enough to offer me one. Bottle is 90% full and has been opened since January 3rd.

Nose undiluted: Grapey. Red grapes. Baked apples with cinnamon and butter. Banana bread. German chocolate cake. Not really any caramel or nutty notes that I find typical in bourbon.

Palate undiluted: Red apples. And more red apples. Lots of red apple. A bit one dimensional with the red apple bit it packs tons of sweet red apple flavour with each sip. Its a good thing I like apples.

Finish: Cinnamon, brown sugar. And this darn baby vomit at the very end that I've had twice now. With this and the barrel strength FRSB. Its like the wood got wet and started rotting during the aging process. Arg.


Nose w/water: Lots of red fruits and berries and baked apple bread. The banana is gone.

Palate w/water: Mmmmm... vanilla pudding, chocolate cream pie, vanilla really becomes prominent with some water. Honey too.

Finish w/water: The red apples have now moved to the finish. Thankfully not as much baby vomit at the end.

Overall: This is a pack-a-punch big bourbon. Big flavours, lots of baked red fruit and vanilla. Not really much spice. Its a gooey, creamy syrup with plenty of alcohol to go around. The nose is better neat, everything else benefits from a drop of water. So smell it and then add your water. Good stuff. Glad I lucked out this year.

Score neat: 86 Score with water: 87

We've been lucky that the last 2 years the LCBO has had a large allocation of this product. I've enjoyed both batches I've been able to land. This is definitely one that tastes better and better the longer you can leave it in the glass...

@Nozinan I'll try to be patient then. I let this last one sit about ten minutes, I'd like to pour it and forget about it for half an hour or so.

@talexander

Thanks to @Nozinan for this sample!

The colour is a medium copper. Thick on the nose with dark cherries, very dark chocolate, musty leather, green apple skins (?) and seriously charred oak. You know that black soap people used to put on their faces? That's kinda there too. Dark, dried up ketchup (weird, I know, but I got that!). Water adds complexity, with banana skins and crayon wax (from where in my brain are these notes coming from??) Extremely rich, as you could imagine.

On the palate I get more alcohol than on the nose, with more cherries, a lighter dark chocolate, cinnamon, Demerara and tannins. A lot punchier with water. A real knockout!

The finish is chalky with more oak, cloves and some woodsmoke. Although I always like Stagg Jr., I can't help but compare it in my head to George T. Stagg (which few bourbons can compare with), when I should really be examining it on its own terms. So this one probably deserves better than I'm giving it. Well, I never said I was objective...

@BlueNote What can I say? I like big bourbons. And I cannot lie.

@Nozinan Yes, it is more potent than George T. Stagg, but GTS's subtleties behind the high proof are what makes it one of the absolute greatest bourbons ever produced (IMHO).

@MaltActivist

I’m desperately trying to close out 2016 on a positive note. Personally as well as from a whisky review perspective. Of late it seems all I’ve been doing is getting angry at whiskies and their masters for letting me down. Some have in mildly irritating ways and others in much more spectacular fashion.

But the general aim this year has been to upset me and, along with fattening the books, they seem to have met their target. But I won’t let them drag me down to their level. No, thank you.

So while I do have some scathing reviews tucked away they’ll be better suited to the dawn of a new year. My objective now is to comment only on whiskies that make me happy until this dreaded year is finally over. I look forward to an interesting ten days.

And that brings me to the Stagg Jr.

For those who know me know that I am in love with the senior. It changed my perspective on how I perceived bourbons especially ones that came close to spontaneously combusting thanks to inhuman levels of alcohol strength. I’m talking 70%+ here ladies and gentlemen. To achieve a bouquet of flavours and balance in a beast that strong is almost an unfathomable work of art.

And that’s precisely what the Antique Collection is. A work of art.

The Stagg Jr comes from the same pedigree as the senior. Introduced back in 2013 as a younger alternative to the George T Stagg it uses a blend of whiskies 8 or 9 years old and the same mash bill – Mashbill #1. The recipe is pretty much a secret and all we know is that #1 uses less than 10% rye in the overall mix. As for the remaining grains I’m sure there’s a large percentage of corn and then some wheat. There could be some barley too. But I’m not certain.

Panned by critics when it first came out it was considered an unworthy alternative to the George. However, later batches saw the same set of non-believers warm up to this rather tasty barrel proof bourbon. I have sat in my glass Batch 5, recognisable by the proof hastily scribbled on the label. Mine sits at a wonderful 129.7 which, in layman’s terms, is around 64.85% ABV. My sample is from a half empty bottle opened just a week ago.

Nose: That familiar sweetness. Instantly took me to the George. Peppers. Black berries. Milk chocolate. Dark chocolate. Chocolate milkshake. Did I mention chocolate? Touch of black liquorice. Brown curry powder. In a good way! Burnt caramel marchiato. Breakfast toast. Ripe watermelon. Watermelon? Seriously? Quite drying with a ton of cooking spices on a dry forest fire. What’s not to like?

Palate: As you would expect. A nuclear explosion of pinpricks brought under control by a dark chocolate. Like a Lindt red chilly. Cherries. That smoke from that fire. Milk chocolate. Quite tannic. Dries mid-palate. The oak is quite pronounced. As are the spices. Not as sweet as I expected it to be. A hint of maple syrup. Feels youngish for some reason. But I love the strength.

Finish: Long. Long. Long. Oaky. And oily at the same time. Barbecue rub.

Overall Comments: First up let’s consider what is on offer here. A solid whisky made from the same recipe as the George. A touch younger, yes, but when you compare the price point it’s a no brainer. Pick this up for no more than US$60-70 (the later batches, of course) instead of mortgaging your children for the George T Stagg – that is, IF YOU CAN FIND IT! Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges but aren’t we all? In fact that’s what makes us so endearing, doesn’t it?

Hello Gentlemen! @MaltActivist, @Nock, @paddockjudge, @Nozinan, four of my favourite people "all in one place" cyber-speakingly. I'd like to get the four of you together with us for a tasting one day.

About those three Bourbon products, 15 yo George T. Stagg, Elijah Craig 12 yo Barrel Proof, and 8 to 9 yo Stagg Jr....the WOOD is the differentiator. Remember this, George T. Stagg is George T. Stagg because the barrels of whisky going into it continue to mellow and get better all the way up to 15 years (and more) of aging. Very few new oak barrels are good enough to succeed in aging to make a great whiskey at 15 years. If the wood barrels are NOT GOOD ENOUGH to allow the whisky to progress in a good direction for that long number of years then they are dumped for standard Buffalo Trace bourbon or for Stagg Jr bourbon. This is not to suggest that Buffalo Trace and Stagg Jr. cannot be very delicious products, only that they are products reflecting the "sell by"/"bottle by" dates of those particular barrels, based upon the quality of the individual barrels. Similarly, if the barrels used for Elijah Craig 12 yo Barrel Proof were "better" = more able to do so, they would most likely not be used for Elijah Craig 12 yo BP, but would instead become Elijah Craig 18 yo, or another premium Heaven Hill long-aged product.

I greatly love both George T. Stagg and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, and have found at least one batch of Stagg Jr that I like a lot, from a sample given to me by @Nock. I am still wary of Stagg Jr. from that first batch offered (and I still have a bottle of that one). I continue to think that Buffalo Trace blew it by bottling that first batch of Stagg Jr. after the wood had become too tannic and bitter. @Nozinan, you would have been appalled to have heard the HOWLS of hatred and disgust from four or five of our mutual Toronto friends when I served them samples of that first batch of Stagg Jr. They hated it. They hated it more than I did. In truth, my review score of 85 did not reflect hatred, but instead severe disappointment, in a whiskey which should have been good enough to score 90-93 points.

But the bottom line is that I will be happy to drink any and all three of these bourbons with any or all of you gentlemen when the opportunity arises.

Yes, I agree with both comments - that all three are different, and that all three are similar. I remember in my early days of bourbon drinking I was able to acquire a bottle of George T. Stagg fall 2005 release (for only $50 at the time). And my thought was, "this is fantastic; I want to drink more stuff like this." When I first joined Connosr (back in 2010 or 2011 I think it was?) I remember asking the venerable bourbon expert @Victor what in the bourbon world was "similar" to George T. Stagg. I was having a much more difficult time finding it in those days (go figure). I remember his laugh at my ignorance. His only comment was, "Nothing."

Today, I happily consider both Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and Stagg Jr. to be worthy alternatives to the venerable Stagg senior. Yes, neither are quite to the level. But I consider it two A-'s to the A/A+ that is George T. Stagg. Not quite, but close enough. I am grateful that both ECBP and SJr. can still be had for around $50 - when you can find them!

Anyway, back to the review: Thanks again!

@Nozinan

I recently saw this available at the LCBO, then it wasn't again. Looking to see if I had missed the BTAC lottery I typed in STAGG and this came up. In one store in Toronto. I was not far from them yesterday so I called and of the 26 listed (in the 30s the day before) there were 22 left. I picked up 2 for me and one for a friend. This morning the store had only 11 listed, and 2 other stores had a handful.

I was not in the mood to drink yesterday (work-related stress), but today I felt a bit better and I decided to try something new in the way of reviews. I will review this first pour, and revisit the smell and taste as the bottle evolves, reporting back. I've revisited reviews before, but never from the first opening.

Unlike most bourbon reviews, I did add water, and will comment after my review of the neat product.


I have to make note of this beautiful dark amber colour. I know that colour has no bearing on taste directly, but given that bourbon cannot be coloured if bottled in the US, this natural colour invites me, and suggests, correctly or not, that there is a lot of wood influence to come

Nose

Immediately on pouring I get brown sugar and vanilla. Alcohol. Aromatic wood (like a cedar plank on the BBQ or maybe pine resin), warm apple sauce with a little cinnamon, maybe grilled corn,. With time, I get increased fruitiness and can identify pear and maybe pineapple or banana. A little perfume (not in a bad way). 23/25

Taste

HOT! - powerful blast of vanilla and brown sugar. Lots of tannins. Not an expert on what you call this but is it OAK? Cinnamon toast (with butter)? Not a wide range of flavours, but big, bold, and powerful. Especially after 1/2 hour or so, I like it! 22/25

Finish

Medium short, astringent, sour near the end. I got a hint of butter, not really rancid, but as though it was melted then congealed and was left out in the kitchen for 2 days. 21/25

Balance

Not sure what to say. The nose is very nice and the palate is power on steroids. Not prednisone steroids, Dexamethasone. 22/25

Total Score: 88/100

Adjusted Score based on Enjoyment: Too Soon To Tell


After adding a half capful of water to a 20 cc pour, the alcohol recedes in the nose and on the palate, and it's a little less hot. Another half capful lowers the flames a bit more. Still nippy, and still full of flavour, but a little easier to drink. I'm stopping at 2 capfuls.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. I'm also hoping to share it with some Connosrs next week and see both what they think of it and how the taste changes when I drink it with good company.

Managed to snag a couple of bottles and opened my first one just a couple of days ago. While the Senior it is not the Stagg Jr is a fantastic bourbon with enormous value (I got it for around US$55 if I remember correctly). Solid whisky. Maybe a touch heavy on the oak but I'm not complaining.

I see. I'm not in tune with the Bourbon world obviously

@Victor

I found the first released batch of Stagg Jr to be unacceptably bitter, despite its having an excellent nose. The sample for this review is compliments of @Nock, and represents a later batch, probably the second batch, but I have no documentation for that

Nose: huge in intensity but medium in width of flavours; a ton of wood flavours of vanilla and natural caramel; lots of sweetness from the oak. The pitches are almost all high and medium in range. Spice is light here, reflecting the low (approx. 8%) rye content of Buffalo Trace Mash Bill # 1. With this second release of "Buffalo Trace Sr." the strength of the wood flavours makes it hard to taste corn flavours in the whiskey. This differentiates Stagg Jr. from standard Buffalo Trace Bourbon, one of the very few bourbons in my book in which you can actually taste corn. In Stagg Jr. there is enough oak influence to make that very difficult

Taste: as Jim Murray occasionally likes to say: "That's more like it!" The nose flavours translate well to the palate and do NOT go strongly to the bitter, as did those of the first batch of Stagg Jr. The only real shortcoming here is the absence of bass notes from wood to give this more balance

Finish: strong, long, and consistent

Balance: good but not great balance here. This batch of Stagg Jr. is still not in the same league with George T. Stagg, but I don't think that this batch would elicit groans from some of my Connosr friends (in Toronto), as did the first batch of Stagg Jr., when I served it to them. In my review of the first batch of Stagg Jr. I said that I saw no reason why Stagg Jr. couldn't and shouldn't be much better whiskey in later batches. The process of improvement is already underway. I place a high value on intensity of flavours. If I did not, this batch of Stagg Jr. would probably rate 84-86 from me, rather than 88.(and the first batch would have rated 81 from me) Thanks again, @Nock, for giving me this sample which restores my faith in Stagg Jr.

@Benancio, it has gotten pretty ridiculous trying to get premium bourbons and ryes the last couple of years. You do what you can to find them. You have a few good ones now...it looks like you are mostly the Big Flavours whiskey lover. In the right circles you might be able to swap that Pappy Van Winkle 20 yo for two or three bottles of Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Whiskeys, if it were unopened.

I have a bottle of Col E H Taylor Barrel Proof coming to me soon. I have heard only very good things about it. Good to hear that you like it a lot.

@Robert99, you are really making me laugh! Love the UFO comparison! It is kind of like that if you want something, and it is just not anywhere around to be found. Around here Karuizawa is in that category, hell, Nikka From the Barrel is in that category here, as are Aberlour 10, Glenfarclas 15, Talisker 57 Degrees North, and The Bailie Nicol Jarvie. US Whiskeys? Yes, those too: Four Roses Limited Editions are slim and none...and BTAC whiskeys and Van Winkle have gone from 'slim' to 'almost none'.

m

So I snagged a bottle of this when it barely came out only to watch it take a battering by the critics. Defiant as I am, I though, "What do those old hacks know anyways." Well those old hacks seems to make much sense now that I've tried this Bourbon.

Nose: There is nothing more annoying on a whisky than too much alcohol wafting up from the glass and there is too much here. So instead of waiting I cut it down with some water. I got hints of cotton candy, rum raisins, rum wood, pepper mint, and vanilla.

Taste: I get the cotton candy, pepper mint, and the vanilla. Wow....the spice is ridiculous and insufferable!! Even with water this is really hot!!!! Like scalding hot water. Very harsh. I can't get much flavor out of it with this kind of brute force power on display.

Finish: Harsh alcohol, dry, cotton candy.

I'm all for power in controlled measures but this Bourbon is out of control. I let my gf have a sip of this and she was left teary eyed and gasping for air. I myself needed a touch of courage and some water to finish this one. Try this and attempt to keep a straight face.

@Nock

I was lucky enough to pick this up on my last trip to Myrtle Beach on August 9th. I opened it almost immediately. It has taken a beating by critics. And yet getting your hands on a bottle is just as difficult as getting your hands on George T. Stagg. Now, I am unashamedly a fan of big barrel proof whisky. George T. Stagg is without question my favorite bourbon (that I have had the pleasure to own – I have tasted a Willett that makes me wonder . . .). So I come to this biased. I want to like it. Here are my thoughts after three “official” tasting session with pen in hand.

Nose: Leather, tobacco and alcohol! Candy canes and red hots. I love this nose. Rich wood flavors mix with sweet brown sugar. More alcohol and simply more “bourbony” then the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, and it goes without saying it is more muscled and austere. This is way more about power: raw bourbon power. It certainly reminds me of Stagg. Less sour then ECBP, but then it is also less sweet. This is a deep one: it is like approaching the earth’s core. After a little time I am finally dialing into the right frequency: bourbon hell fire, volcano lava, and charcoal. There is brown sugar here, but it is far in the background. With time the brown sugar moves to the fore. It is a nose that grows on you. There is something new and intense every time I nose this. My only complaint is that it doesn’t have the utter depth and richness that the big Stagg Sr. (and to an extent the EC) has. Water only brings out the intensity.

Taste: More balanced then ECBP. Nice balance of sweet and wood oak. Feels great in the mouth as it destroys your mouth.

Finish: Huge wash of bourbon . . . leather, brown sugar, charred wood, charcoal, out door BBQ, smoked meat . . . this is a huge finish. It is lasting for an age . . . and the salt pulls out every bit of moisture from your mouth. This is decimating! This is way more power then the EC has. And it lasts much longer.

Balance, Complexity: While it misses the depth of complexity that the ECBP has it is still extremely complex in a way I like. The balance is also wonderful: the sweet and the sour really balance out nicely. And the power . . . my goodness. This is Thor to the George T. Stagg’s Odin.

Aesthetic experience: It is a smaller more squat version of the tall slender Stagg bottle. I don’t love the “hand written” label because it is much more fake then the standard Stagg. And I don’t like that they are tying to make it look darker with the back label. Still, a 9yo at 67.2% . . . I love the idea of a younger Stagg.

Conclusion: I really, really like this bourbon. I do think that @Victor is correct – they should have called it Buffalo Trace Barrel Proof. But they wanted to capitalize on the Stagg name. I get it. I have a hard time faulting them when Stagg Sr. is the same juice just older and more carefully selected. Will I buy another bottle? Absolutely. Is it worth it at $49.99 a bottle? Absolutely. Is it as good as Stagg Sr.? No. But I find it does what only Stagg Sr. can do – it blows my socks off with power.

That is a very interesting observation. Someone could easily read my review and dismiss it saying, "Well, @Nock just wanted to like this whisky - so he did. It is classic wish fulfillment" However, both of us were biased to like this whisky (would you agree?). We both wanted to like it. I end up liking it a great deal. You did not. Very intersting . . .

While I very happy to be in the "Big Flavors Club" with you I know we are not always going to agree. I realize I have a much for focused range of "likes" then you. I might never warm up to Tequila. But I deeply have appreciated your help on the journey of flavor discovery.

To the next batch

Sure I wanted to like the Stagg, Jr. I want to like every whisk(e)y on which I spend money. With food and beverage, I am all about the sensory experience, though. Having a rosy hope and expectation has never by itself led me to actually enjoy a dram of any whisky.

Careful about Tequila,...I never thought that I would like it either!

@Victor

The Buffalo Trace Distillery rarely messes up a whiskey, but they did blow this first batch of Stagg Jr...unless you really like bitter oak, which I do not. Bitterness is NEVER natural to bourbon. Bitterness in a bourbon means bad wood. It is just that simple. The reviewed bottle has been open for 16 days. In that time I have had 250 ml of the Stagg Jr over about 10 separate drams

Stagg Jr is a logical product for the Buffalo Trace Distillery to produce...barrel proof fully matured intermediate age bourbon, parallel to, and in competition with, Jim Beam's Booker's Small Batch Bourbon, and the new Heaven Hill product, Elijah Craig 12 YO Barrel Proof

Stagg Jr is from Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1, the grain recipe for both standard Buffalo Trace bourbon, and also for the 15+ years aged George T Stagg. Stagg Jr is a bit of a misnomer for Buffalo Trace Sr. Stagg Jr is nothing like George T Stagg and very much like a more concentrated form of Buffalo Trace Bourbon. Buffalo Trace Mash Bill # 1 is very high in corn and contains only about 8% rye grain, which is about the lowest rye content of any bourbon on the market. George T Stagg features as its most outstanding feature multiple layers of very complex wood flavours, which are all the more easily tasted because there isn't much rye present to seize the attention. Standard Buffalo Trace Bourbon is one of the VERY few bourbons I have tasted (and I've tasted maybe 150)in which corn is actually tastable. Usually rye and new wood obliterate the ability to taste corn in a standard, i.e. rye-containing, bourbon. At least to my palate they do. The Stagg Jr is 8 to 9 years aged, and the glorious wood flavours of George T Stagg are not present. Stagg Jr is really just uncut (undiluted) Buffalo Trace Bourbon aged 2 or 3 more years.

So how is it?

The colour? Very dark, as 67.2% ABV bourbons ALWAYS are

Nose: the nose of Stagg Jr is fantastic, very intense corn, a little rye, and lots of wood which smells better than it tastes. The alcohol greeting for the first 7 days open was probably the most intense I have ever encountered from any whisk(e)y, and very off-put-ing. Happily that has significantly diminished at 16 days bottle open. Vanilla and confectioner's sugar abound, maple,...AFTER 16 DAYS it is a balance of sweet, dry, and a bit of bitter. It is quite an excellent bourbon nose. My bottle did not develop much sweetness until open 16 days

Taste: Very intense. Extremely strong alcohol greeting, which has ameliourated somewhat after 16 days. The alcohol greeting from Stagg Jr is much stronger than that from George T Stagg releases at 71+% ABV. The early palate, for 3-5 seconds, is an outstanding translation of the excellent nose, but then, mid-palate, bitterness from the wood arrives...and takes charge

Finish: this first batch of Stagg Jr has bad wood, which bitters out and stays bitter. The sweetness developed with giving the bottle some air time is not sufficient to balance out the bitter wood. In the first week of this bottle open there was no sweetness at all by the finish

Balance: Such a pity. There is no reason whatsoever why Buffalo Trace should have released a batch of Stagg Jr which bitters out. I expect better from this whiskey in future releases

If you really like bitter, you will like this better than I do. This first batch is not what Stagg Jr should be. With good oak, this is easily a 90 to 93 whiskey. I notice that those in Connosr who have rated this highly are malt drinkers, who don't drink much bourbon. Bourbon is NEVER supposed to be bitter

Water, you ask? A couple of drops made arguably slight improvements to the nose and palate

This bottle would have rated no more than 83 from me for the first week it was open. The additional air has actually improved my enjoyment of this whiskey a very great deal

@Nock, your bottle of Stagg Jr was in my tasting of it much sweeter in the nose and early palate than was my bottle when first opened. Mine became sweeter in the nose and early palate and very similar to yours after the bottle was open for more than 12 days.

Bourbon really is all about a balance of sweet and sour, with most of the sour component being from the tartness of the alcohol. There is no salty in bourbon and there is no bitter ever present in bourbon, unless the oak is bitter or old and overdone. I certainly understand that not everybody likes a balance of sweet and tart/sour. Not everyone likes bourbon.

I will be fascinated to see whether, when Buffalo Trace puts out a batch of Stagg Jr which tastes more like a normal bourbon with good wood, whether you, @Nock and @Whiskybee, will like it less than you like this first batch.

As far as this first batch of Stagg Jr is concerned it is simply incomprehensible to me that anyone could taste this and not find it bitter...very bitter. But, then, life has many mysteries within it which will likely continue to seem incomprehensible...

Thanks for the honest review. I also fall into that "mostly-malt-drinker" category. I certainly don't like the main stream bourbon taste. It tends to run a too sweet for me (and often to sour as well). I think I am more turned off by sour then bitter (I do love coffee).

My memory is foggy . . . do you recall that my bottle was a little sweeter then yours? Or was it not as bitter? Or was it only very slightly different?

@WhiskyBee I really loved my bottle. I'll try and post my review here soon. But first, I will pour myself another dram with @Victor's notes in my ear. I want to see if I can pick up on that bitterness he is talking about.

@WhiskyBee

Here’s the new Stagg offspring, as reviewed by someone who’s not yet acquainted with the family patriarch. I’ve had a few chances to pick up a bottle of George T. Stagg, but I refuse to pay the mercenary prices (about $250) at the local store when they receive their supply of one or two bottles per year. The waiting list for a Stagg at Binny’s is such that I’ll probably be on a diet of Ensure and creamed corn by the time my name comes up. But I continue to be patient, with the confidence that the right price and moment will come along some day.

Word is that Stagg, Jr. will be released in small batches on a regular basis, and that each batch will be aged eight or nine years. No batch information on my bottle (unless it’s on the inside of the back label, in which case I’ll have to wait until the level goes down before I can read it.) Unlike the promotional pictures you’ll see, in which the whiskey appears to be almost orange in color, the real-life article is a deep mahogany brown.

So with no basis for comparing Sonny Boy to the Old Man, I’m rather impressed with Stagg Jr. It’s not perfect, and it’s more fiery than complex, but I’ll be buying another bottle once I’ve drained this one. Some early reviews have emphasized junior’s heat and urge adding water. I suggest the same, although I don’t mind starting a dram with a neat sip or two. But if you want more flavors beyond corn, vanilla, and fire, add some water. For me, it’s been a bit of a challenge to get the amount of water just right. With such a powerful heat punch, it’s surprisingly easy to drown. Experiment with a drop at a time.

Nose: Sampled neat, it’s rather mild for such strong stuff. Pretty one-dimensional as well: mostly wood and sticky dark fruits. With just a few drops of water, I get vanilla, cinnamon, loads of wood, and a touch of corn-on-the-cob boiling in the pot. Radical changes with just a little water, in other words.

Palate: I tried my first sip neat and it was like a corn roast at the flaming gates of hell (but I enjoyed it!). Then I made the mistake of adding a full teaspoon of water—and with such heat, that amount seemed a reasonable guesstimate—but the result was just watery sweetness with a hint of wood. For my second dram, I added one drop at a time and determined that three drops results in maximum flavor with just the right touch of sting. Cherry hard candy, cinnamon, maple, rye, corn, cloves, and, again, plenty of sweet wood. The same flavors carry on in the finish as more wood and a little mint emerge. I just wish it were a little stronger at the fadeout.

In all, Stagg Jr. is a tricky one to pin down. Again, the water issue adds to the confusion. It seems to tame some things that need taming as well as some things that don’t. But it’s as good as or better than any other $50 bourbon in my cabinet, and for that I’m not complaining. I've got a few minor gripes, but I think it's quite delicious nonetheless.

Thank you, @WhiskyBee - great review. Everyone I know who has tasted this has had negative things to say, but of course, they are all fans of Stagg - so perhaps the comparison is unfair? Great to hear some notes from someone who is not making comparisons. Stagg may be my #1 favourite bourbon so I am dying to taste Stagg Jr. - and will try my hardest to keep an open mind!

@talexander - The majority of online reviews compare it to GTS, and I do think that's unfair. Stagg Sr. is heralded as the Gold Standard of bourbon, so of course Junior is not going to measure up. Forget the name on the label and approach it as you would a $50 bourbon. It's certainly as good or better than anything I've tried in that price range.

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