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
I didn't like the first batch of Stagg Jr., but since then, I haven't had one that I did NOT like.