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Stagg Jr. Bourbon

Straight UP!

3 1790

@MaltActivistReview by @MaltActivist

20th Dec 2016

1

  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Finish
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  • Balance
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  • Overall
    90

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

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?

Related George T Stagg reviews

17 comments

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

Great review! I won't pretend I can tease out everything you smelled and tasted (after all I have a different batch anyway) but I echo the sentiment and agree this is a great bang. It's also a great bang for your buck!

10 months ago 0

@Nock
Nock commented

Thanks for the review. Yes, this is batch #5. I managed to capture two bottles of every batch from 1-5. Sadly, my supply has now tapered off. I will say that there is great batch variety.

I am a huge fan of batch #1 which most people (including @Victor) greatly disliked. That said, I agree that #5 is also a fantastic batch that is right in the "pocket" of the releases. It isn't too much or too little of anything. It is simply a good, powerful, barrel proof bourbon for $50-70. For me it has a slight edge over Elijah Craig Barrel Proof - which I also adore. I picked up two bottles of this batch while touring Baltimore with @Victor.

@Nozinan, I wish I could have gotten my mitts on the batch you have. Sadly, the ABC system in Virginia failed me and it slipped through my fingers (all supply going to bars and restaurants). Oh well. Maybe next batch.

10 months ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@Nock I could arrange to have a small sample delivered to you through a mutual friend who may be visiting in 2017... we could discuss it off line (well, still online but, oh - you know what I mean!)

10 months ago 1Who liked this?

@MaltActivist
MaltActivist commented

I think this is a great alternative to the George and even the EC12 Barrel Proof!

10 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@MaltActivist I think all three are different, and would hate to have to choose (mind you, with the rarity of all three here in Canada I don't have to choose (the choice is usually none...)

10 months ago 1Who liked this?

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

Thank you @MaltActivist for a candid and captivating review.

I have recently obtained a bottle (130 proof), @Nozinan is responsible for my good fortune. More than one bottle was made available to me, but I declined, knowing that I would likely regret not acquiring more than one bottle of Stagg Jr.

I am both pleased and grateful to have one and hope to share this with friends and family sometime soon.

Cheers!

10 months ago 2Who liked this?

@Nock
Nock commented

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!

10 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

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.

9 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

I meant to add that there is a clean sweet quality to the wood in George T. Stagg, even after 15+ years of aging, which contrasts to the hinted at and lightly touched upon bitter tannic wood astringency of both Stagg Jr. and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. Generally, with the exception of that Batch 1 of Stagg Jr., Stagg Jr. and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof have kept that tannic wood astringency under sufficient control that it does not destroy the whiskey.

And of course, those 64-70% ABVs give a righteous intensity to all of these products.

9 months ago 0

@MaltActivist
MaltActivist commented

@Victor oh to have the depth of knowledge you possess... If I had a genie and three wishes I would wish for that. And a better nose. And a much much better palate.

9 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@MaltActivist, you do quite well as it is.

Thank you for your review.

9 months ago 1Who liked this?

@MaltActivist
MaltActivist commented

@Victor I'm going to get in touch with you soon regarding my summer plans for the US. I think it's about time.

9 months ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

Why not all come to Ontario? I hear it's very nice in May and there's lots of whisky!

9 months ago 1Who liked this?

@jeanluc
jeanluc commented

Would love to pick up a bottle of this but it's £75 in the UK, it feels a bit steep

9 months ago 0

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