Whisky Connosr
Shop Join

Stagg Jr. Bourbon

Buffalo Trace Sr 2013: Bitter Oak

0 485

@VictorReview by @Victor

20th Oct 2013


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

Show rating data charts

Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

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

Related George T Stagg reviews


WhiskyBee commented

@Victor - I know many of us were waiting for your thoughts on this one, and you didn't disappoint. Eloquent and insightful as always. Easily the best review of this whiskey I've read anywhere. Our experiences with Stagg, Jr. were obviously quite different, but then I'm one of those malt-types you mention. ;-)

8 years ago 0

Nock commented

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.

8 years ago 0

Victor commented

@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...

8 years ago 0

talexander commented

I tasted this for the first time at WhiskyFest NY this year, and if memory serves, I 100% agree with your excellent, well written and detailed review. I was quite disappointed. The power of it made me wonder if it should be called "Stagg Jr." (rather than "Stagg On Meth") as it had all the power yet none of the complexity of George T. Stagg.

8 years ago 0

You must be signed-in to comment here

Sign in