Stagg

Review: Stagg Junior Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
63%+
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 10% Rye, 15% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Stagg Junior was released in 2013 partially to satisfy many consumers who wanted to try the George T. Stagg bourbon, a whiskey usually about 17 years old and bottled unfiltered and at barrel proof part of the esteemed and rare Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. This whisky is aged 8-9 years, and, similarly, is from the same recipe (also the recipe of Buffalo Trace) and is cask strength and unfiltered. It comes out in batches, and, thus, the alcohol percentage and flavour vary from batch to batch. As the whiskey is younger, has high production, and is released multiple times per year, Buffalo Trace hopes this is a more accessible whiskey in the mold of George T. Stagg.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A (66.05%)

  • Bottling Code: B14 191 0957N

  • Bottling Date: 2014

There’s a good dose of earthy oak, caramel, black tea, lots of white grape (the fruit really lifts up the whole nose), honey, a bit of marsh that’s drying out in the fall (or another season, I suppose…), and lots of dried apricot. I love the earthiness of the oak. The palate is sweet with a lot of black tea, candied orange, and some sharp spices – a mixed bag of old stale cloves and peppercorns. Still a bit sweet with almost a raisin-y type sweetness to it. Fades to tannins, oak, and dried apple.

Even if you water it down to 40% you still get quite a nice bourbon. But, much better at cask strength – though watered to 58-60% might be my sweet spot for this bourbon.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average (based on $85).


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 10 (63.2%)

  • Bottling Code: L180860118:557 REF IA 5C VT 15C

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Lowest proof to date for a stagg jr!

Very fruity! Cherries, mulberries, white grape, a light floral note and lots of spice – clove and ground cinnamon (i.e. more on the spicy than the woody side). The palate is big with dried fruit and a rich oiliness – full of that buffalo trace rye note you see clearly in the standard buffalo trace bottling – but it’s much bigger and richer here. Amazing fruity notes – raspberry jam, hibiscus, cherry, strawberry, but alongside the oily corn, oak, and spice you’d expect. The finish is drying, with lots of dried stone fruit (notably cherry), oak, caramel, and tannin.

A definite improvement on the initial stagg jr. which didn’t make me jump to buy more of them. This is much better.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average (based on $85).


Review: George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

George Stagg 3.jpg
ABV
71.3%
Aging
18.5 yrs; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 10% Rye, 15% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Of course, each year of Stagg varies in age, barrels, and ABV - the above is for the 2011 batch I have reviewed, the oldest Stagg ever, I believe. Indeed, it is not often you find an 18 year old bourbon, let alone one bottled at cask strength greater than 70%!


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2011

  • Bottling Code: K237 119:44

  • Bottling Date: 2011

This is an oaky beast! The nose has vanilla and oak, dried cherry, almond, corn husks, dried apricot, and the lightest hint of strawberry and hibiscus. Nuttiness grows with time. If you drink at higher proofs, wonderful oiliness and beeswax reveal themselves along with Elmo’s craft glue, dried cranberry, leather, black tea, dried flowers – surprisingly, on the nose, I get more at full proof. Oak is here, there, and everywhere – it is relatively clean though – you aren’t getting a sense of really earthy, mossy, oak or very spicy oak – at least not relative to the magnitude of straightforward oak. It really does smell like a stave of sweet, luscious oak. The palate is loaded through with oak, strawberry, clove, old tough dried fruit, and light bitterness. Nice tanginess, and incredibly rich dried fruit. The finish is full of light fruitiness, vanillla, baking spices, spearmint and stewed apricots and peaches. The finish is dense, slowly unfolding with time.

The whole thing, really, is chained in oak – it is terrific for a powerful, oaky bourbon but in terms of complexity and intrigue – it’s not quite there. The nose is really nice, but the palate is too constrained by the mighty oak and isn’t quite together. I keep wanting to rate this higher because I know it is a Stagg – it is ever the error with non-blind tasting. However, tasting in a flight brings back that advantage...and it isn’t the caliber of the ones I’m tasting beside it. The nose is fantastic, and it develops beautifully, but the palate and the finish don’t meet expectation. But that was a pretty high expectation – this is terrific bourbon.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $150.