Big, bold, and rich. Little alcohol burn despite the high proof. Very well-rounded flavor profile.
Truly exceptional whiskeys rarely have negatives and this is no exception. The only negative is the general elusiveness and wacky allocation of these releases.
Perhaps only surpassed by Pappy Van Winkle in modern day hype and rarity are the whiskeys of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. This mystic family of whiskeys, all produced by the Buffalo Trace Distillery, includes William Larue Weller wheated bourbon, George T Stagg bourbon, Sazerac 18 year old rye, Thomas H Handy rye, and Eagle Rare 17 year old bourbon. To get our bearings in this review, we’ll focus in a bit more on George T. Stagg.
Before Stagg was a bourbon, it was the name of a man born in 1835 who went on to become a highly successful leader of the Old Fire Copper Distillery he co-ran with Edmund H. Taylor (better known today as Col. EH Taylor). Due to his successes, the distillery was renamed after George T. Stagg in 1904. Today, that distillery is known as Buffalo Trace.
Buffalo Trace first started releasing George T. Stagg bourbon in 2002 as a limited release barrel proof bourbon aged approximately 15 years, and the bourbon currently releases annually in the same form each Fall. Due to the popularity and limited availability of GTS, Buffalo Trace started releasing a younger version of the bourbon in the Fall of 2013, aptly named “Stagg Jr.” which has become a biannual release each Spring and Fall.
While the first few batches of Stagg Jr. were met with relatively mediocre reviews, and the bottles sat on shelves at least until the next release arrived, like pretty much all of Buffalo Trace’s bourbons Stagg Jr. has now become highly allocated and quite difficult to find in many markets. Aged an average of 8-10 years (allegedly) and retailing for $50-60 on average, Stagg Jr. does have the appearance of a fair value bourbon, and is in line with other barrel proof bourbons like Elijah Craig Barrel Proof or Bookers.
I tried an unknown batch of this bourbon for the first time at a bar on my birthday, and knew afterwards that I needed to find a bottle of my own to further explore. While I’m uncertain what that batch was, the bottle I have now is Batch 9, released in Fall 2017, and boy am I glad I bought it!
- Distilled from Buffalo Trace’s low-rye “mash bill #1” (less than 10% rye)
- No Age Statement
- Uncut and unfiltered
- Bottled at 65.95% ABV (131.9 Proof)
Nose: No alcohol burn despite the high proof. It smells like someone is baking desserts in the wintertime. Fresh maple, brown sugar, milk chocolate, and rich cherry are most prominent alongside hints of baking spices and orange zest. A vanilla note runs through everything, nicely rounding off the nose.
Palate: Heavy, full-bodied mouthfeel. Cherries, milk chocolate, and cinnamon explode onto the palate at arrival, followed by brown sugar and maple syrup as the dram develops. Bold and rich.
Finish: Big, rich, and lingering, leaving behind well-developed notes of cherry, cinnamon, and subtle chocolate. The finish demands another sip; it’s absolutely fantastic.
Buying Recommendation: Must Try! This batch of Stagg Jr. is right up among the best bourbons I’ve ever tasted. It’s big, bold, and rich from the nose through to the finish. This bourbon is easy to handle neat in spite of its high alcohol content, and holds all of its flavor and character with a bit of water added as well. Of course, each release of Stagg Jr. will vary a bit, but that’s part of the fun of these small batch releases!