January 25, 2021
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
Composition: Mash #1, speculated to be 75% corn, 10% rye, 15% barley
Aged: 8-9 years, aged in virgin American white oak
Price: $50-60 MSRP (750mL), but can be $90+ in some markets
From the Buffalo Trace website:
“George T. Stagg built the most dominant American distillery of the 19th century, during a time known as the Gilded Age of Bourbon. Uncut and unfiltered, this robust bourbon whiskey ages for nearly a decade and boasts the bold character that is reminiscent of the man himself.”
Stagg Jr. is the younger brother of George T. Stagg, the ~15-year-old bourbon that is part of the incredibly desirable and hard to find Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Even though Stagg Jr. is younger, it has many of the same family characteristics: it’s cask strength and made from mash #1, the low-rye mash also used for other bourbons such as Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare 10. In some ways, you can consider Stagg Jr to be cask strength Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare.
Stagg Jr is made in small batches (but no details are given as to how many barrels go into a batch) and released twice-a-year, with each batch exhibiting its own unique characteristics. With that said, this Stagg Jr review covers batch 10, the most recent batch as of this posting, released in spring 2018.
Buffalo Trace Lineup of Reviews
*A word of caution: the alcohol smell is very intense right after uncorking it for the first time. I suggest that you let it breathe a little before you drink it because it can be very hot.
There are so many complex and interesting smells packed into Stagg Jr batch 10, all tied together with alcohol. In my first round of sniffing, I can immediately tell that this is incredibly rich and woody. There’s a lot of caramel and vanilla, as well as moderate amounts of fuji apple sprinkled with cinnamon and allspice. As I keep searching, I also find light notes of citrus, apricot, and peppermint.
Swirling it releases even more treasures. Now there are moderate to strong amounts of maple syrup and honey. It’s so rich that it smells thick and sticky. There’s also moderate roasted wood and vanilla, as well as a light amount of bubblegum. After a few sips, Stagg Jr becomes more floral and grassy, and strangely has hints of buttered popcorn. Musty wood and peanut brittle also appear. The whole time, I was expecting to be overwhelmed with alcohol, but it never happened. There are so many other potent smells that the alcohol, while moderately strong, is actually balanced.
When the glass is empty and the alcohol subsides, I can smell light to moderate amounts of pumpernickel bread, musty wood, and dried corn that reminds me of tortilla chips. There’s also a light sweet, citrus, and herbal note that equates to sweet tea. After 10 minutes, I start to smell musty raisins. This just smells incredible. I didn’t even have to water it down to find a chest full of different scents. It’s everything you could want from a bourbon. I could almost sit here all day and just smell it.
Holy moly Stagg Jr is intense! On my quick initial taste, there are so many flavors that I can barely process it. At first, I taste a lot of caramel, corn, peppermint gum, and pumpernickel bread, as the alcohol stampedes freely all over my mouth. Now that I’m better prepared for the more in-depth second sip, I can taste the flavor explosion. There’s moderate to strong lemon, peach, and caramel, followed by deeply charred wood, cinnamon, and nuts. Underneath, there are moderate amounts of mint and bread. It’s a nice mix of light (citrus, fruit) and dark flavors (nuts, wood, spice), and the flavors rapidly intensify as I swish it more and leave it in my mouth. The liquid is super oily and sticky, almost gummy, and glues itself to every part of my mouth. With the strong flavor also comes strong alcohol. It’s very spicy and very hot. My tongue is on fire.
After I swallow, the alcohol continues to burn in my throat all the way down to my stomach. Apart from alcohol, the aftertaste leads with moderate wood and gentle sweetness in my mouth as Stagg Jr clings to it. As those flavors fade, a slight orange juice tang appears and something ever so slightly metallic. The metallic taste is not bad, just interesting. There’s also a light savory spice flavor, like barbeque seasoning. It leaves my mouth very dry, which lasts for over half an hour.
Stagg Jr batch 10 is intense and angry, yet full of wonderful treasures. If you can handle the alcohol, you’re in for an amazing treat. The key is to let it sit in your mouth for a few seconds and swish it to allow the flavors (and alcohol) to develop. I really enjoy the multifaceted flavors that pummel your taste buds from every direction. This is not for the faint of heart.
Stagg Jr batch 10 is an absolute beast of a bourbon. It smells and tastes great, you just need to be prepared to be abused by the alcohol. As intense as it is, it’s still well balanced, with nice fruity and citrus notes, as well as wood, caramel, honey, and spice. Even though I did not drink this with water, I suggest that you do.
I wish that it was just a hint less hot on my tongue, but I have a feeling that a few more years takes care of that. Too bad George T. Stagg is nearly impossible to find and you have to offer your first born to have an opportunity. Regardless, I’m glad I bought 2 bottles when I had the chance, because they disappear quickly. I’ll be enjoying these for a while, and I hope you will too.