Stagg Jr. Bourbon Review
By: Fork & Stave
Proof: 134.4 Proof (67.2% ABV) – Cask Strength / Non-Chill Filtered
For fans of George T. Stagg, Buffalo Trace released a “sibling” this Fall called Stagg Jr. This bourbon is not aged as long as GTS and hit the market with much anticipation from the drinking public. It was difficult to find in my area until just before Thanksgiving based on the limted release. This bourbon shares mash bills with GTS, Eagle Rare and Buffalo Trace barrel proof, but was given a name that links it to some of the best bourbons ever released. In fact, this year’s George T. Stagg (do we call it Senior now?) was sought after with a fever that I can only liken to that of Pappy Van Winkle. Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley describes the inaugural Stagg Jr. taste profile as, “rich, sweet, chocolate and brown sugar flavors mingled in perfect balance with a bold, rye spiciness. The boundless finish lingers with hints of cherries, cloves and smokiness.” There is no clear age statement on this bottle, but Buffalo Trace is keen to note on the label that it was aged for “nearly a decade”. Kris Comstock of Buffalo Trace says the juice in this bottle is aged between 8 and 9 years. Let’s see how it stacks up, shall we?
Tasting Notes: After letting it breathe for 10 minutes, I tasted this bourbon neat.
Nose: Stagg Jr. reminds me a bit of the elder Stagg in the notes of toffee and the sweetness of honey and caramel. Oak and rich wood in the background also hint at a similar character to the George T. Stagg lineage.
First Sip: The sweetness of honey, candy caramel, toffee, and dried fruit rush over the palate followed by spice and cinnamon notes. The input from the rye really breaks up the sweet notes nicely in this bourbon. The curtain goes down on my first sip with the oak and woody notes and finishes with dashes of spearmint. There’s a punch of alcohol that is unapologetic. The ensuing burn reminds you that 134.4 proof statement means business. You can add an ice cube or some water to cool things down and bring out more of those vanilla notes. I think this really helps if you’re going to sit and sip on this bourbon as the burn wipes out your palate after the first two sips.
Mouth Feel: It’s tough to say how I feel about this aspect of Stagg Jr. It’s got some really nice flavors in there, but the alcohol really cuts down on any enjoyment from my perspective. Again, things change quite a bit with a little water. I liked the mouth feel and linger to the finish much more with the ice or water added.
Finish: The finish is medium in length with an astringent feel followed by hints of oak and vanilla. I expected a bit more here, based on the lineage.
Summary: Stagg Jr. is a great whiskey, but lacks in the complexity and finish that I expect in a bottle costing around $50. Also, with the name, I think I built it up more in my head and came away disappointed. Slightly more age might give this brute a little more manners and make it easier to sip and enjoy. One note: I went back and tasted this bourbon again after 3 weeks of random sips and I have noticed a slight change in it’s character. Perhaps it needed some additional time to open up. I hesitated about what to rate this bourbon, but based on the lack of complexity paired with the price, I have to say that I can only give it average marks.