Anyone who follows this blog should know by now that my Buffalo Trace obsession runs deep. Not surprisingly then, this next review will focus on one of my favorite expressions from Buffalo Trace that is far more accessible than many of the bottles I regularly cling to: Stagg Jr.
First introduced by Buffalo Trace in 2013, this is the “baby” bourbon to the elusive George T. Stagg bourbon released annually as part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Like its “father”, this bourbon is the namesake of George T. Stagg, a whiskey salesman and producer, who, along with E.H. Taylor, Jr., is credited with making Buffalo Trace one of the world’s leading bourbon producers in the early 1900’s. Due to his contributions, the distillery was actually rechristened as the George T. Stagg distillery in 1904, a name that stood in place for nearly a century.
Like all Buffalo Trace products, the mashbill for this bottle is undisclosed. However, we know it comes from Buffalo Trace’s mashbill #1 so it contains corn, rye, and barley, and the rye content is likely less than 10%. This bourbon generally varies in terms of both proof and age, but many sources indicate these batches will be aged for at least 8-9 years. This bourbon is uncut and unfiltered and usually comes in around 130 proof, although this particular bottle comes in at 129.5 proof (64.75 abv). Stagg Jr. normally retails in the $50-60 range but lately I have seen prices as high as $150.
Appearance – dark amber.
Nose – I find oak char, some rye spice, vanilla, dark cherry, and heavy brown sugar, along with a light astringency. With a few drops of water, I found heavier dark fruit along with a more developed rye spice.
Palate – this is a high-proof bourbon and you know it immediately! Once you get past the initial burn, you are greeted with layers of oak, dark raisin, cacao, and more sweet vanilla. A few drops of water really helps with this bourbon, as it softens the astringency and brings out more layers of spiced dark fruits.
Finish – The finish is long and there is still plenty of burn, although it does dissipate enough to allow more cinnamon, vanilla, and dark fruit to develop. The brown sugar notes and oak char also linger throughout the pour, culminating in a relatively smoky-sweet finish.
Overall – Stagg Jr. is my favorite kind of bourbon. It is unapologetically strong and you have to be willing to work to appreciate the flavors this bourbon has to offer. The flavors here are rich and well-developed and I personally think this bourbon has more depth than a lot of people like to give it credit for. Of course, this bottle is not as complex or flavorful as its ‘father’ bourbon, but this is a great value (at MSRP) that delivers some of those same flavors and characteristics. For a first-timer, I highly recommend a few drops of water or a big ice cube, but if you’re brave I suggest you pour it neat and stay in for the evening!