Stagg Jr. – Straight Bourbon Whiskey – Batch 3 | 66.05% (132.1 Proof) $49.99
Color/Appearance: Rich amber and rusted old metal. Same low rye Buffalo Trace mashbill No. 1 as its famous big brother. Bottle says aged close to a decade, but who really knows. Probably in the eight to ten year range. Short bottle has stag horns and similar design, but the little bottle lets us know right away we are in another league. The black colored back label does seem a little childish, trying to darken the juice with optical illusions. It’s plenty dark all on its own.
Nose: Hazelnuts, orange cake, cherry juice, floral incense, damp barrel, fall leaves, campfire, jasmine and musk perfume. Cardboard and baking soda at times can emerge. Despite some small rough blemishes it smells like bourbon personified. Making up points for lack of finesse with raw power. I mean if you can barely smell a bourbon, even if it smells good, can you say it has a great nose? This jumps out of the glass. I do wish the fireworks of fruit and spice had a little more dark sugars to meet in the battle.
Palate: A bright explosion! Sweet and oh so spicy. Like a spiced honey oil that’s, ten out of ten, at a Thai restaurant. Then solid oak planks and hardwood floors. The wood feels a little young. Missing a little of that complex development that can come with more age. Then some cotton candy and candy canes, followed by the sensation of a merger between sour corn mash and caramelized sugars. At no time while drinking it, do you question wether or not this is cask strength. This is its weakness as well as its strength. This raw assault of barrel proof intensity elevates things to a higher level but where that temper is countered by the great development and age in the Senior, Junior here is still a little too hot tempered. I have tried a few drops of water to a good number, but have yet to really find a sweet spot. Letting it breath for a while can get things a little more in balance.
Finish: Snappy and crisp on the exit. A little too rough, but leaves a lasting impression. Red pepper, black pepper, and honey drying out over fresh eucalyptus logs. Shiso leaves and long aged cherry cider, if that was a thing. Warm and memorable, even a little of this stuff can go a long way.
Overall: When I first learned of Stagg Jr. I was excited to try some. But then when I started to read lots of negative reviews, I intentionally missed out on the first two batches. It was supposed to be super hot and aggressive in a bad way. Upon release of this third batch, news of its strong improvement quickly spread. That is what I find, a bourbon that lives up to its pedigree and gives you a younger version of the famous George T. Stagg. It is still a little too spicy and hot, but like its older brother, it packs tons of great classic bourbon flavors. If you can find it near MSRP, it’s a good buy. I hope making this doesn’t cannibilize stock from GTS. Cause while I like this a lot, I would easily give up three bottles of this for just one of George T. Stagg. Gosh if the first two batches were even hotter than this, I can only imagine what that is like. We are really cutting close to that edge here. But I know that if you like high proof bourbon, that little Kentucky hug isn’t going to bother you too much.