Stagg Jr Background
George T Stagg bourbon needs no introduction. It’s a part of the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and arguably the king of the bunch. Since the first released in 2002 the series has been going strong. So strong, Buffalo Trace geared up to launch a Stagg Jr companion product that last August came to age and hit shelves.
Stagg Jr is touted as a younger version of George T Stagg. Where George T Stagg is aged 15-16 years, the new Stagg Jr is aged 8-9 years, typical of many of the Bourbons reviewed here. Time does wonders to higher proof Bourbon, so the big question is whether all things equal, assuming that’s the case here, how will a younger Stagg be?
Stagg Jr is planned to be released “several” times a year. Just recently the second batch hit the market, which seems on pace for 2 batches in the first year. The first batch came in at a stout 134.4-proof. The second batch is a tamer 128.7-proof. For this review I tasted these side by side cut with water down to 110-proof. For the heck of it, I also poured a similarly cut 110-proof glass of Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof, which uses the same Buffalo Trace #1 mash. I don’t know the age of the CEHT-BP, but I assume it’s older.
No Age Statement. Bottled at 134.4 & 128.7-Proof. Buffalo Trace #1 Mash of less than 10% rye. Paid $50 each.
Batch 1: Roasted, caramel, cocoa, nail polish remover, brown sugar. Slightly fruity solvents kind of dominate over the rest of the subtle stuff.
Batch 2: Vanilla, caramel, roasted, raisins. Cinnamon. Some oak. Some fruitiness.
Batch 1: Ample black pepper, cherry, red hot cinnamon. Brown sugar. Spicy alcohol. Solvents. Hot alcohol. Roasted. Leather, tobacco. Charred oak. Finish is a little astringent and a bit acrid-bitterness. Burn hangs on.
Batch 2: Sweet, toffee, caramel. Cherry syrup. Hot cinnamon. Some cocoa. Black pepper. Roasted. Charred oak. Still hot, but not brutal.
Definitely similar, but the second batch to me is much better. Sweeter and more caramel-toffee. Much more enjoyable in my book. Some people say a bottle changes for the better after it’s been opened, and I’ve been sampling the first batch for three months. I haven’t seen any improvements for the better.
I think Stagg Jr caught a lot of flack because it got hyped it up as an alternative to George T Stagg, and when it disappointed, it kind of bombed. Putting Stagg on the bottle really drove up expectations and the product simply didn’t deliver. I don’t think it’s horrible, but I find it needs a lot of water to ease up the harsh edges. At that point I might as well just grab a bottle of Buffalo Trace.
The second batch is a different story. This is one is much more enjoyable both out of the bottle and cut to the a lower proof. For $50 or so, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable buy, but I could probably come up with a list of other things to do with $50. Specifically I think Stagg Jr is no comparison to the similarly priced Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof.
When comparing these to Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof there too is no comparison. While the Taylor Jr bottle is significantly more expensive, usually $80-$100, I really like. If I had to choose between Stagg Jr and drinking less CEHT-BP, I’d go with a pour of Taylor Jr and drink water the rest of the night. I’ve yet to post my review Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof, but spoiler: it’s going to get my top rating. So, that’s curious here because it’s the same recipe, although I assume Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is a bit older and perhaps that’s what makes all the difference. It might be interesting to see if Buffalo Trace can hold Stagg Jr back a couple more years and see what happens. Maybe that’s why there hasn’t been many releases so far? Or perhaps the second batch just gives us an indication Stagg Jr is still searching for its groove.
Batch #1 – Pass – 1.5/5.0 Rating
Batch #2 – Try a Glass – 2.5/5.0 Rating
(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)
Buying Options and Further Research
First off, I’d recommending passing on a first batch bottle if you come across it. If you want to try Stagg Jr, keep looking for the second batch. After that, as a high-proof/barrel proof bourbon in this price range, the mentioned Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof is a home run. Knob Creek Single Barrel is another option, as is Booker’s. Another good option is tracking down a store selection barrel proof Four Roses Single Barrel.