Tag Archives: Barrel Proof

Stagg Jr Batch 1 & Batch 2 – Review

Stagg Jr Background

Stagg-Jr-Batch-1-Batch-2George 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.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 134.4 & 128.7-Proof. Buffalo Trace #1 Mash of less than 10% rye. Paid $50 each.

Aroma

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.

Flavor

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.

Overall

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.

Recommendation

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.

Links & Other Reviews

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof: Batch 3, 4, 5 – Review

Background

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Batches 3. 4. 5When I reviewed Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof (3rd batch) I gave it my top rating. I liked it so much I got curious how to make more of it by blending it with the regular Elijah Craig 12. I’m a fan of  unfiltered barrel proof Bourbons. There’s so much flavor and I like choosing my own adventure with how much water to add. I try to check myself against liking big Bourbons just because they’re big, but like a good IIPA, there’s just something inherently great about going big. So, my ratings tend to favor things like Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. Plus ECBP is a great value on an age stated bottle and that too me puts it over the top.

Since I wrote that review a few months ago two additional batches have been released. The whole menu of Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof  includes:

Batch 1 – 67.1% / 134.2-Proof
Batch 2 – 68.5% / 137.0-Proof
Batch 3 – 66.6% / 133.2-Proof
Batch 4 – 66.2% / 132.4-Proof
Batch 5 – 67.4% / 134.8-Proof
Batch 6 – 70.1% / 140.2-Proof
Batch 7 – 64.0% / 128.0-Proof
Batch 8 – 69.9% / 139.8-Proof
Batch 9 – 67.8% / 135.6-Proof
Batch 10 – 69.4% /138.8-Proof

 

Since that review, I’ve picked up the fourth and fifth batch and I’ve been curious how they stack up. Sampling three barrel proof glasses is a test of endurance, but it must be done. You can’t really spend a lot of time evaluating these before your sensors go comfortably numb. It’s a challenge, while a fun one, but that’s a big caveat here on results.

Process

I ran through these at full proof. Then added water and took a break before revisiting. Then came back around the next day again at barrel proof. As with all barrel proof bottles, I prefer some water with Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. Still, sampling at bottle strength I think gives a good impression of what we’re dealing with. After that, adding water I think helps represent how I’d typically enjoy it.

Results

Well this was fun. These are all pretty great.

  • 3rd Release: Sweeter, I get more caramel and vanilla than the others
  • 4th Release: More astringency and nice caramel coming through. A bit more bite.
  • 5th Release: Char seems a bit more assertive. A little smokey. Some cocoa.

To me #3 and #4 are both about equal. I prefer #4 slightly as it has a bit more character, although #3 might be a little easier drinking. I’d have no problem buying an extra bottle of either of these for the bunker.

Closing

So, there you go. These are all worth picking up if you see a bottle. If I find a batch 4, I’ll be more likely to buy a bottle I don’t need, but in no way are any of these a notch below the others. My line up here would be #4, #3, and #5.

Fun fact: After I did testing on this, I poured the three glasses together. Yeah, that’s good too!

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Blend – Review

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Blend Background

Elijah Craig 12 Blend BottleI’m a fan of both Elijah Craig 12 Year and Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. The Barrel Proof is pretty nice stuff at high-proof and unfiltered, but it’s too hot for me. Drinking barrel proof booze is kind of nutty to begin with, but some whiskey for some reason is more enjoyable than others. Age I assume is one reason, but barreling selection and storage are others. Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof for me is close, but I prefer to cut it with some water.

When reviewing the Barrel Proof bottle I did some experimentation and decided I like it somewhere around 105-110-proof. In my review I noted some mixology with water to hit the mark. I was thinking of bottling up some so I could just pour and enjoy and then I heard about the idea of blending the regular Elijah Craig 12 with the Barrel Proof. So, that brings us to the Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Blend.

Process

For this experiment I made up two blended samples at 50/50 and 60/40 of Elijah Craig 12 and Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. I also mixed up a sample of Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof and water. Alcohol on these are about 113.6-proof, 109.7-proof, and about 110-proof for the water.

I let these sit for about two weeks and then sampled them side by side over two days. I also prepared a fourth sample with water on the spot without any befit of “mingling.”

Results

Right off the bat, 50/50 was still too hot for me to enjoy. I prefer lower alcohol on this Bourbon and I picked both the 60/40 and water samples over the 50/50. The 60/40 and water samples were similar, although I preferred the sample cut with water. I felt it had more depth and added complexity. I’m not sure I would notice if the glasses were standing on their own, but side by side to me the difference was clear. It had more of the dark and roasted characteristics and to me was overall more enjoyable.

Lastly I compared the two water samples and I couldn’t discern much difference. It didn’t matter whether the Barrel Proof was cut in the glass or bottled and allowed to mingle.

Closing

I was surprised by this, although I guess I shouldn’t have been. I was expecting blending two versions of Elijah Craig 12 would give me something interesting, but really it seems to just dilute the best parts of the Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. While still at the same proof, adding some water I found retains more of that great uncut and robust flavors than mixing in a large percentage of the cheaper Elijah Craig 12.

Also, I couldn’t tell any difference in how the Barrel Proof was cut with water. In the glass seems just as good as bottling it up. So, while bottling up a batch might be convenient, there was no flavor difference.

Does it Blend?

Nope. Just cut Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof with water in the glass and enjoy.

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof – Review

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel ProofElijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Background

Last year Heaven Hill released Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. It’s the leaded version of the popular Elijah Craig 12-year-old Bourbon that I recently reviewed. I’m a fan of that, so I was keenly interested in trying that Bourbon at barrel strength. First I had to get my hands on a bottle. I happened to luck out with one sitting on the counter, so I snatched it up and brought back samples for the store owner and manager to try. We all agreed it was pretty good and they tried to get some more. A few weeks later a few more bottles showed up and I grabbed two more because it had to be done.

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof is non-chilled filtered, so it should offer a nice mouthfeel and characteristics typically lost in the clarifying process. The down side is the Bourbon will cloud up when chilled, but who cares about that. Who wants ice in their Bourbon, anyway? 

Heaven Hill is releasing Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof as limited batches and this review is batch #3. It has the nickname the devil’s batch as it came out to 66.6% alcohol. The newer bottles I recently bought are batch #4. There are apparently slight variations in batches, and you can see it in the color, but I haven’t -got into the 4th batch bottle yet. You can tell which batch you have by the bottle proofing:

Batch 1 – 67.1% / 134.2-Proof
Batch 2 – 68.5% / 137.0-Proof
Batch 3 – 66.6% / 133.2-Proof
Batch 4 – 66.2% / 132.4-Proof
Batch 5 – 67.4% / 134.8-Proof
Batch 6 – 70.1% / 140.2-Proof
Batch 7 – 64.0% / 128.0-Proof
Batch 8 – 69.9% / 139.8-Proof
Batch 9 – 67.8% / 135.6-Proof
Batch 10 – 69.4% /138.8-Proof

Details

12 year age statement. Bottled at 66.6%. Uses Heaven Hill’s mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. Paid $50 (state minimum price)

Aroma

Rich roasted aromas. Chocolate and coffee. Almost stout-like. Dark fruits. Cherry. Caramel and toffee. Getting some rye mint. Wood polish.

Flavor

Oh, boy. Hot alcohol is overpowering on the first sip. Going back in lots of dark, burned sugars. Caramel, toffee, brown sugar. Buttery. Cinnamon and other baking spices. Great mouthfeel. Finish carries on. Need to add some water. Alcohol is turned down and getting more caramel, some rye, and charred oak. Black pepper. Stands up fine to water.

Overall

Regular Elijah Craig 12 is bottled at 47%, so you can see there’s a significant difference in alcohol with Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. While 12 years old is on the older side of things for that conventional proof bourbon, 12 years might be a little young on this bottling. It’s got a lot of heat, although the alcohol isn’t unpleasant. I didn’t get fusel alcohols, just a lot of alcohol that seems to overpower everything else in the glass. Water is needed here and I toyed around with different dilutions to keep this strong, but still an enjoyably drinkable. I settled on 110-proof mostly because the numbers work out, but I’m sure a little higher or lower works too for individual tastes. Using a postage and/or cocaine scale works great for cutting whiskey. For my dram I figured about a 1-ounce pour came to 24g Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof and 5g of water. I found this mixture quite enjoyable.

I’m a fan of regular Elijah Craig 12 from my earlier review, so I’m definitely liking Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof. I read someone tried blending the Elijah Craig 12 and Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof to lower the glass proof. Hmm… Further research is needed. I love the mouthfeel and all the strong flavors here. Sweet, fruity, dark sugars, and barrel character. This is pretty great to me. And the price seems great too considering everything else out there.

My booze monger told me his distributor said availability hopefully will improve. That’s great news. I’m stocked up either way, but if it’s easier to get I’ll just enjoy this that much more. Either way it doesn’t seem Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof is going anywhere and a 5th batch should arrive early this summer.

Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof Recommendation

Shut Up and Take My Money – 5/5 Rating

Buying Options and Further Research

High proof Bourbons are a bit of an elite class and proofs can be pretty variable. If you’re looking to explore more high-proof/barrel proof bottles in the price range, I’d suggest looking into Knob Creek Single Barrel, Stagg Jr, and Russel’s Reserve Single Barrel. Another good option is if you can find a specialty bottling of Four Roses Single Barrel for around the same price.

Links and Reviews