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.

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Wild Turkey 81 Rye – Review #42

Wild Turkey 81 Rye Background

Wild Turkey 81 RyeWild Turkey 81 Rye is a recent addition to the Wild Turkey lineup. It was a response to the sudden spike in demand for rye whiskey, which previously basically a boutique product compared to the Bourbon business. When Wild Turkey’s supply of aged rye whiskey began to outstripped demand, they introduced Wild Turkey 81 Rye as what seems a stop-gap. It’s a younger version than Wild Turkey 101 Rye and obviously is a lower proof so they could get more bottles out of a barrel. Wild Turkey says the age of Wild Turkey 81 Rye is 4-5 years old.

Wild Turkey 101 left shelves for about two years as Wild Turkey’s ramped up production came to age. Wild Turkey 101 Rye began rolling out to select states in late 2013/early 2014. Bottles still appear to be limited and there’s no sign that Wild Turkey 81 Rye is going away any time soon.

Details

4-5 years old. Bottled at 81%. Rumored to be around 65% rye. Paid $21

Aroma

Minty, menthol. A little evergreen. Nice subtle, but distinct rye character coming through. Caramel. Charred oak. Touch of vanilla.

Flavor

Light and thin. A little cardboard. Pine flavors. Caramel, a little sweetness. Just a little spice builds in the finish.

Overall

For the price and the proof, this is pretty good stuff. It’s incomparable to Wild Turkey 101 Rye that’s not too much more expensive. If 101 is available, that would seem a no-brainer to me. But anyway, if you focus on what Wild Turkey 81 Rye is, there’s not much to dislike. Certainly it’s on the light side and lacks oomph, but it does have nice flavor and is very drinkable. This would make a nice afternoon session whiskey and there’s no complaining about the price.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.0/5.0 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

If you can find Wild Turkey 101 Rye, that’s an easy choice in my book. The downside is you have to buy a whole liter at this present time, but it’s hands down the better choice for obvious reasons. From there, other similarly prices light ryes are Sazerac Rye 6 Year, Old Overholt, and Rittenhouse. There are some variations in there, but if I had to stack them up, I’d prefer the sweet Sazerac 6 over this, but Rittenhouse after Wild Turkey 81 Rye. Rittenhouse was dry and a little rough for my tastes. I wouldn’t recommend Old Overholt. Depending on my mood I could see swapping order on Sazerac 6 and Wild Turkey 81 Rye.

Links & Other Reviews

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch – Review

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch Background

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small BatchColonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch is second review from the Colonel EH Taylor Jr lineup. I previously reviewed Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel ProofColonel EH Taylor Jr Single Barrel and this is a similar expression of that except vatted from multiple barrels. Like the Single Barrel, this is Bottled in Bond meaning the whiskey is distilled from one plant during one season and aged in a federally bonded warehouse for at least four years. Taylor was an advocate of government regulations on Bourbon and he is credited in helping to make the Bottled in Bond Act law in 1897. Taylor was also a pioneer in raising quality and standards for Bourbon, which makes sense why he pushed to establish quality standards in law.

This line is bottled by Buffalo Trace and the connection here is Taylor received financing from George T Stagg. Taylor fell in financial problems and Stagg foreclosed on his the O.F.C. Distillery. The properties would later become a part of today’s Buffalo Trace and the company is commemorating Taylor with this line of Bourbons.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 50%. Buffalo Trace’s #1 Mash of about less than 10% rye. MSRP – $39.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Vanilla. Caramel. Green apples. Smells fruity, sweet, with a little wood.

Flavor

Oak barreled Apple cider, Sweet. Buttery. Caramel and vanilla comes through well. Some hot cinnamon and toffee, and burnt sugars in there. A little tartness in the finish with some drying astringency. Some water bring out more sweetness and cools off the hot cinnamon and spice.

Overall

I’m enjoying this bottle of Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch, although I get a touch of nail polish remover that’s keeping me from really liking it. Like a lot of Buffalo Trace offerings, this is fruity with nice sweetness and typical bourbon caramel and vanilla characteristics. This has some nice complexity and a pleasant drinking low-rye Bourbon. Also, like the entire Colonel EH Taylor Jr line, this bottle comes with a very nice tube container giving it a classy touch.

The big question to me how Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch stacks up against Colonel EH Taylor Jr Single Barrel? I find my bottles to be pretty similar. Small Batch seems a little sweeter while Single Barrel to me is a little better mouthfeel and a little more of that hot cinnamon. I prefer the Single Barrel, but I don’t think it’s worth an extra $20. Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch is I think the best value. I’ll probably keep this one around.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.5/5.0 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

This is a low rye bourbon and it’s fairly unique category. Some similar alternatives in this price range would be Eagle Rare 10. It has the same mash bill as Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch. As mentioned you could try the Colonel EH Taylor Jr Single Barrel for a chunk of change more, but I’d suggest starting out here. Elmer T Lee is a higher rye recipe, but similar I think. As is Bowman Brothers Small Batch and Russell’s Reserve 10. Those are some options that should help you out if you’re looking to do some alternatives to Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch.

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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!

Michter’s 10 Year Rye – Review #39

Michter’s 10 Year Rye Background

Michter's Single Barrel 10 Rye BottleIn this space I like to go into the history of the topic whiskey, which is Michter’s 10 Year Rye. Sometimes the whiskey itself has a story or the bottle commemorates someone with a story. To me the interesting part of American Bourbon and rye is every bottle has a story and that story telling has become an important part of selling whiskey.

Like a lot of new whiskey startups, Michter’s is buying finished product from someone else. They’re an independent bottler. They don’t distill any spirits nor age any barrels. This sucks the romance out of the product, but if the whiskey is good and they’re up front with what’s they’re doing, that’s cool with me. Michter’s isn’t exactly up front with what’s going on. For example, if you visit their website there’s an embarrassingly bad Photoshop hack to make it appear they have barrels aging somewhere. It’s their big hero graphic everyone sees when they visit the site. I have no idea why someone would do this or even worse keep it online after being called out on it. It really makes for a lot of questions about the people behind the bottles.

Joe Magliocco of Chatham Imports is the owner of the Michter’s brand. Michter’s was a famous brand of whiskey out of the storied Bomberger’s Distillery in Pennsylvania. Magliocco bought the brand in 2011 and built up the modern Michter’s brand by sourcing some reportedly very good whiskey. That’s sounds great. That whiskey is apparently gone and now something else is in the same bottles. Michter’s isn’t the only one who has done this, so I don’t want to single them out, but as a consumer I’d like when the contents of a bottle complete changes. The Bourbon business has a very long history of keeping customers in the dark as to what they’re buying, so I probably shouldn’t harp on this too much. It’s always a matter of trust, and going back to that Photoshop stuff, that doesn’t inspire a lot of trust or even good judgment.

Anyway. Here we have Michter’s 10 Year Rye. I have no idea where it came from. From my research I’m not sure I could even give you a good guess. If anyone knows, I’m all ears. One thing for sure though, there aren’t too many 10 year old American ryes on the market, so that’s at least noteworthy about Michter’s 10 Year Rye.

Details

10 Years Old. Bottled at 46.5%. Barrel 14C174. No guess on mash bill. Paid $100

Aroma

Caramel. Spearmint, Vanilla, Cocoa. Gingerbread. Charred oak.

Flavor

Toffee, burnt sugars. Sweetness. Minty, pine. Mocha cocoa. Some smokey buttery phenolics. Charred oak with a bit of astringency. Mild spice in the finish. Warming alcohol. Nice layered flavors.

Overall

So, I like this bottle. It’s a nice drinker with good complexity and layered flavors. I beat up Old Overholt on phenolics that came across as medicinal/band aids. Some similar rye phenols are present here in Michter’s 10 Year Rye,  but I think more pleasant in the smokey side of things.

Since I don’t know much about the rye recipe, I’m left looking at comparable bottles in price, age, and flavor. My question is it worth the trouble and price tag vs what is generally more available?

One rye I really like and I think is a good comparison is Colonel EH Taylor Jr Rye. This is one of my favorite ryes and is a bit pricy, but not impossible to find. I don’t know much about the age, but it seems to drink like an older bottle. I think this is close. I prefer Michter’s 10 Year Rye, but given the price and availability, if I have a reliable source for EH Taylor Jr Rye I won’t be heartbroken if I never find a bottle of Michter’s 10 Year Rye again. I also lined up Russell’s Reserve Rye and that’s another of my favorites.  At about 1/3 the price it’s a great value for a nice whiskey, but not in the same league straight up. The next comparison was High West Rendezvous. I gave that my highest rating and it’s a great bottle for rye lovers. It’s a little goofy though with the blended young and older ryes. I don’t think it’s a very good comparison since they’re kind of different products. Still it’s a nice whiskey with a more reasonable price and is widely available. Last I looked at another Michter’s bottle, Michter’s US 1 Rye. To me, this was no comparison. While Michter’s US 1 Rye is a nice drinker, it’s sweeter and lacks much of the depth and character of the older Michter’s 10 Year Rye.

So, basically we’ve got a very nice bottle of Michter’s 10 Year Rye from an unknown providence. I’m pleased with the purchase and I’ll enjoy it. If I happen to stumble across another bottle, especially from this barrel,  I’ll probably grab it because I did enjoy it. If not, I’ll be content with other whiskey.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.5/5.0 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.)

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