Buffalo Trace had quite the gap to fill between their entry-level ryed mashbill bourbons and their top-tier Antique Collection lineup. They decided that bottling some of their products at barrel proof, but having them only aged around the 7 to 9 year old mark would be the best fit for price point they had in mind. So that is how we ended up getting Stagg Jr. and Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof labels. Both utilize the BT Mashbill #1 (a low rye bourbon mashbill) and are aged for anywhere from 7 to 10 years old and are bottled at cask strength. Stagg Jr. barrels would exhibit a profile closer in line with its elder, George T. Stagg bourbon, but would be priced for about half the retail cost (roughly $50).
Batch 7 & Batch 9
Today we take a look at two of the earlier Stagg Jr. releases: Batch 7 (130 proof) which was released in the fall of 2016 and Batch 9 (131.9 proof) which was released in the fall of 2017. The only way we can objectively find out which is the better batch is to sample these semi-blind, so let’s get to it! One more thing, I highly recommend to people who are not yet accustomed to high proofed bourbons that you open this one up and pour yourself a 2 oz glass and then let it rest for about a month before revisiting. These batches tend to be potent enough that it helps calm everything down. I poured these both neat and in a Glencairn with the bottoms marked so I’d know the winner.
Blind Glass #1
Nose: Big aromas of cinnamon raisin toast followed by a burst of cherry cola. There’s even more sweetness with a heavy dose of caramel and I also happily detect a decent amount of oak, which isn’t up to GTS standards, but is exciting nonetheless.
Palate: The palate starts out with a wallop of Red Hots candies on the tongue, heating things up immediately. There’s some complex flavor in the form of flat Dr. Pepper soda, and cherry Twizzlers licorice. The spice and heat are pretty robust in this one and if you want to savor this by rolling it around in your mouth, it’s not going to happen because a white pepper heat will force you to finish the sip sooner than you’d probably want to.
Finish: The finish is nice and long, just like the potent flavors and scents have been preparing you for. There is a thick, sweet coating that sticks around forever like semi-burnt caramel and baked cherries, but they’re coupled with some nice aged characteristics of barrel char, oak and pipe tobacco. But don’t think that the burn from the palate is over. It’s still there and will keep reminding you.
Blind Glass #2
Nose: The nose on Glass 2 starts out much sweeter than Glass #1. Pleasant aromas of cherry pie filling, caramel red apples and prunes lock onto the signature Buffalo Trace fruit profile and are delicious. There’s also a nice layer of heavy sweet cream and toasted marshmallow.
Palate: I like the mouthfeel on Glass #2 better because of the buttery texture. There’s also canned peaches and cherries along with pie crust and hard caramel candies for a nice coating sweetness. The heat is still there, like flakes of black pepper, but they’re restrained by the sweetness enough to allow each sip to set in your mouth without lighting it on fire.
Finish: The finish keeps rocking the dessert and candy theme with a nice thick caramel layer and chocolate cherry cordials. The chocolate is a bit more of the dark variety and you can taste some of the bitterness, but it’s hardly enough to be offensive and actually balances out the sweetness.
Glass #1: Stagg Jr. Batch 7
Glass #2: Stagg Jr. Batch 9
Winner: Batch 9!
Stagg Jr. Batch 9 has received some great accolades over the years. In fact, whenever a GTS is released that people don’t like, they’re quick to claim that Stagg Jr. Batch 9 would beat it in a side-by-side tasting. Although I’m not exactly sure this is true, I did try it with some friends of mine who were having a large sampling of GTS bottles from 2014 to 2019. I labeled a small bottle as “mystery Stagg” and they all had a taste. None of them outright said “this isn’t GTS” but one of them did claim that he believed what he was drinking was a 2017 GTS. I think I made some people very angry that day when I pulled back the curtain to reveal it was Stagg Jr. Batch 9. In the end though, it’s obvious that Stagg Jr. has a lighter color and is nowhere near as rich or packed with the tannic beauty that GTS has.
It’s a fantastic value for the money though, and I think that’s its greatest strength. But in today’s day and age of taters and hoarding, it’s going to be hard to find these, let alone for retail price anymore.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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