Each year, Buffalo Trace releases two batches of Stagg Jr bourbon. Stagg Jr. is the lowest priced offering of any barrel strength bottle from Buffalo Trace. It wears no age statement (though it is rumored to have barrels as young as 5 years old and as old as 10 years old) and is non-chill filtered. Batch 15 is technically the first batch of 2021 because Batch 14 was first recorded for sale in December 2020.
For its relatively short life, Stagg Jr has impressed fans with its powerful punch of flavors. It is not as unique as other bourbons but everything it does, it does well. You can usually expect a mouthful of cherries along with lots of heat and a nice sweetness. Tannins like oak and tobacco can be found, but not as much as in a bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (which is its main competitor).
So does Batch 15 break the mold from the previous batches? There’s only one way to find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: Sweet and inviting aromas like thick caramel and even butterscotch hint to some of the traditional Buffalo Trace mashbill traits that you’d expect. Inviting scents of baked goods like cinnamon buns and vanilla icing add more depth while tannins like sweet oak play nicely in the background. The fruit touches on the nose are lighter than I expected but maybe because the foreboding heat is keeping it in check.
Palate: Sweet flavors of cherry strudel, cinnamon spice and nutmeg are an absolute treat to taste. Of course there is a powerful searing heat like ground white peppercorns that will roll all over everything if you take too big of a sip. Go easy with this one. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a thick mouthfeel that smacks of sweet oak and orange flavored lolipops.
Finish: Cinnamon Red Hots candies give the finish a lingering burn that’s pretty enjoyable overall. Notes of cherry hard candies, citrus fruits and a spoonful of applesauce give the finish a more fruity finish than I’ve had with previous Stagg Jr.’s. Tannins hang around like Swisher Sweets tobacco and some seasoned oak. I even detect a tiny bit of milk chocolate. This is a fantastic finish.
Reviews of Stagg Jr. Batch 14 were somewhat critical of its mint/methanol/cough syrup flavors that were tied in with some of the traditional notes of Stagg Jr. This is why it’s a relief to find that this batch has seemingly blended all of that kind of stuff out of it.
In fact, I don’t know if this was intentional or not but I was excited to find some notes of butterscotch here and there. Butterscotch is typically a note that Buffalo Trace tries to highlight in the more expensive and rare bottlings of EH Taylor Barrel Proof (this is an opinion of mine, your experience may vary).
Fans of Stagg Jr. will find all of their cherry and citrus notes that make this so beloved while new drinkers will find the heat to be borderline unbearable. But in the end, Stagg Jr Batch 15 delivers exactly what it is supposed to deliver: the delicious flavors and scents of Buffalo Trace bourbon at barrel strength.
So even if you’ve never had a sip of Stagg Jr before, it’s always a sure bet if you find it on the shelf. Good luck with that, though!
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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