For a few years now, Stagg Jr. has hid behind the scenes just enough that it was still able to be found if you knew where and when to look. A large part of that may be attributed to the word “Jr.” that follows the iconic Stagg name, which may convey the message that it’s somehow substandard or not good enough to make the cut. But in reality, Stagg Jr. is one of the least expensive, barrel proof offerings that is put out by Buffalo Trace. However in 2019, the website Breaking Bourbon voted Stagg Jr. Batch 12 as their “whiskey of the year” and now it is no longer a realistic bottle to find on the shelves as secondary prices have doubled to the tune of about $150.
In a previous comparison review, I found Stagg Jr. Batch 13 to be better than Batch 12. After confirming my preference to Batch 13, it sparked an idea to compare it with my perennial favorite, Batch 9. I enlisted the help of my friend and fellow reviewer, Adam, and we determined that Batch 9 is still the best.So with Batch 14 on the market, it needs to be tested against one of these to see where it fits in with other Stagg Jr batches. When I determined which batch to pit Batch 14 against, I decided against comparing it to Batch 9 because if it lost, it wouldn’t really show us where on the spectrum it fit in. So I’ll start off with comparing it against my 3rd favorite Stagg, Batch 12, and seeing how it fares.
In a contest like this, Stagg Jr typically needs about a month of “air time” to open up and cool off (a method where you drink about 2-3oz from the bottle and then put the cork back on and let the oxidation do its thing). So I’ve waited a month now since I first received and opened up my Batch 14. I sampled these both blind and from a Glencairn.
Blind Glass #1
Nose: Impressive sweetness on the nose which leans more towards raw honey. A heavy aroma of stewed cherries is hard to miss. There’s also a bit of honey graham crackers and a small amount of oak. Some softer baking spice can also be made out, which adds additional complexity.
Palate: Surprisingly, I’m not fighting through a lot of heat on this one. This makes the cherries and orange zest easy to detect. When there is heat, it does lean more towards black and white peppercorns than cinnamon heat, but it’s still pleasant and well integrated. Speaking of cinnamon, it’s all still here, but it’s a little softer and plays nicely with the oak spice and caramel sweetness that coats your mouth with a richness that’s very pleasant.
Finish: The finish has a fun amount of barrel char that integrates well with the cherry pie filling and baking spices that stick around on your tongue and throat. There’s orange peel and tobacco leaf that give an extra burst of sweetness and some lovely tannic notes at the same time.
Final Thoughts: Great depth and very robust, this is a classic Stagg Jr. profile that does very little wrong. Perfect balance of sweetness, fruits and tannins.
Blind Glass #2
Nose: A nice, heavy wave of fruit scents is the first scent I’m recognizing, but not far behind it is some really nice toasted brown sugar notes that almost remind me of an MGP product. The toasted oak and baking spices (with cinnamon being the most dominant) are perfectly integrated.
Palate: As with all Stagg Jr. I drink, the palate starts out hot. It takes me a few moments to acclimate, but I am able to pick up on some oak spice. Then the classic Buffalo Trace cherries (black, this time) come alongside the brown sugar that I tasted on the nose to form the perfect cherry pie scent. I start to get some orange zest notes but I’m also noticing there is a small amount of lemon zest as well which adds a little bit of bitterness into the palate as well. It’s not enough to ruin the drink, but is peculiar.
Finish: Cacao nibs, oak and caramel sweetness start off the finish, but the finish is much more nuanced than I have typically experienced in a Stagg Jr product. There’s a nice orange oil combined with toasted orange peel, but then I start getting a lot of rye traits that I normally don’t associate with anything Buffalo Trace puts out… cloves and red licorice followed by a menthol cooling sensation are welcome here, but seem slightly out of place.
Final Thoughts: Great Stagg Jr profile that’s on the hotter side, but has more oak and finishes like a younger high-rye mashbill bourbon would with clove, anise and menthol.
Glass 1: Batch 12
Glass 2: Batch 14
Winner: Stagg Jr. Batch 12!
In 2020, the secret is already out about how good Stagg Jr. is. So I’m not about to hide the fact that these were both terrific pours or try to persuade you that there’s something else better out there for the price. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof comes close, but I’ve been finding my palate preferring Stagg Jr. more and more these days. The results of this comparison may show that Batch 12 is the winner, but Batch 14 is still no slouch. Batch 12 was a richer experience and seemed to have better control of its heat. The flavors were slightly more robust and complex while also showing off the classic Buffalo Trace profile.
Batch 14 on the other hand, introduced some newer flavors to the mix that aren’t exactly Buffalo Trace-esque (some floral and some rye spice/menthol notes were unique to the series). This doesn’t detract from it necessarily, but it gives the drinker the sense that this product may contain a little bit more younger barrels than it normally did in the past.
After all is said and done, my review will likely not persuade enthusiasts to skip out on this batch. That is not the intent of it anyway. Everyone will still be out there trying to find and buy as many Batch 14’s as possible because it’s still a fantastic value at retail and has more potential on the secondary market than ever before. If you are looking for the ultimate Stagg Jr batch, Batch 14 falls just short of the top 3 batches ever put out by BT, but will deliver a great sip that should still satisfy any bourbon drinker.
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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