The Stagg Jr. from Buffalo Trace is probably mostly an attempt to cash in on the George T. Stagg name more than once a year. It’s received very mixed reviews from the bourbon cognoscenti and so you will all be relieved that one who knows so little about bourbon is able to make the final pronouncement. Here you go!
Stagg Jr. (67.2%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Some caramel sweetness but also a lot of sharp, dusty wood. As it settles the caramel gets richer with some orange peel but this is crazy hot. I’m going to wait a bit but this baby needs water. With time there’s more rye’ish notes: cold tea, some pine. Okay, letting this breathe for a good while is a good thing: not as woody now and there’s more fruit (plum). But it’s still pretty hot. With even more time the fruit intensifies but there’s just a little too much wood. With a lot of water the wood and heat recede and it’s now all about caramel and toffee and fruit (plum and overripe banana with a bit of orange peel).
Palate: Hmmm sneaky. Starts out gently with sweet oak and then the alcohol heat gathers and explodes and kind of wipes everything out. Okay, I’m going to take a couple more small sips and then add water. More citrus on the second sip. Sweeter still on the third sip with more fruit, and the wood gets more peppery. As on the nose water pushes the wood way back and lets the softer fruit and toffee come out to play. After a while the bite that was emerging late on the finish starts showing up earlier on the palate.
Finish: Medium. No real finish at first, more a long alcohol burn. Then the fruit (plum and citrus) begins to peep through the heat. With water the finish lengthens and the woody bite returns at the end.
Comments: I wasn’t expecting to like this but I did. Some of the reviews I’d seen seem to suggest it would be pretty raw but I didn’t find that to be the case. Of course, this is from a sample (that may have come from a bottle that was open for a while) and so may have already mellowed a bit. It’s not as complex as its famed older sibling but its direct pleasures are quite nice. I recommend adding a lot of water—I probably took it down below 50%. Still, there’s just a bit too much wood here.
Rating: 85 points.
Thanks to Patrick for the sample.