George T. Stagg is a name that needs no introduction in the bourbon world. With its brutal proofs in the 130 - 140 range and respectable age around 15 years it has a bold unmistakable profile that makes it consistently one of the best and most sought-after bottles of bourbon every year. With the current bourbon craze for all things limited though it’s next to impossible to buy a bottle at retail. Given that, much of the bourbon world was thrilled two years ago when Buffalo Trace announced they would be releasing a younger and hopefully more obtainable version dubbed Stagg Jr.
The red carpet rollout stopped there though as bad reviews starting rolling in and I myself personally hated it. Things could only go up from there and while it did improve slightly with the second release most still felt both releases were an embarrassment to the Stagg name.
So right around the time most had sworn off the Stagg Jr line, reports starting coming in that the third release was nothing like the first two. Had Buffalo Trace been listening to the torrent of bad reviews and finally managed to dial things in? Will this finally be the Stagg Jr release all of us had been waiting for? Let’s find out.
66.05% ABV; No Age Statement; $50
Notes: The nose is rich and woody with lots of sweet dark fruits. It smells pretty tame considering the high proof so right off the bat it’s very reminiscent of its namesake. The taste has a rich, full, and thick texture. It’s not quite as chewy as George T. Stagg but a great mouthfeel nonetheless. All the flavors that you want in a middle aged cask strength bourbon are there - hefty dose of wood, vanilla, caramel, and even some dark sweets that are more typical of an older bourbon. It also has some of those deep dark fudge notes you’ll find in George T. Stagg. The heat is very well tempered - it lacks the hot fiery peppery spray blast I found in the first two releases. All in all, it’s wonderful and tastes like a younger George T. Stagg.
Thoughts: My rundown of the batches goes something like this:
Batch 1: Hot sloppy mess, like drinking warm pepper spray, avoid.
Batch 2: Drinkable, not as much of a mess, still lots of the hot pepper in the finish. The end of the bottle was better than the beginning.
Batch 3: Very, very good. It can stand toe to toe and maybe even beat other $50 - $75 barrel proof bourbons like Elijah Craig Barrel Proof or Colonel Taylor Barrel Proof.
As far as I am concerned this is the really the first Stagg Jr. It’s a tremendous improvement over the first two batches and finally a bourbon worthy of its name. At $50, it’s a remarkable value and I would buy it again over and over for that price. Word on the street is that Batch 4 is very close in proof so let’s hope Buffalo Trace has finally dialed this one in.