It’s been two years since Drew’s review of Stagg Jr. Batch 15, and we’re now taking another spin with the whiskey — RIP to the “Jr.” designation — after a short hiatus. It’s understandable: in the time since Drew’s review, bourbon has, somehow, managed to become even boomier, the average consumer is exceedingly educated, and secondary prices on the bottle have risen to a consistent $250. This high proof big brother in the core Buffalo Trace lineup serves as a natural terminus for enthusiasts weaned on the flagship namesake, Eagle Rare, and/or Blanton’s. Which is all to say that, yeah, we’ve “missed” a few batches
That’s fine, though (they said through gritted teeth). Here we are, in the now, reintroducing Stagg to the site via the recently released Batch 23A. And what a batch it is. On the nose it’s deeply fruited in a way that many have argued was missing from the last few batches. Communion wine, stewed cherries, and sweet oak give way to Boylan black cherry and grape sodas as the bottle is allowed to open up. It’s remarkably ethanol-free at 130.2 proof, and an empty, lingering Glencairn smells less like alcohol and more like room temperature NuGrape. Yet, despite all of this candied sweetness, it doesn’t feel cloying.
The palate has a distinct dustiness to it. It’s funky but never challenging, lightly smoked maraschinos and maple syrup. There’s tack, a stickiness, and its relatively fleeting finish actually makes for quite the crushable pour – a 130-something proof bottle that’s been emptied in the span of a month.
And it’s all rather archetypal, because as interesting an exercise as it is to compare the various batches, Stagg remains a testament to the consistency of craft at Sazerac’s Frankfort distillery. It was and is a great gateway to cask strength bourbon, as close as the average person will get to experiencing the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and, at MSRP, the best bottle on the market around fifty bucks.
As Drew said last time around, Another winner.