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Stagg Jr Batch 12 Bourbon Review - Was the Summer 2019 Release the Pinnacle Batch?

Stagg Junior Batch 12 Bourbon - 132.3 Proof Perfection

Batch 12: the long-lauded best-of-the-bunch Stagg Jr release by whiskey enthusiasts far and wide. Ask anyone who has been in the whiskey world a while what their favorite batch is, and you're going to hear the number 12 from a sure vocal majority. When I originally sat down with every batch from 12 to 18, there were some serious surprises after the blindfold came off. 12 was at the bottom of the barrel. That caveat? The batch 12 example I tasted that day came out of a sample jar. I've since written about the woes of certain polycone caps, so to give batch 12 a fair shake, I cracked open my only remaining bottle. As usual, I've tasted this at least three times before offering my full review here. So, I reiterate the titular question: is this the pinnacle Stagg? Let's get into the whiskey to find out.


Company on Label: Buffalo Trace

Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Mash Bill Percentages: Buffalo Trace Mash Bill # 1 (Low Rye < 10%)

Proof: 132.3°

Age: NAS (~8 years)

Further identification: Batch 12 was the Summer 2019 release of Stagg Jr that originally dropped at an MSRP of $60, though you surely won't find it for that these days


Nose: The sweet cherry juice aromas emanating from the glass can be smelled from a distance. Wow, all the funk pours out when the glass reaches the nostrils. Caramel, coffee bean, nougat, and brown sugar just scream well-aged bourbon. Hints of big, bold buttery pancakes hit the nostrils on long inhales. At times, I find unmitigated ethanol and, at others, a balanced confection. Letting the glass rest a bit longer before revisiting makes maple syrup, bold cherry juice, and plum elevate in intensity. Woah, at what feels like the flick of a lightswitch, suddenly all the oak is here, and it feels quite old. Leather, tobacco, and a hint of linen scream "George T." to me now. I'd be surprised if this wasn't a 12+ year old blend, given the notes I'm finding on the nose. Pear closes out a nice introduction that warrants a taste.

Returning to the nose offers those light vinegar, leather, and tobacco notes that come out on really old bourbons. More brown sugar dances in the nostrils. This is the perfect embodiment of the smell of the inside of a rickhouse, through and through. The empty glass gives off aromas of dense oak, damp earth, black coffee, and the lingering sweetness of cherry pipe tobacco.

Palate: My first taste makes the head shake, perhaps in excitement but also in shock. There's some real heat here, but that first sip is also undeniably sweet, with plum, raspberry, raisin, and dark Michigan cherries just parading across the tongue. The cinnamon coffee cake marching band comes barreling in next as a steady drum beat of flavor thuds across the taste buds. Softly now, a strawberry nerds tang provides some intricate depth. It's bold, but far more balanced than I remember from previous experiences. The smoldering linger produces quintessential Kentucky bourbon notes of rich caramel, cherry, and cinnamon. With some seriously strong parallels to George T. Stagg, I have to tip my hat to an exceptional whiskey, as vanilla cream puffs are a wonderful late addition. Sipping near the bottom of the glass continues to be enjoyable as rich Werther's caramel chews coat the tongue. My last taste offers a nod-worthy appreciation of strawberry cereal, marshmallow, and a return to the sweet pancakes of the early nose. The finish is impossibly long, smoldering, and rich with cherry hots that splash and sizzle like pop rocks on the tongue.

TL;DR: Undeniably good bourbon, full of boldness, balance, and ultra-age character


Rating: 5/5

It's good—almost George T. Stagg-good—but not quite. The 2020 and 2022 releases of George T. Stagg outpace this in the quality department, but batch 12 is absolutely no slouch. It requires a trained palate to be able to really appreciate its depths, as I have had countless experiences with this bottle where I thought it was too hot for comfort. The fickle fires, once parted, reveal a gorgeous bourbon that punches well above its weight class when compared against its peers. In this pour, I find the most parallels in quality between batches 17 and 18, which I will compare briefly below.


Batch to Batch Comparisons

Comparing this to batch 18 shows a ton of similarities, namely the extra-age feeling that comes with notes of dusty oak, rich leather, and deep barrel funk. 18 comes the closest to 12, but I'd put 18 a touch behind in quality compared to 12. The nose of batch 17 is quite different, but I'm drawn to a repeat sip that offers vanilla, peach rings, and raspberry jam sweetness. My goodness, yes. I'm aware that I'm certainly spoiled to be sipping on any of these. Tasting batch 18 is far more dark and brooding; this is rainy day whiskey, deep winter sipping, only for the well-rested and not for the faint of heart. Batch 12 hits the tongue with a closer appearance to batch 18, but dark, leathery, oak-forward tones win over the taste buds in favor of batch 12. Well, there you have it: from worst to first, I'm glad to have confirmed that batch 12 is made up of some damn good whiskey.

Ranking: Batch 12 > Batch 17 > Batch 18


In summary, Batch 12 is good. I was admittedly unfair to it in my previous ranking, which was reviewed in sample form, something I try not to do anymore. I am hereby committing to repeating that tasting now, with even more batches included. Please wish me luck on this insane endeavor!

Stagg Jr batches 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and George T Stagg



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