Stagg (Jr?) Batch 18 Bourbon Review
It's the first batch without the 'Jr' on the label! Much like Y2K, I'm sure this cataclysmic event will rock the quality of this biannual release from Buffalo Trace Distillery. Or will it? Well, that's why we taste these things... So you, oh wise consumer, can decide if this batch is worth chasing down.
Perhaps the symbolism of it's 18th occurrence and the parallel that carries to 'coming of age' made sense, but honestly I like the Junior for clarity sake. I've always been a big Stagg Jr fan (yes I'll probably still call it this for a few more batches at least) since first trying batch 12. I've since loved some batches more than others; I'll link what I've done for reviews thus far below.
And now batch 18 seems to contradict that biannual statement, it being 2023 and all with no word of a batch 19... So we'll call it the Summer 2022 release, when the first reviews started popping up on the West coast.
I do intend to compare some of these batches soon, so make sure to enter your email at the bottom of this page so you can see when that happens!
Now let's jump into the whiskey part.
Company on Label: Buffalo Trace
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1 (Low Rye < 10%)
Age: NAS (~8 years)
Further identification: Batch 18 was first released in Summer 2022, though its distribution is kind of crazy since it still has not arrived in Massachusetts at the time of writing
Nose: Buttercream frosting, Irish cream and troves of vanilla form a cohesive, obviously creamy base as I first lift the glass to my nose. Digging further I find brown sugar, cinnamon walnut coffee cake, and plenty of barrel influence. Dusty oak, rich leather and a tingling smoky sensation in the nostrils lead me to believe this might be older than my estimate above. Distinct tobacco funk dances with effervescent heft. Caramel, nougat, and more bright vanilla coat my nostrils. I haven't found any evidence there is a high proof whiskey in this glass yet. Let's jump into a sip and see what's happening there.
Returning from a sip I find much more candied fruit sweetness. It's got a thick viscosity in the nose now; when I inhale deeply I get a similar smell to having cherry chapstick on your lips. The glass continues to be rich, delectable and incredibly well crafted. This may be the Buffalo Trace team's finest work to date. The tobacco smokiness behind the cherry is a delectable reminder of enjoying a puff of Captain Black cherry pipe tobacco. Tingling plum, prune and juicy apricot give this just enough depth without becoming messy. Late in the glass all the savory, syrupy desserts culminate in a warm, brooding, sweet mélange. I find myself really savoring this glass - not wanting these aromas to be gone from my senses. The (unfortunately) empty glass smells of an interesting rose & cherry combination, honeysuckle, and caramel butter bars.
Palate: On first sip I find a beautiful cherry slushy profile. I'm immediately transported to the middle of a childhood Summer with that delicious flavor sitting perfectly enjoyable in the middle of my tongue. It's bright, zesty and it bursts with huge flavor volume. Cherry always hits first here with cinnamon hots, caramel drizzles and chocolate nibbles swooping in behind. First sip impressions - I'm in love. It reminds me of everything I enjoyed about Batch 14 in particular. Another sip changes things a little bit with candied apple, dark bread, and molasses sneaking in now with a confectioners sugar sweet backbone that bolsters an already delicious medley of flavors. As I work down closer towards the bottom of the glass the consistency of the cherry flavor is maintained and I am here for it. There are some slight almond, cinnamon and rose layers that sit in the linger which is just long enough for me to be satisfied, but it leaves me salivating for another sip. Honey sweetness abounds in the finish. This is delicious. My last sip is powerful with vanilla, marshmallow and bright Earl Gray tea up front before the slow falling leaf of the linger reveals hints of cardamom, caramel monkey bread and a savory brown sugar slip into functional completeness.
(Just wow. One of my favorites.)
This excels in its approachability - something I think the more senior release of George T. Stagg also does well. What an incredible follow up to batch 17 - this is the first batch to officially earn my top mark. I find a lot of parallels in this glass to batch 12, 14 and 17. This took things to another level for me personally. I wasn't as crazy on my first two glasses of this bottle, but today it is absolutely hitting this spot. Where 14 definitely came across boozy and with more strawberry, this batch is approachable & complete. Where 17 had a strange addition of mint, this one maintained a solid, layered profile that told a good story. I will leave the comparison to batch 12 for another day, since I haven't published my thoughts on that just yet. This may have just set a new bar for how good these batches can be.