I know what you're thinking... "it's not called Junior anymore!" Well it still is to me. I would never use Junior here in a derogatory manner; I love these Stagg Jr batches. I recently tasted through Batch 12-18 all blind to see if I could pick out a favorite batch. I will have to revisit this lineup with 19 now too! If you've ever been confused by the batch numbers, since they aren't actually listed anywhere on the bottle, nor are they endorsed by Buffalo Trace, I've got a handy list of all the existing Stagg Jr batches by proof and rough release date below. It does seem like Buffalo Trace is aware they should provide some level of identification here, so the latest batch does show an indicator next to the proof. 22B assumedly stands for the 2nd (B) release of 2022.
Batch 19 - Labeled 22B
Admittedly these batches have fallen in and out of public favor here and there through the years. The 2020 and 2021 batches have been some of my favorites, but I haven't had the opportunity to taste any of the earliest batches. From what I've gathered from folks who have, it seems like some of those were a bit of a 'hot mess'. On the same track of variation, let's find out if this latest batch can hang with some of these greats!
Company on Label: Buffalo Trace
Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1 (Low Rye < 10%)
Age: NAS (~8 years)
Further identification: Batch 19 was first released (though a little late) in the Winter of 2022
Nose: Big, punchy, funky barrel influence leaps out of the glass with a molasses coated speartip. Leather and linen come together in a sharp, searing nose-feel. Traces of vanilla may want to rise out of the glass, but most evidence of that is tramped down by a stampede of oak. Black pepper, anise and allspice tingle brightly in the nose. Aromas of dusty peanut shells can be found on a dirty stone floor in the background. Tiny hints of lemon peel and angostura bitters can be found on deep inhales. I'm not even close to impressed just yet, but let's return after diving in for a sip first to make sure I'm not missing some magic here.
Coming back from a sip I find airy vanilla, toffee and sea salt. Soft clay and freshly thawed Spring soil arrive late in the glass. Pretty classic bourbon hang out in the background here, but in very subtle volume levels. Light sea salt and vinegar can be traced out of the volumeless space of air inside my glencairn. The empty glass smells of raisin, light Spring florals and cool air by the oceanside.
Palate: My first sip is sweet and pervasive with strawberry cereal tones. Plenty of proof swings through the mouth and down the chest without too much trouble. Funky oat notes mix with messy fruit incoherently. Heavy malt bumps into tannin-rich flavors one might more expect out of wine. Okay, things are starting to hit stride here as a nice bundle of fruit finally lands gracefully on my taste buds. Strawberry and cherry smoothly slide in on a wave of vanilla yogurt. Another sip and swish builds in more classic bourbon fruit with orange peel and cinnamon laced cherry. Overall it's a little proof-imbalanced, but opening up well with time, air and patience. The linger is sharp and aggressive with little reward outside of some slightly sweet waxy tones. My last sip is vaguely fruit forward again with raspberry and funky, proofy plum. I think this could do well in an old fashioned, but I'm not quite impressed with my neat sip today, nor the two prior times I tried it.
This nose doesn't even come close to what I expect for quality out of this release. The palate manages to stay in a decent range for sipping, but ultimately I can't find much to write home about with this release. It's definitely still a Stagg profile, but not a shining example of it. A solid middle-of-the-road bourbon comes to us in batch 19, but if you're expecting this to curl your toes and elicit a true 'wow' experience, you'll be sorely disappointed by a tasty yet bland profile. I hope this review helped! If it did, consider buying me a coffee. Cheers!