Just when you think you've got a firm grip on how things work & the release cadence of some of the more allocated whiskeys from Sazerac, the brand goes and throws something new at you. First it was the removal of the "Junior" from the label, then they went and offered their own naming convention that differed from the community norm, and now they go and release THREE batches in one year on what I've exclusively written in as a bi-annual release? The marketing department for Buffalo Trace products should think about a career in MLB pitching, because these curveballs are impossible to read. On top of all this, 23C hit shelves right around Christmas time adorned by the lowest proof in modern labels history. What gives?
To some extent, I self retort: who cares? Well, as a self-proclaimed Stagg man, I guess I kind of do. What I care most about is bringing you my honest thoughts on whatever whiskey roams my way. Today I just happen to have Stagg in front of me, tomorrow possibly some craft distillery you've never heard of. That's what keeps this fun: exploring and discussing interesting pours in a meaningful way, with you, dear reader. So if you have something to add when you get to the bottom of this review - feel free to leave me a comment! Or give me a follow on Instagram. I'm always willing to talk whiskey with fellow enthusiasts. Enough with the hubbub already - let's get into what's inside the bottle!
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 23C was put out as another surprise Winter release making it the 3rd of 2023 at an MSRP of around $70
Nose: Ooooh - red velvet cake and thick, viscous cherry sauce fill the nostrils on first lifting the glass from my desk. The aromas dissipate rather quickly, leaving behind thin salted caramel nut brittle and metallic molasses. Bits of proof overshadow and mute most aromas on a generally quite bland nose experience. Woah, after another good rest of the glass bold raspberry jam swings in like a wrecking ball... but just as fast as it came in... away it swings. What is left behind are vague wood tones that give the feeling of the lumber aisle at home depot; it's not really a natural wood smell, but more of a processed wood. I'm a fan of the flashes of bold flavor, but not of the fickle experience as a whole. Let's have a sip before continuing on.
As I continue to nose well beyond a few sips the only aromas I can pinpoint are a bit of molasses and younger, tannic oak. Late in the glass very faint hints of vinegar come bubbling up near to the nostrils. The empty glass smells of smoky cherry cobbler.
Palate: On first sip I find that same red velvet cake and cherry that the nose led with. It's candied sweet like cherry twizzlers before drying into more of a nerdz or sweet tart candy. The mouthfeel is on the thinner side with the sugary bits lingering the longest on the edges of the tongue. Going back in for more reveals gentle strawberry and ladyfinger flavor profile that screams a fairly typical sweet Buffalo Trace profile (think Colonel E.H. Taylor small batch at a higher proof). As subsequent sips begin to build a stronger rapport with the taste buds, I become aware of subtle cinnamon spice like a quick lick of a hot tamales candy. It's holistically very cohesive and approachable for Stagg, but ultimately pretty unexciting. Sipping near the bottom of the glass confirms this is a pretty middle-of-the-road bourbon profile with not much further to write home about. My last taste is the boldest of them all, for better or worse, as it carries macerated raspberries, cake batter, and spiced gingerbread muffins. It finishes with a little intrigue, but not enough for me to consider another glass before moving onto something better.
TL;DR: Muted nose with flashes of fun, simple palate that seems better fit under the E.H. Taylor label
Well at least one of the three batches from 2023 was halfway decent. Batch 23C comes across muted and simple, nothing like what normally excites me about Stagg Junior batches. It ultimately feels like a fairly weak run of barrels were thrown together in a rush to meet some silly marketing decision here - quality clearly lacking - though there are some positives that fans of "crushable" (read: flavorless) whiskey will undoubtedly appreciate.