With the help of @amongstthefernsco I was able to blind taste batch 12-18 of Stagg Jr and 2020 George T Stagg all at once (they were small pours). It was an incredibly tasty lineup, but there were distinct differences batch to batch. Though I was blinded to which glass was which - I will be posting post-reveal as to not lead to unnecessary confusion. Read on to check the ranked order, or feel free to watch my reel with audio on!
If you've ever struggled to identify the Stagg Jr batch by proof, here's a helpful list of each along with their release dates:
*NEW* Batch 19 - 130 proof - Winter 2022 (AKA "22B")
Batch 18 - 131 proof - Summer 2022
Batch 17 - 128.7 proof - Winter 2021
Batch 16 - 130.9 proof - Summer 2021
Batch 15 - 131.1 proof - Winter 2020
Batch 14 - 130.2 proof - Summer 2020
Batch 13 - 128.4 proof - Winter 2019
Batch 12 - 132.3 proof - Summer 2019
Batch 11 - 127.9 proof - Winter 2018
Batch 10 - 126.4 proof - Summer 2018
Batch 9 - 131.9 proof - Winter 2017
Batch 8 - 129.5 proof - Summer 2017
Batch 7 - 130.0 proof - Winter 2016
Batch 6 - 132.5 proof - Summer 2016
Batch 5 - 129.7 proof - Winter 2015
Batch 4 - 132.2 proof - Summer 2015
Batch 3 - 132.1 proof - Winter 2014
Batch 2 - 128.7 proof - Summer 2014
Batch 1 - 134.4 proof - Winter 2013
The seasons listed are rough approximations of release timing and your local distribution may vary.
The notes presented below were from the conglomerate tasting, but feel free to click through the batch link to a deeper review of each. Now let's get into this epic flight!
Company on Label: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1 (Low Rye < 10%)
Proof: Varies by batch
Age: NAS, though George T. Stagg is supposedly aged 15 years and the Junior batches around 8 years
Further identification: Batches can be identified by proof via the list above
#1 - 2020 George T. Stagg
Nose: Woah - weirdest of the bunch with orange peel, tea tones, and yummy kool-aid. Fun and fruity here. I really like this. Butterscotch and tons of caramel come up. Leather and cinnamon. Just perfect. Easily the best nose. Delicious caramel popcorn comes up late in the glass.
Palate: Funky beauty. Clay and fruit parfait. Cherry and tobacco are prominent. Figs, raisins and chocolate all dance perfectly. Linen and vanilla sit in this ever repeating undulation of the most magnificent linger.
#2 - Batch 17 - 128.7 Proof
Nose: Mostly bready tones coming through on the nose here. Graham cracker and confectioners sugar are light and easy on the nose. Plenty of oak going on here. Later it turns decadent and rich with plenty of sweetness. Robust cherry and graham cracker. Mmm.
Palate: Oh yeah. That's my fruity jam right there. Plum, raspberry, grape, cherry, and raisin all mixed into one beautiful medley. That's delicious. Vanilla sits lovingly in the linger. It's a wonderful fruit bowl. There are some slight tannic notes but it still remains perfectly balanced. After tasting this I don't want to sip anything else for a long while as the tangy flavors sit on my tongue. Nearly tied for #1.
#3 - Batch 14 - 130.2 Proof
Nose: Molasses and bread notes jump out first. It's soft, but loaded with caramel. Complex and funky, the glass feels surrounded by a waffle cone. Cherry is prevalent and delectable. It's one of the fruitiest here. Sweet and easy on the nose, it demonstrates a classic corn-forward bourbon profile. Late in the glass it really forms a fantastic funk as loads of barrel influence come through.
Palate: Woah. All that funk translates to the palate too. Sweet black bread and molasses drink neat and complete. There's a marvelous citrus punch that produces one of the heftiest sips without turning too hot. The spice portions fade quickly and reveal cherry and strawberry before tapering off into a long linger of tobacco and allspice. Hints of anise can be found in subsequent sips, layering onto an awesome array of flavors.
#4 - Batch 18 - 131 Proof
Nose: Leather and barrel funk up front. Digging I find complex fruit and floral tones. I love this nose. There's intense creaminess and frosting sweetness all through this. A soft tobacco and barrel funk note has good heft. Caramel, vanilla and dusty oak scream well-aged bourbon. Candied fruit and cherry skins sit in the linger. A hint of smokiness excels this into exceptional territory.
Palate: A lovely cherry forward profile presents up front. Cinnamon hots swing in later in the sip, much like I remember batch 14. Caramel, chocolate and plenty of bakery sweets hang on strong. Another sip shows off zesty and bright with candied apple and honey. Cherry is dominant and delicious. Mmm.
#5 - Batch 15 - 131.1 Proof
Nose: Funky black pepper and woodshop aromas characterize the early glass well. Candied cherry and dried fruit are a solid backbone.
Palate: Punchy and bold upfront and then it becomes inviting with strawberry shortcake on the back end. Vanilla, linen and troves of oak burst forth. This glass has a long, simmering linger of cherry hots. So good.
#6 - Batch 16 - 130.9 Proof
Nose: Much softer than the other glasses. I find linen, cereal, oats and plenty of vanilla. Funky tropical fruits hide in the corners and occasionally will escape the glass. Late in the glass things simplify as hints of savory tones seep into the dominant vanilla profile.
Palate: Hmm, fruity and floral on my first sip. The sweetness of vanilla frosting invades the mouth, though it ends up feeling a touch thin. Strawberries and cream is a fun note, though I can't help but feel that the fruit notes I am finding here are lower in quality to the other glasses. It feels slightly imbalanced and ultimately a middle-of-the-pack release for me.
#7 - Batch 13 - 128.4 Proof
Nose: Vaguely fruity... like freeze-dried strawberries. Creamy tones and cherry are there. It's sweet and easy on the nose. Quite funky late in the glass, though not in a way that suggests high quality aging.
Palate: Hot up front... Though notes of wheat bread cool things slightly. It's funky with hints of sand, spice and incense. Molasses sits heavy in the mouth. It has a sharp citrus punch that stings the throat slightly. It punches hard, but doesn't stick around long.
#8 - Batch 12 - 132.3 Proof
Nose: This glass is blinding bright as vanilla pops up first. Simple cinnamon and brown sugar sit in the nostrils. Later in the glass the aromas briefly turn potent before causing a bit of numbness in the nose that return this to a simple profile that doesn't amaze.
Palate: This is the hottest of any of the glasses as cinnamon punches me in the throat. Coming back for another sip I find this drinks like magma still for no reason. It's just too hot and too muted all over. Not a winner.
GTS > 17 > 14 > 18 > 15 > 16 > 13 > 12
If I were to cluster these into groups of quality, I'd lay them out below, with my estimated score of each.
Exceptional (5/5): George T. Stagg, 14, 17, 18
Good (4/5): 13, 15, 16
Too hot (3/5): 12
The last place finish of batch 12 might be a big surprise for folks as batch 12 has long been lauded as one of the best by experienced whiskey drinkers. For me it came off way too hot compared to the rest of the batches I tried and produced little in the way of aroma and palate complexity. I personally think that the hype for batch 12 might be unfounded and possibly a product of few people actually trying it, especially in a blind. I’ll definitely revisit 12 soon as I haven’t ever formally reviewed it, but on my tasting this weekend this is how they honestly shook out!
What are your favorite Stagg Jr batches? Disagree with my ranking? Let me know! Cheers.