Review: Stagg Jr. (Batch 13)

The bourbon fan who can’t obtain a coveted bottle of George Stagg might have an easier time finding Stagg Jr. The whiskey distilled by Buffalo Trace Distillery is eight years old and presented, like its father, uncut and unfiltered. The two whiskies share the same mash bill as well. The 13th release of Stagg Jr. (how time has passed!) arrives at a hearty 128.4 proof.

I can’t believe it’s been seven years since this brand came to market. Tasting a few batches since the beginning, they’ve come a long way from the overly hot first release. How does this one fare?

The nose is inviting, offering hints of dark fruit (think chocolate covered cherries), oak spice, and toffee. It clearly shares DNA with its BTAC brethren. The palate is quite drinkable neat, though a splash of water doesn’t hurt. It features hints of dark caramel, cinnamon bark, and a splash of fruit sweetness and tanginess. The finish is long, as expected with a barrel proof bourbon, with lingering hints of spiced dark caramel and sweet oak.

Buffalo Trace Distillery should be commended for this release. In my humble opinion, they’ve managed to really hone the George Stagg DNA into a whiskey half its age. Sure, it’s nowhere near as dark and brooding as the BTAC version, but it carries those darker caramels and cinnamon spice well. For an eight year old barrel proof bourbon priced at about $50, you can’t go wrong.

Thanks to Buffalo Trace Distillery for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey

Recently, Heaven Hill Distillery added a new whiskey to its Elijah Craig lineup – a straight rye whiskey. Like its small batch bourbon sibling, the new rye whiskey is bottled at 94 proof. The mash bill used here is 51% rye, 35% corn, and 14% malted barley.

My excitement for news of a brand extension is always met with a bit of anxiousness. That’s especially true here. After all, Elijah Craig bourbon, in both its small batch and barrel proof forms, is some of the highest caliber whiskey consumers can easily obtain, especially given its value for money. By the way, this new rye whiskey has a suggested retail price of $29.99. It fits right in price-wise, but how does it taste?

The nose features hints of toasted rye grain, maple syrup, vanilla, and spice. Taste-wise, the new rye whiskey offers a wonderfully delightful exhibition of sweet and spicy. Sharp rye notes complement vanilla cake. Layers of baking spice quickly develop, leading to honey and dried fruit. The finish turns a touch dry with a lingering sweet oak note.

Like the other Elijah Craig expressions, this new rye whiskey offers tons of flavor for a reasonable price. But put the cost aside for a moment. This is delicious. It drinks as easily as Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, but doesn’t carry over the big oaky notes. That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news is that this fantastic rye whiskey is only launching in four markets – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Oregon. It’ll take some time to spread to the rest of the country. Patience is a virtue, unless you can find a mule from one of the aforementioned markets to snag a bottle for you.

Thanks to Heaven Hill for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Woodford Reserve Chocolate Malted Rye

Photo courtesy of Woodford Reserve

The latest entry into the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection, Chocolate Malted Rye sees its rye grain component toasted. Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris says, “ the rye malt was toasted to a level that its natural sugars caramelized into a dark chocolate note.”

The mash bill of this straight bourbon whiskey is 70% corn, 15% chocolate malted rye, and 15% distiller’s malt. The whiskey is bottled at 90.4 proof and available at a suggested retail price of $129.99.

The nose reveals a grainy, cocoa forward note alongside hints of vanilla and a touch of spice. On the palate, Tootsie Rolls reign supreme. A bit of vanilla gives way to a bittersweet dark chocolate note. Some spice on the back palate is a nice touch. The finish brings an interesting chocolate-covered orange peel and dry oak.

Every Master’s Collection release I’ve tasted thus far has been nicely balanced. But that’s what’s missing here. Multiple tastings lead me to the same conclusion – that chocolate note tips the flavor balance in its favor. Maybe this whiskey could have improved with 10% rye and 5% chocolate malted rye instead of a full 15% chocolate malted rye.

Though interesting in and of itself, I can’t recommend this one. Disappointing, as I was extremely excited to sample this one upon hearing of its release. Stick to the standard Woodford Reserve, their Double Oaked expression, or even their rye whiskey.

Thanks to Woodford Reserve for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.