Bourbon

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.

Buffalotracedistillery.com

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

Review: Larceny Barrel Proof (Batch A120)

Starting in January 2020, Heaven Hill will release the new Larceny Barrel Proof three times a year, with other batches also arriving every May and September. Just like the standard Larceny release, this barrel proof edition is aged six to eight years. The barrel proof edition of Heaven Hill’s wheated mash bill bourbon is also non-chill filtered. It joins a small market of high-proof wheated bourbons competing against Maker’s Mark Cask Strength and W. L. Weller Full Proof.

Batches will utilize the same naming convention as Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. The first letter represents the batch release number for the year, followed by the month and year. In this case, A120 means this is the first batch, released in January 2020.

Batch A120 is bottled at 123.2 proof, or 61.62% abv. It starts rolling out to markets in January for a suggested retail price of $49.99.

There are hints of brown sugar, kettle corn, nutmeg, and cola on the nose. The soft, sweet approach of Larceny is apparent here, though presented in a much richer iteration. The palate first sees hints of spiced caramel, brioche, and vanilla. A bit of oak spice and slight astringency lead us to the short finish, which features a lingering barrel char and toffee note.

Larceny Barrel Proof does a nice job of transforming its approachable lower-proofed sibling into a much richer experience. The added proof points amplify the caramelized sugar quality of the whiskey. If you’re a fan of easy-drinking wheaters but are looking for a bit more oomph, place Larceny Barrel Proof in your sights. It’s an easy recommendation, especially for the $50 price tag. Just don’t expect a deep, complex bourbon.

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

Review: Barrell Bourbon Batch 022

The last several batches of Barrell Bourbon have lived in the 9 to 11 year range. Their latest, Batch 022, is a blend of 5-year-old straight bourbon whiskies distilled and aged in Kentucky and Indiana and bottled at cask strength (116.6 proof). In fact, the last release this young was batch 013.

The Kentucky barrels utilized here bring a dry, woody character to the final blend. In contrast, the Indiana barrels added floral, herbaceous, and sweet notes.

Sweet orange aromas steer the nose on this batch, along with hints of gin botanicals, vanilla, caramel, and apricot. The palate features a creamy mouthfeel flavored by notes of orange blossom honey, cola, caramel, and a certain grassiness. The medium, sweet, and slightly dry finish features a distinct, lingering cinnamon candy note.

Batch 022 comes across as lively and aromatic. The rye grain in the mash bill brings about an almost barrel-aged gin quality on the nose. The folks behind Barrell Bourbon are always looking to present something interesting in each batch, and they’ve certainly achieved their goal here. Barrell Bourbon Batch 022 is a tasty reminder that the bourbon flavor profile can certainly be expanded upon. Plus, it’s exquisite when used in an Old Fashioned. Recommended.

Barrellbourbon.com

Thanks to Barrell Craft Spirits for the production sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.