Sweet, sweet heat.
I found my first bottle of Stagg Jr. shortly after I began seriously getting into whiskey. I remember checking in with my local Total Wine on my weekly day off, which loosely translates to “bourbon hunting day”, and just so happened to spy customer service receiving some bottles from their daily shipment. I approached the gentleman behind the counter and asked what they just got in and he informed me that they had just received a case of Stagg Jr. and a case of Sazerac Rye and told me that I could have one or the other, but not both. I thought about my decision for a moment and settled on the Stagg Jr. as I knew very little about either at that time and thought that Stagg Jr. sounded manlier. Oh how right I was.
That evening, I settled down to play some video games on my computer and decided I would pour myself a glass of my newfound spirit. The bottle looked pretty great, the huge spread of antlers in the logo, the bronze and black lettering on the labels, this thing was legit. The juice was this deep, rich mahogany color and I was very excited to taste it. I poured myself a hefty 2 ounces into my Glencairn, lifted it to my nose to smell it and HOLY COW did it burn my nostrils. I was still new to whiskey at the time and put my whole nose into the glass as I had done with much lower proof whiskies in the past…that was a mistake. I regained my composure and tried again, this time sniffing a bit further from the glass and working my way in. Cinnamon, alcohol, oak, and a bit of chocolate were all making themselves known in the nose. Stagg Jr. shares Buffalo Trace’s Mash Bill #1, which is a lower rye (less than 10%) mash bill, with others like their standard Buffalo Trace and almost the entire E.H. Taylor lineup. Even so, the spice is there, but I’m sure the sting is comprised more of the high proof than it is from the rye.
I took a sip and felt this wave of heat and sweet cinnamon coat my mouth. It was my first taste of a high proof (120+) and I was hooked from the first moment it hit my tongue. The way the liquid felt in my mouth was unlike anything else I had ever experienced. It was as if it was evaporating as soon as I took a sip, even though I knew good and well that the whiskey was still in my mouth. The taste was candy-like, with cinnamon taking the front row, followed by a bit of oak and spice with a little bit of chocolate lingering at the end. The finish was nice and warm, with the spices and sweetness lingering for a bit before dissipating into nothingness, leaving you wanting to take another sip.
Stagg Jr. is easily in my top 5 mid-range bourbons of all time. At just under $60 USD in my area, it’s a bargain for what you get if you like higher proof bourbons. Batch 10 sits at a cool 126.4 proof, being one of the highest proof bottles I own. There’s just something magical about trying your first high proof bourbon and I highly recommend seeking out a bottle of your own.
What do you think about Stagg Jr.? Do you have a favorite high proof whiskey? Leave a comment below!