Stagg JR – Batch 5

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Distillery/Brand: Buffalo Trace | Region: America | ABV: 64.85% | Colour: Mahogany
Nose: 8.2 | Palate: 8.2 | Finish: 8.2 | Overall Score: 8.2

Review
I’m desperately trying to close out 2016 on a positive note. Personally as well as from a whisky review perspective. Of late it seems all I’ve been doing is getting angry at whiskies and their masters for letting me down. Some have in mildly irritating ways and others in much more spectacular fashion.

But the general aim this year has been to upset me and, along with fattening the books, they seem to have met their target. But I won’t let them drag me down to their level. No, thank you.

So while I do have some scathing reviews tucked away they’ll be better suited to the dawn of a new year. My objective now is to comment only on whiskies that make me happy until this dreaded year is finally over. I look forward to an interesting ten days.

And that brings me to the Stagg Jr.

For those who know me know that I am in love with the senior. It changed my perspective on how I perceived bourbons especially ones that came close to spontaneously combusting thanks to inhuman levels of alcohol strength. I’m talking 70%+ here ladies and gentlemen. To achieve a bouquet of flavours and balance in a beast that strong is almost an unfathomable work of art.

And that’s precisely what the Antique Collection is. A work of art.

The Stagg Jr comes from the same pedigree as the senior. Introduced back in 2013 as a younger alternative to the George T Stagg it uses a blend of whiskies 8 or 9 years old and the same mash bill – Mashbill #1. The recipe is pretty much a secret and all we know is that #1 uses less than 10% rye in the overall mix. As for the remaining grains I’m sure there’s a large percentage of corn and then some wheat. There could be some barley too. But I’m not certain.

Panned by critics when it first came out it was considered an unworthy alternative to the George. However, later batches saw the same set of non-believers warm up to this rather tasty barrel proof bourbon. I have sat in my glass Batch 5, recognisable by the proof hastily scribbled on the label. Mine sits at a wonderful 129.7 which, in layman’s terms, is around 64.85% ABV. My sample is from a half empty bottle opened just a week ago.

Nose: That familiar sweetness. Instantly took me to the George. Peppers. Black berries. Milk chocolate. Dark chocolate. Chocolate milkshake. Did I mention chocolate? Touch of black liquorice. Brown curry powder. In a good way! Burnt caramel marchiato. Breakfast toast. Ripe watermelon. Watermelon? Seriously? Quite drying with a ton of cooking spices on a dry forest fire. What’s not to like? 8.2

Palate: As you would expect. A nuclear explosion of pinpricks brought under control by a dark chocolate. Like a Lindt red chilly. Cherries. That smoke from that fire. Milk chocolate. Quite tannic. Dries mid-palate. The oak is quite pronounced. As are the spices. Not as sweet as I expected it to be. A hint of maple syrup. Feels youngish for some reason. But I love the strength. 8.2

Finish: Long. Long. Long. Oaky. And oily at the same time. Barbecue rub. 8.2

Overall Comments: First up let’s consider what is on offer here. A solid whisky made from the same recipe as the George. A touch younger, yes, but when you compare the price point it’s a no brainer. Pick this up for no more than US$60-70 (the later batches, of course) instead of mortgaging your children for the George T Stagg – that is, IF YOU CAN FIND IT! Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges but aren’t we all? In fact that’s what makes us so endearing, doesn’t it?

Overall Score: 8.2

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Balcones Brimstone

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Distillery/Brand: Balcones Distilling | Region: America | ABV: 53% | Color: Dark Bronze
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90

Review
Up until a few months ago I had not heard of Balcones Distillery. The brainchild of Texan Chip Tate this micro-distillery is only six years old and has already won a Confederate pickup worth of awards including a WWA for it’s Brimstone Resurrection bottling.

After managing to get hold of the award-winning sample I decided this micro-distillery was far too exciting to just pass up after one experience. They have around seven expressions all of which are under two years of age. Using mainly blue corn for distillation the unique spirit is smoked with sun baked Texas Oak giving it it’s signature charred barbecue pit flavor.

Balcones Brimstone is made with 100% blue corn and matured for just under two years in American Oak but only after it’s undergone a thorough Texas oak smoking. My bottle is from Batch BRM14-1 bottled on January 22, 2014 at a lovely 53%.

Nose: So unique. I have not nosed a whisky this different. Sweet diesel. Cinnamon. Garam Masala. Charred oak. Bitter chocolate. Red chilies. Barbecue pit. Burnt caramel. Digestives. Jute bag full of husky grains. Imagine sitting in the desert around a campfire.

Palate: Medium bodied. Red chilies. Bitter chocolate. Sour cherries. Smoked oak. Dried tobacco. Bitter marmalade. Red wine tannins. Leather. This is quite an intense delivery with the red chili leading the way. Sadomasochistically delicious.

Finish: Long. Herbal. Minty. Lots of wood. Husk.

I’m a sucker for anything out of the ordinary. Be it a creative process or unusual taste. And if something has both then it’s got me.

Can’t wait to get through the other expressions.

Rating: 90

Four Roses Single Barrel

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Distillery/Brand: Four Roses | Region: America | ABV: 50% | Color: Copper
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 94

Review
It’s been a while since I put a good old fashioned bourbon on the tasting block. Five months to be exact. No real reason other than getting swept up in my single malt purchases and ignoring this spirit from the West.

For some reason I always get grief from my whisky club about my love for American whisky. Not that they’re snobs or anything. It’s just that I organized a bourbon tasting one night and, let’s just say, things got out of hand.

The following morning was a barrage of half coherent phone calls blaming my generous pours and the Devil that was inside this damned spirit for their complete lack of motor skills.

Sure guys. Blame the bourbons.

I’ve had my eye on Four Roses for a while but just didn’t get around to picking one up for the bar. Good thing I did. I’m quite proud of my growing bourbon collection and the Four Roses makes for a worthy addition.

My sample is from Barrel 69-6W from warehouse ME bottled at a perfect 50% ABV.

Nose: Howdy pardner! So many aromas all working together in near perfect harmony. Maple syrup. Chocolate fudge brownies. Overripe oranges. Espresso coffee beans. Black licorice. Burnt caramel. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Oak. The longer you nose the more aromas you get. In the interest of space I had to stop.

Palate: Brilliant delivery. Controlled at 50% which I think works beautifully. Oaky at first before getting sweeter mid-palate. Honey. Molasses. Cherries. Dark plums. Chocolate caramel. Black peppercorns. Cinnamon.

Finish: Satisfyingly long. Touch bitter with vanilla and black peppers.

As a recent practice I’ve been drinking the actual whisky while writing my review. For some reason this review has taken twice as long. You figure out why.

Rating: 94