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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Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye 2013

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Distillery/Brand: Thomas H. Handy | Region: America | ABV: 64.2% | Colour: Old Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
I thought I would treat my self and pick out something special for my 300th whisky review. I wasn’t counting until recently and only just realized that I was a few short of a triple.

So I said Why not? Treat yourself, son, you deserve it for all your hard work. Because whisky drinking is just that. A treat.

I thought long and hard and settled on the 2013 bottle of the Thomas H Handy Sazerac straight rye whiskey from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. It’s older brother by a year ended up winning top honors with a certain Jim Murray the year before. Since I didn’t have two of those I decided to open this one (of which I do have another).

I have not had a lot of experience drinking rye whiskey. I would like to, though. The spicier, drier cousin of straight bourbons rye whiskey is made from a minimum mash of 51% rye with barley and corn making up the rest. Straight rye means it’s been aged for a minimum of 2 years in virgin American oak.

This particular one ha seen a bit more ageing than the minimum. This year’s was distilled in the spring of 2007 and aged on the seventh floor of Warehouse K. At 6 years old, it is the youngster of the Antique Collection.

Bottled at 128.4 Proof (64.2% ABV) my sample is from a brand new bottle.

Nose: Quite sweet. Almost made me salivate. Dry. Leather. Mocha. Coffee beans. Cinnamon. Pomegranate. Rose water. Vanilla. Chocolate digestives. Cherry licorice. Cola. Cherry cola. Oak. Strong, bold spicy aromas. Love it!

Palate: Very hot. Lots of cinnamon and black pepper spices. Leather. Red wine tannins. Coffee. Gets even more spicier mid-palate. I can actually taste the rye here. Spearmint. Chocolate. Vanilla. I wasn’t too taken it with on my first sip but then the second and third really drove it up a notch.

Finish: Long. Extremely long. Oak. Long. Cinnamon. Long. A touch dry. A touch bitter. And did I say long? Very long.

I’m glad I made this one signify a small milestone. These are precisely the type of flavors that drove me into the arms of whisky in the first place. So it was only fair that I pick this one up from the shelf to mark an occassion.

Rating: 92