Sunday, January 28, 2018

Stagg Jr. - Batch 9 Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


In whiskey, names carry a lot of value and can generate excitement. George T. Stagg is a very well-known, respected label with a rich history and following. It is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC). In 2013, Buffalo Trace went on to create another barrel-proof, unfiltered Bourbon, it would be one that would be a little easier to come across, and they chose to cash in on the GTS name, calling it Stagg, Jr.

Obviously, the tip of the hat doesn’t come without risk. If Stagg, Jr. didn’t go over well, it could put Buffalo Trace in poor light with fans. Thankfully, four years later, the label is still running strong and is in demand. The question becomes, just because it is popular, is this one you should be pursuing?

Batch 9 was released in 2017 at 131.9° and its MSRP is $49.99. Most of the batches I’ve come across the last couple of years have been closer to $54.99. It is created from a small batch of Bourbons using Buffalo Trace’s #1 mash. Each barrel in the batch ranges from eight to nine years old, but it carries no age statement.

The color is an almost murky brown. Swirling it in my glass gives an unusual, thick appearance. It leaves a thin rim and thick legs that race back to the pool. However, some of the rim remains glued to the glass.

Aromas of caramel and vanilla are up front. As I lift the glass closer to my nostrils, I pick up a slight mint, followed by oak and cherry. Inhaling through my mouth also brings an almost circus peanut sweetness.

The appearance of thickness is deceptive, because the mouth feel is shockingly light and airy. Keep in mind this is a 131.9° Bourbon. It also doesn’t provide burn in the mouth, but is very, very warm in the throat.

Flavors of black cherry are strong and way up front, followed by vanilla. Think cherry vanilla ice cream, and that’s what’s happening here. Behind that ice cream is a bit of the caramel. “Heavenly” is a term that comes to mind.

At this proof, the finish expectedly makes the soft and hard palates tingle, while building oak and more of the caramel in the throat. It is shorter than you’d guess, and it goes down a little too easy.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: Stagg, Jr. seems to get better with each subsequent release, and Batch 9 is easily my favorite so far. To answer my earlier question, “Yes. You should absolutely track down a bottle. It is well worth the investment of time and money.”

On a final note, I drank this neat, just as I do with every whiskey. There are times I will add water, especially to barrel-proof whiskeys, as a curiosity factor. However, this incarnation of Stagg, Jr. is such an easy drinker, I’m going to skip that for now. Perhaps that will happen in a later review. This one snags my Bottle rating. Cheers!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Booker's Rye Review & Tasting Notes

This is probably the worst photo you’re going to see from me. That’s because it was taken back in 2016. I was tasting a bunch of top-shelf whiskeys that night, I was a bit tipsy (something I don’t enjoy doing), and the bottle wasn’t mine.

The reason I’m writing a review on Booker’s Rye is that another friend was kind enough to send me a sample. I’ve not tasted Bookers in a year and a half. I have vivid memories of this whiskey, and I’d like to see if my memory holds true and if my opinion has changed. As such, I’ll write this review with the admitted preconceived notion that I love it. I’ll keep the most open mind possible with my review, and perhaps I’ll be surprised by the outcome.

Booker’s Rye is a 13-year-old non-chilled filtered whiskey with a mash of over 70% rye, with the remainder being corn and barley, and is bottled at 136.2°.

Appearance: In the glass, the color is a gorgeous dark brown. A swirl leaves a thick rim and long, thick legs.

Nose: Cinnamon and nutmeg are up front, followed by plum, raisin and vanilla. In the back is oak. Inhaling through my mouth brings caramel.

Palate: As soon as it passes my lips, the spice and heat are on the tongue, which rolls all the way back to my throat. It is very thick, oily and coating. The first thing that hits the palate is dry oak. That’s shortly followed by stone fruit, vanilla, a tinge of citrus, and then ends with heavy caramel.

Finish: This has an amazingly long finish that just continues to build. Pepper sticks to the palate, and so does that thick caramel. It leaves me longing for more.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: You’re paying secondary market prices on this, and it retailed for about $300. Figure on doubling that. I’ve also seen this at bars for $100 per ounce. Is this the best thing to ever cross my lips? Not anymore. I remember it being better, but it is still an incredibly outstanding pour. Would I love a Bottle in my library? Absolutely, and I would cherish it. Cheers!


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Jim Beam Distiller's Cut Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

The newest whiskey that folks seem to be chasing down right now is Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut. Jim Beam? Are you serious?


This newest incarnation of Jim Beam is a 100°, non-chill filtered Bourbon that’s aged anywhere between five and six years. If you caught the words, “non-chill filtered,” and understand what that means, the excitement suddenly makes sense. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it means that the fatty acids that naturally occur during distillation haven’t been filtered out. Aside from affecting the taste, chill filtering brings clarity to the appearance lower-proofed whiskeys.

The mash is the standard Jim Beam bill: 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. If you’re looking at the proof and wondering if this just isn’t a relabeled Jim Beam Bonded, I’m going to set the record straight right now. I keep a bottle of the Bonded version around, and these are two very different Bourbons.

The appearance is a deep, clear amber that may be unexpected from some familiar with non-chill filtered whiskeys. There can be a cloudiness, especially when adding water or ice, but when you get above 92°, that cloudiness doesn’t happen. Swirling it around in my glass leaves an almost non-existent rim that is so thin it takes a bit to find it. But, once it appears, it produces very slow, fat droplets that eventually fall into the pool.

Aromas of nut are predominant, and at the first sniff or two, it is all that’s picked up. Underneath that comes pepper, a hint of apple, and finally, oak. Inhaling through my mouth brings a bubblegum quality.

The mouthfeel is thick but oily. It does coat the palate and is incredibly smooth.

Flavors of cinnamon and pepper are up front, with an almost immediate follow of caramel and vanilla. Underneath the caramel and vanilla is very light pear. Bringing up the rear is oak.

The finish is long and warming, with the pepper hanging around, especially mid-palate. It continues to build and stays around for several minutes after the swallow.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: If you’re not a fan of Jim Beam, this is the version that will change your mind. I’m loving this, and not only do I recommend picking up a Bottle, I might even suggest two, especially for the $23 price tag.

Allegedly, this is a limited edition Bourbon. I don’t know how many bottles are available, but they’re plentiful for now. If Jim Beam is listening, you need to make this a permanent offering of the product line.

If I have anything negative to say about the Distiller’s Cut, it would be the bottle’s screw-top closure. I don’t mind screw-tops at all, and in fact prefer them, but in this case, it is a very short cap and doesn’t feel like a secure closure. In reality, it works just fine, it is merely the feeling in the hand. As such, this is excessively minor and shouldn’t affect a purchase decision.