Stagg Jr has the name junior because its big daddy is George T. Stagg of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. While George T. Stagg is generally aged anywhere from 15-17 years, Stagg Jr is aged 8-9yrs and released a few times throughout the year. The bottle I have is from 2016 and 130 proof.
C: The color is a dark brown with even darker edges, yet still see-through.
N: Be careful, at 130 proof it will burn all the hair that you have in your nostrils. Once you get passed the high proof, you’re greeted with rum or white wine soaked raisins, vanilla beans have been scraped into the same vessel adding rich depth. Charred wood takes it’s place on the podium with the other flavors like milk chocolate and baking spices. Every now and then an astringent bite of the alcohol reminds me I’m too close to the fire.
P: The first flavor I get before my mouth is bombarded with saliva, are the rummy/winey raisins. As my mouth tingles, cantaloupe flavors come forward met with charred toothpicks and dusty spice. Black pepper joins the cocoa powder and what I would imagine leather glove treatment tastes like. Not necessarily a bad thing.
F: The finish is vanilla sweetened black pepper and wood char and slight wood sour. This bourbon isn’t for the faint of heart. I feel like this is the bourbon that people used to drink in western movies, aka “fire water”, coming from a jug labeled with three X’s and possibly a skull and bones logo. I would drink this next to a camp fire in a heart beat. I love the tongue numbing heat that it brings and the genuine “my way or the highway” attitude.
There are other easily drinkable bourbons out there with more sweetness or more gentle caramel and vanilla flavors that make you feel good. But sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you want a kick in the pants and this Stagg Jr. is here to
deliver the business.
Belle Meade has done a lot of great things recently with their finished line of bourbons. Sherry, Cognac and now Madeira cask finishes are all out of the park home runs for [Sniff] and I. This is a blend of 10yr and older whiskies from MGP (formerly known as LDI). Andy Nelson of Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery (co-owner of Belle Meade and head distiller) has always been very open about where they get their distillate from and how little or hands on they are with the processes of selecting the yeast strains, barrels and locations of aging. Will this Single Barrel make the cut? Or will we stick to the fancy finishes that they are so good at churning out? Read on to find out!
C: A light reddish orange liquid with lighter edges when the light catches it.
N: The nose has an eerily similar honeyed characteristic like that of The Balvenie 12 yr doublewood. It’s very soft on the nose but a sweet, subtly spiced oak. A very light toffee/caramel notes comes through after sticking my nose deep in the glass. Possibly cooked quince or a tart fruit (not a fruit tart).
P: Vanilla, with spiced chocolate notes flood the mouth. Slightly charred oak and licorice create a sour bitter note, handled well by the welcoming sweetness.
F: The bourbon finishes with a slightly peppery, welcomed oaky spice. The longer the glass lingers with bourbon in it, the more the caramel and toffee characteristics swell and tempt you back for more. After a full day of sampling and reviewing bourbons, I can honestly say that coming back to this bourbon is a real treat. It feels like home base, that all other higher proof bourbons can be judged against.
Great company, great people and a pretty darn tasty bourbon. Like I said before though, their finished bourbons and whiskies are nothing to shake a stick at and you should definitely pick up a few cases when you get a chance. Unless we get to them first.
This new Black Maple Hill is no longer produced from Kentucky. The current BMH is produced from a company called the Stein Distillery out of Joseph, Oregon. We’re still looking for a bottle of the Kentucky variety to compare, but until then, on with the review!!
C: An old brown couch color, with an alarming amount of sediment in the bottle. Looks a lot like lint floating around a brown pool of water.
N: I like the nose. A mixture of amaretto, dried dates from a fruit cake, slight red licorice and sweet cocoa/nutmeg powder. The oak is gentle but looming in the background. There aren’t any rye bread flavors really coming to the forefront yet though.
P: The palate has a nice bit of baking spices coming through, followed by wafts of heat from the alcohol, which is actually enjoyable. The spice waves that you get from a really spicy chili. You love the spice now, but you’ll hate it later. Though the whiskey feels thin on the tongue, the spices are rich and full and add to the enjoyment of this dram. Sweet dates and almond skin flavors are dancing around my mouth, all seasoned with freshly grated cinnamon and dry cocoa. A slight oak spice carries all of these flavors right down into my belly. The palate is far more appealing than the nose. Upon second sip, a resinous, sappy flavor masks some of the more enjoyable characteristics of the first sip but fade into the background and it’s tasty again.
F: The finish is a bit oaky and lengthens with every exhale. The sides of my mouth feel like they have cinnamon caught in all the nooks and crannies. It’s a good finish and one that would work excellently in a cocktail.
You could drink this one neat and really enjoy it, but I feel like the finish of this rye and the punchy baking spice entrance could be used in an awesome cocktail as a supporting character. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, my go to rye, for now, would have to be Michters Barrel Strength Rye, it’s just awesome in comparison.
Rock Creek Rye, named after one of the first federally managed parks, was created by DC’s very own One Eight Distillery. It is the very first grain to glass whisky, distilled, aged and bottled in the district since prohibition. Distilled in copper pot stills, aged in new oak and then bottled at 47% abv, this should prove to be a delicious, local staple.
C: It’s a nice russet color, not sure if colorant is added but it looks nice.
N: Vanilla and salt water taffy are the first things that pop into my mind with the initial nosing. Sticking my nose further into the glass brings forth a raw rye characteristic. A very light half sour pickle pushes out from the glass. If you’ve ever made rye bread from scratch, you know that the dough is very sticky and elastic. That feeling carries through the nose, bringing sweet stickiness and an almost gummy nose. The licorice qualities of caraway seed and more raw rye bread dough wrap up this nosing.
P: Initial taste, the alcohol is well managed and not hot feeling or full of burn at all. The spice is initially very light, almost non-existent until the alcohol seems to awaken it on your tongue. It doesn’t taste as young as it is, which is a good thing, but it doesn’t taste like a conventional rye, which is not such a good thing. Second sip has a little more “burn” associated with it but similar spice characteristics. Light dusty cocoa, stale McCormick cinnamon (aka pencil shavings). My mouth has a sticky feeling and the need for loxs and cream cheese to accompany this rye bagel in my mouth.
F: The finish is very light, after the burn of the alcohol assuages. Actual rye bread flavors are left coating the inside of my mouth, but the spices have all but faded.
If you’re looking for a traditional rye with warming spice notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and other baking spices, this is not your bottle. This is definitely a different whiskey. Almost as smooth as a vodka but artificially flavored as a rye, like rye flavored vodka. I’m not huge fan, but every whisk(e)y has it’s place. I feel like this rye is for the bartender mixing a drink for someone, trying to convince them they like rye. My go to rye out of all ryes, for now, is still Michters barrel strength rye. KAPOW!
The current Black Maple Hill is produced from a company called the Stein Distillery out of Joseph, Oregon. It’s a craft whisky aged a minimum of 4 years with some older varieties mixed in. Does it live up to the standard of the Kentucky made variety of bourbon? We’re not sure, but we’re looking to source some bottles to compare. But until then, on with the review!
C: A reddish chocolate brown color almost exactly the same as the Black Maple Hill Rye. Coincidence? Colorant?
N: There’s a very aggressive oak char on the nose, veiled in a tea house aroma, like pouring earl grey for hundreds. Dr. Pepper notes comes through as fresh ground pepper as well as generic cola syrup. There’s a medicinal note that calls to memory the often many trips to
the emergency room as a rambunctious kid. The nose isn’t pleasant, plain and simple. it’s not a bourbon that I want to continue to smell. Let’s see if the palate isn’t any better.
P: The palate is rich with oak and spice but nothing that easily calls itself out. There’s a lack of vanilla, caramel and honestly deliciousness in the palate. My mouth is full of dusty spices that aren’t soothed with a caramel sweetness that you often find in more delicious bourbons. This feels like Icy Hot, without the Icy. Peanut butter and Jelly, without the Jelly. Ice cream, without the sunday. Ok, I think you get the point.
F: The Finish is full of spice, tongue tingling spice. Like opening your spice cabinet and pouring a few dry spices on your tongue, then rubbing your tongue on the roof of your mouth and wishing you hadn’t done so. You had a chance to back out, but you were already committed, you weren’t ready, he wasn’t readyyyyy. The oak and spice continue for a rather long time.
If you read my review about the Black Maple Hill Rye, this one also seems to be a good supporting actor. If your cocktail needs spice and oak, add this, you’ll get those notes. But make sure to add it to an equally fruity cocktail to match it’s equally oaky spice. I don’t think I have to say it, but there are a variety of other bourbons out there that need your attention.
This rye has an interesting story. It starts off as a new make rye spirit, distilled from the midwest. Boston Harbor Distillery re-distills the spirit to their Master distillers’ standards, and then ages the spirit in heavy charred oak barrels. A re-distilled rye huh? Let’s see how it tastes!
C: The color is a russet red in the bottle and more of a lightly toasted oak in the glass.
N: Sticking my nose in the glass I’m met with a candied cherry that’s been left in a bottle of rye to soak. Vanilla salted caramels. Buttered rye bread that hasn’t been toasted. Cinnamon sugar mixed with rye cereal and the leftover sweet milk that remains after you’ve finished a bowl of cheerios. This glass is rich with rye for sure, but not over the top and in your face that some rye’s are. Candied and dried orange peel, cloves, and some dried floral notes present themselves.
P: Initial taste has an earthy, sweet and lightly spiced rye characteristic. Curry spice matched with the mellowing effects of oak. Even though the company says the oak is char # 4, sometimes referred to as “alligator char” (because of the texture and the look of the wood after 55 seconds of intense burning), it’s a very mellow, inviting vanilla rich oak. And with the sweetness of this whiskey, it’s a really nicely executed aging. Second sip intensifies the spice mid-palate, and with a highly manageable 43% abv, drinks easily without the addition of water. There’s no cloying sweetness like one might think after reading the nosing of this whiskey, but rather a really well balanced dram. The sweet, spice and oak all play a really well executed game in this bottle.
F: The finish is rye rich but not an overly yeasty, bready rye that some ryes can have. Again, the spices pair with the rye flavors and the overall balanced sweetness of the whiskey helps it shine. The finish is a little short, but the rye flavors remain in the crevices of my mouth.
This whiskey is fairly surprising and totally in a good way. I initially didn’t care for it, but I think it’s because I’d been sipping on bourbons for quite some time and my palate went blind to anything non-bourbon. It’s good to try things again and at different times, you never know how circumstances might change and effect your tasting. For $45 this is a delicious option in the sub $50 rye range. But it’s not really an over the top rye like some can be. In comparison, I just took a quick sip of Knob Creek rye which has a powerful rye entrance, with a relatively one noted spice and then an off-toned finish. The Putnam rye seems to be a lot more refined, and maybe that has to do with the extra distilling on location in Boston. Tasty on it’s own and probably a real treat mixed in a cocktail like the distillery recommends!
Balcones Distillery is unapologetically real. They want you to know that from the very start. Very Texan if you know what I mean. Their pledge of authenticity lets you know that they never use other companies distillate, they never use aged whisky from other sources to blend and that they mash, ferment and distill 100% of what they sell. With well over 50 medals from different competitions, mostly gold, let’s see if the liquid in the bottle lives up to its massive hype!
C: Toasted oak with a light yellow rim.
N: An undeniable butterscotch smell emanates from the glass as my nose approaches. The kind of butterscotch you find at a grandma’s house. Not the good Brach’s variety, more the off brand that uses imitation everything but it still tastes good. Included within that smell is of course vanilla, a little peppery sawdust (like you just stepped into Home Depot’s lumber department), and Hungarian paprika (slightly dried and smoked red pepper). The oak on the nose is more similar to pressed wood beams than it is oak staves. Slight notes of wood sour and freshness, not burnt or charred oak. The last couple sniffs reveal caramel and sweet toffee notes, telling my tongue to be prepared for what’s next.
P: First sip reveals the sweetness that I was looking for in the nose. Vanilla and light oak are the dominating flavors. It’s very lightweight on the tongue and at 106 proof you would expect some kind of burn, but it’s very drinkable. The sweetness of this bourbon goes really well with the high alcohol, they both work together to make it very enjoyable. After each sip, an enjoyable dryness coats my tongue inviting another sip. Thankfully the oak isn’t sour as expected from the nose and it’s an enjoyable toasted taste. Tasting again, there’s a fair bit of nutmeg spice and pepper. The description on the bottle talks about “mellow notes of baked pears and apples” but I never get that. The fruit to me is very subdued, overpowered mostly by the spice and sweet vanilla note. Which is definitely not a bad thing. When I think of Texas, I think big, bold flavor with the authentic spice of the South and this is what I get with this whisky. Big bold delicious whisky flavor.
F: The finish is perfumed with spice, vanilla sweetness and a slight drying in the back of the mouth. Toasted malt and oak are left lingering for a short while with a light smoke coming out right at the end.
The Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky is a solid American whisky. A great thing to bring along with you to a camping trip or just enjoyed in front of a fire amongst friends.