15 Year Old Big Papa Stagg
Of all the Sazerac bottles, Stagg Jr. is probably one of my favorite bourbons. My vertical of the releases span back to batch 8 (Spring, 2017) with only a single 100ml flask remaining of that bottle. George T. Stagg is also one of my highest rated bottles so it will be interesting to directly compare the 2018 to the 2020 release. That’s exactly what I did. Poured myself an ounce of the 2018 release to prime my palate for the 2020.
One ounce was poured in a Glencairn, rested capped for ~10 minutes with another ounce poured in a Laddie Dram glass with no resting time.
Deep auburn color with a lovely reddish hue. Medium thick legs. For what it’s worth, shake test revealed some very large bubbles that quickly dissipated.
The nose is distinctly familiar Stagg. Cherries and dark stone fruits. Apricot and ginger jam. Dried fruit, bran muffin. Burnt toffee and ginger snaps. Cardamom, clove, and a touch of cinnamon. Apple peel. Butter scotch. Bit of dried hay and a light floral note. Honey suckle green herbal note with a light touch of sweetness. As I let this sit even longer, the fruit starts to fall back with the more sugar sweetness coming out. A bit more alcohols on the nose than the 2018.
Full on baking spice filled palate. Peppercorn hits very hard with some spicy cassia cinnamon. Very noticeable oak coming through as well. 15 years in new charred oak certainly have not mellowed it much with a present tobacco and charcoal-like flavors. Earthy walnuts. Oatmeal, brown sugar, and a touch of vanilla bean. 100%, or close there to, rich dark cocoa bar. Lastly there’s a malty flavor that I didn’t expect from this bourbon.
Considerably drier finish than the 2018 with some old oak tannins. Cedar, cherry wood, tobacco and oiled leather. Very present alcohols and a kick of heat from those baking spices. It takes some getting used to and I don’t rather enjoy it. Getting into too much oak for me personally. The sweetness from the palate becomes a more burnt cookie flavor instead on the finish. Clove and all spice sit on the tongue for a long dry finish. I’m liking the flavors just not the more acrid tannic finish unfortunately.
This is an interesting whiskey and certainly one that takes more than a single dram or two to fully digest. These are however my thoughts on it at this time. It’s good, but not great. It ranks lower personally than some of the Stagg Jr. batches and the two bottles have wildly different prices.
I really should not have started with a dram of the 2018 because to me, that is a 9-9.5 whiskey. It’s absolutely delicious with a bit of air time to calm the proof a bit. When I sip the 2020, it’s got the backbone of Stagg but the finish of a much older, and more oaky whiskey instead. It looses a bit of the fruit for me that I love from the line.
If I was pressed to give a score it would be in the 7-7.5 range. It just didn’t hit like I expected. I do fully admit tannins really get to me more than most others. Overall, I feel like it’s a good whiskey that could be better.