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In a move that should shock nobody, the proof of Red Stag by Jim Beam will be dropping from 80 to 70 beginning March 1st. Prices will remain unchanged, as you probably imagined. This move follows a recent history of shortages and price increases by Four Roses and Jim Beam. In fact, many of you probably remember two years ago when Maker’s Mark (another Beam brand) proposed cutting the proof of their product instead of risking a shortage. In that case, they saved face by reversing the decision, but we can’t imagine there will be as much pressure on the Red Stag brand. We recommend you buy in the next two days if you are a fan!
Beam Suntory posted a press release last week indicating that it will be releasing a collection of Booker’s Limited Edition bottlings throughout 2015. As big fans of “regular” Booker’s ($59.99), and even bigger fans of last year’s Booker’s 25th Anniversary Edition ($99.99), this is very exciting news to us!
While very few details are available, the first of the Limited Editions will be inscribed as batch “2015-1” and called “Big Man, Small Batch.” Judging by the picture in the press release, we are assuming this will be released alongside the “regular” Booker’s and priced somewhere in the $79.99 range. With the age being similar to the “regular” stuff (6-8 years) indicating a lower range price, and the stained wooden case indicative of the 25th Anniversary Edition indicating a higher range price, this seems to be the middle ground. Further details from the press release:
- Proof: 128.7
- Age: 7 years, 2 months and 16 days
- Batch Notes: Culled from seven different rack houses, Batch 2015-1 blends the flavor tendencies of several small groups of barrels to create a complex bourbon with a vanilla nose.
- Sipping Suggestions: With ice or cut with water
As of now it’s not on the books in Michigan, and doesn’t appear to be slated to hit them in March either. We would guess it will be available to the Michigan market in April.
- Producer: Buffalo Trace Distillery
- Location: Frankfort, Kentucky
- Name: Stagg Jr. Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Classification: Small Batch, Limited Release
- Specific Characteristics: Uncut & Unfiltered
- Age: No Age Statement (8-9 Years)
- Proof: 132.1
- Michigan Minimum Shelf Price: $49.96
Before we even smelled or tasted this Bourbon, it was quite evident that it was high proof due to it’s very dark coloring and legs that were very slow to run down the side of our glass.
Smell: With a small whiff of this Bourbon, we first notice a subtle floral fragrance that quickly gives way to the slight sweetness of baking chocolate. This turns to a spicy rye scent that lingers, before giving way to a slight cherry smell to finish things off. If we allow our nose to linger a little longer, we can smell a sweet vanilla which fades to a rye spiciness before our nose is tickled by the alcohol scent. Although the alcohol scent is present with a big sniff, it is well hidden by the other scents until the finish.
Taste: There is a very quick sweet taste that is hard to identify, before the flavors begin to coat our palate. This sweetness gives way to a rye spiciness on the tip of the tongue that moves towards the back, then the roof of the mouth, back to the front, to the lips, and then finally a long, lingering finish which coats the mouth. It is a bold flavor that is hard to distinguish individual flavors in the first sip. Further sips reveal the tastes of chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, cherry, oak, and smoke. As we continue to taste this Bourbon, we can identify and isolate many of these flavors, as if the others weren’t present. The balance of sweet and spicy seems to hide the high proof, although it quickly goes to our head despite what our mouth tells us. The finish is a long, lingering smoky flavor that really dries the palate.
This Bourbon is fairly smooth and balanced, despite being barrel strength. That said, there doesn’t seem to be much depth to the individual flavors and it seems to be missing overall.
Recommendation and Score
Recommendation: This is definitely a sipping Bourbon, although it may be best consumed with a splash of water depending on your experience with higher proof Bourbons. Although it is a limited release bottle which uses the well-respected Stagg name, it seems to be missing something as we mentioned above. The intrigue of the bold flavors somewhat hiding the high proof gains this Bourbon a couple of points score-wise, but it doesn’t blow us away. Overall, it is very good, but for some reason still doesn’t quite live up to our expectations. We would recommend it more as a “curiosity” than a “must have.”
Score: 90 out of 100 overall.
This review has been conducted as part of a blind taste test to determine the best Traverse City Bourbon.
- Producer: Grand Traverse Distillery
- Location: Traverse City, Michigan
- Name: 100% Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Classification: Hand Crafted Small Batch
- Specific Characteristics: N/A
- Age: No Age Statement (We were told 5 to 5.5 years at the tasting room)
- Proof: 92
- Michigan Minimum Shelf Price: Not distributed – $54.00 at the tasting room
Smell: The first scent we notice is a quick almost lavender-like floral aroma. The spiciness that we smell next hints at it being a high-rye content Bourbon with scents of pepper and cinnamon showing through. Vanilla is also present, as are lesser scents of chocolate and caramel. It finishes with a sweet corn alcohol scent that indicates it is somewhere in the 90-100 proof range, however, is well blended and does not overpower the other scents. We can tell this is a well-aged Bourbon somewhere in the 4 to 7 year range.
Taste: There is an immediate corn sweetness present on the tip of the tongue, but only momentarily as the flavors begin to move towards the back of the mouth. There are quick tastes of salt and rose petals that we pick up midway back on the tongue, before the peppery spiciness is felt at the back of the tongue. From there, there is a very dense mouth feel that makes it difficult to discern individual flavors as it begins to move back toward the front of the palate. Subtle tastes of chocolate and orange are present. It finishes with a long lingering smoky flavor of charred oak.
This Bourbon is very smooth and fairly complex with a bold, dense mouth feel. It checks all of our boxes as it moves around the tongue from sweet to spicy and back again, before finishing with a signature oak flavor. None of this comes as a surprise given that it is a 63% corn, 29% rye, 8% malted barley mash that is distilled and aged for 5 years or more.
Recommendation and Score
Recommendation: We wholeheartedly recommend this as a good sipping Bourbon, especially given that it is distilled, aged, and bottled in our own home state (something very few brands can say). To us, it would be a shame to dilute this one in a cocktail. If we had any criticism, it would be the price as a similar-level Bourbon from larger, more established distilleries can be found at a lower price point. If it were available at a lower price point, we would easily give it an extra two to three points on the overall score. However, we have little reservation recommending this product at its current price, given that it is hand crafted and distilled four times at an up-and-coming microdistillery.
Score: 88 out of 100 overall.