Comparison: Stagg Jr. Batch #12 / Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof

STAGG JR. BATCH #12
2019 release

MASH BILL – Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1

PROOF – 132.3

AGE – NAS (rumored ~6-8 years)

DISTILLERY – Buffalo Trace Distillery

PRICE – $54

COLONEL E.H. TAYLOR BARREL PROOF
2019 release

MASH BILL – Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1

PROOF – 129.3

AGE – NAS (rumored ~6-8 years)

DISTILLERY – Buffalo Trace Distillery

PRICE – $163

I’ve been a Stagg Jr. fan for awhile now. (Hardly makes me unique, I know.) The standard Colonel E.H. Taylor release I’ve always thought was fine, a bit overpriced, and didn’t understand why people scrambled for it. But Stagg Jr. I do understand the scramble. It’s comparatively more available and affordable than its elder namesake, George T. Stagg. And though younger than George by some unnamed number of years, Stagg Jr’s typical ~130 proof packs a flavor punch that, by many reports, found its full stride as of Batch 9 in 2017. And so, from Batch 9 onward, Stagg Jr. joined the unicorn herd.

Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof sports nearly identical stats as Stagg Jr.—mash bill, estimated age, proof range—though it’s released less often. Also it comes in a fancy tube, like a scotch. As a result its typical price is quite higher than Stagg Jr. I happened to find one at a too-high price that was still less than what I’d more often seen it going for, so I bit.

When I finally uncorked the Taylor three weeks ago, I’d have sworn I was drinking Stagg Jr. So I cracked the latter’s Batch #12, an extremely well received batch, and tried them side by side. The similarities were indeed striking. I wondered if the only thing that really differentiated them was warehouse placement—and price! I knew a proper comparison was in order.

So here we are, about three weeks after uncorking, four pours into the Stagg Jr. Batch #12 and one pour into the 2019 Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof. Both were tasted in traditional Glencairns. I used a bit of the 100-proof John J. Bowman Pioneer Spirit Single Barrel to warm up my palate, given it’s sourced from Buffalo Trace and shares the same mash bill as Stagg Jr. and Taylor. Here are the notes…

COLOR

STAGG – a nice clear “bourbon” orange, very autumnal like lightly roasted pumpkin, with hints of dark brass

TAYLOR – exactly the same


NOSE

STAGG – apple juice, dusty oak, caramel like on a caramel apple, faint sweet cherry pie filling, after some time the apple and cherry coming more into balance

TAYLOR – dusty oak, more cherry up front than apple, then the apple, ground black pepper, rich caramel, an herbal element like dried straw or long stemmed grasses, after some time the apple receding a bit more behind the cherry

TASTE

STAGG – so good; cherry and caramel right up front, a peppery edge but very smooth for the proof, and then a nice clear and rich chocolate note on swallowing

TAYLOR – also good, but with a slight herbal twist to the rich caramel that greets the palate up front, then chocolate, some rich coffee, and finally oak—a notable absence of the fruit elements

FINISH

STAGG – chocolate and cherry with a nice fine tingle from the peppery proof, all lingering a long, long time…

TAYLOR – caramel, chocolate, oak, and a sprinkling of the dry herbal element, with a spikier pepperiness than the Stagg despite Taylor sporting a lower proof

OVERALL

STAGG – I absolutely understand why this batch was so admired and hunted; it’s rich and decadent

TAYLOR – For similar reasons I understand why this is sought after, but the price is a big big turn off

BUY AGAIN?

STAGG – Can’t, except maybe on the secondary market and then I wouldn’t want to pay the inevitable price. But future batches at msrp, certainly!

TAYLOR – No. It’s good but I can’t see a reason to spend the money when Stagg Jr. comes out more often and at significantly less cost.

With three weeks to take a bit of air, these two bourbons do taste more distinct from one another than they did at their uncorkings. The Stagg is now less hot than it was at first, and has continued to lean into its cherry and chocolate aspects. The Taylor has developed a distinctive herbal note I didn’t catch at uncorking, and this dry element now distinguishes it from the fruitier Stagg. In fact the Taylor is now significantly lacking in the cherry and apple notes it too had at uncorking. But the rich caramel and chocolate are recognizable from the Stagg.

I’m glad to have both bottles. Had I known Colonel E.H. Taylor was essentially Stagg Jr. in a taller, skinnier, more brightly labelled bottle, I’d have preferred the two or three Stagg Jr. bottles I might have picked up for the same price. These whiskeys are so similar that both the packaging and price difference seem an almost cynical joke on consumers. That alone makes me not wish to buy the Colonel E.H.Taylor Barrel Proof again. It makes no sense, either financially or experientially.

But, I did buy it. So now I have it. And I will enjoy it. Future Stagg Jr. batches I will certainly buy, when I find them at or near msrp—I would say around $70 is the top price I’d be willing to pay. And because it comes out a couple times each year, the chances of my finding it are actually pretty good.

This 2019 Taylor Barrel Proof, on the other hand, was an Easter egg—literally tucked in behind some other bottles by the shop keeper as a means of rewarding those like me who stare longer than would seem necessary at whiskey store shelves, hoping to catch sight of just such a thing. I think I’d been in the store twenty minutes, just looking over their whiskey shelves, before I finally noticed it.

So good luck to all you bourbon hunters out there. My own recommendation is to not bother with Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof. It’s going to be really hard to find and very expensive. Stagg Jr., on the other hand, while not easy to find is certainly easier to find, and more affordable. And with Stagg Jr., I wouldn’t sweat over this batch versus that. Take whatever comes your way. I agree that, since the now legendary Batch 9, even with variations within its flavor profile, Stagg Jr. has become a very dependable bourbon and well worth having on the home shelf.

Cheers!

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