Category Archives: Bourbon Whiskey

Stagg Jr. Bourbon

STAGGjr_0Stagg Jr. is a limited production barrel proof bourbon.  Buffalo Trace released the first batch in Aug, 2013 and has released two batches per year since then.  Each batch is blended from bourbons that are roughly 8 or 9 years old and released at a unique proof.  Collectors use those proof numbers to identify specific batches.

When Stagg Jr. was first released, it didn’t receive a very warm welcome.  Bourbon drinkers familiar with George T. Stagg (an older, much rarer BTAC bourbon) were expecting Stagg Jr. to be a barrel proof offering with a similar profile.  When they realized it didn’t have a similar profile, many prominent reviewers thought it was too “alcohol forward” and downgraded Stagg Jr. to a “Pass” and dismissed it as a failed version of George T. Stagg. While this negative opinion still exists among some whiskey circles and experts, many bourbon enthusiasts switched camps after the 3rd batch and now consider this to be a well-executed barrel strength offering. Newer batches typically receive high ratings and sell out relatively quickly.

Aside from renewed interest in the bourbon’s quality, Stagg Jr. also has value as part of a larger vertical, meaning that collectors will try to get at least one bottle from each release to display or drink. This “vertical value” emerged shortly after the third release and grew as a purchase influence with each subsequent batch.  Likewise, the value of previous releases has also increased, as has the number of collectors who are trying to assemble verticals.

Availability of Stagg Jr. varies widely by region.  It can sit for months in some areas and disappear in days from others.  Even with that variation, it’s very rare to find bottles on shelves that are older than the most recent batch or two. Collectors pulling together verticals likely need to leverage friends, trades, purchase groups, or the secondary market to source early batch bottles.

Producer’s Description: Just like George T. Stagg Bourbon, this whiskey is not filtered and offers all the rich and complex flavors of bourbon right from the barrel. Bottles of Stagg Jr. will be limited, but several batches each year are planned. This new Stagg Jr. offering will not affect the stock of barrels already set aside for future George T. Stagg releases.

Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley describes that taste as, “rich, sweet, chocolate and brown sugar flavors mingled in perfect balance with a bold, rye spiciness. The boundless finish lingers with hints of cherries, cloves and smokiness.”

Producer:  Buffalo Trace
Release Category: Limited-Edition, Allocated
Release Frequency: Approx. 2 batches per year
Releases to Date:  7
Release Season:  Spring / Fall
Release Volume:  Unknown (still hunting this fact!)
Release Region: Wide release
Sell Out Timeframe:  Up to a few months (varies significantly by region)
Bottle Size:  750ml
Nicknames:  Baby Stagg, SJR, Stagg Jr + proof (ex: Stagg Jr 132.2)
Avg. Price Retail:  $59
Avg. Price Among Whiskey Traders:  $65+ (early batches more valuable)
Avg. Price on Secondary Market:  $75+ (early batches more valuable)
Trading Value:  Low (early batches more valuable)
TTB ID: 12355001000167
DSP Codes: DSP-KY-113, DSP-CA-63, DSP-MD-11, DSP-KY-12, DSP-KY-24
UPC Code: 00088004018580
Mash Bill: BT Mash Bill #1 (low-rye)

Releases
Batch 7 – (Fall, 2016) – 130 Proof
Batch 6 – (Spring, 2016) – 132.5 Proof
Batch 5 – (Fall, 2015) – 129.7 Proof
Batch 4 – (Spring, 2015) – 132.2 Proof
Batch 3 – (Fall, 2014) – 132.1 Proof
Batch 2
 – (Spring, 2014) – 128.7 Proof
Batch 1 – (Fall, 2013) – 134.4 Proof

Reviews / Awards
2016 Gold Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition
2016 Best of Category / Gold Medal (92 points) – Los Angeles International Spirits Competition
2015 Best of Division (Whiskey) / Gold Medal (97 points) – Los Angeles International Spirits Competition
2015 Double Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
2015 Trophy Finalist – 95 points – Ultimate Spirits Challenge
2015 BTI International Review of Spirits – “Exceptional” – 95 points
2015 Gold Medal – North American Bourbon & Whiskey Competition
2014 Silver Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition
2015 Silver Medal – Denver International Spirits Competition
2014 Silver Medal – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition
2014 Double Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
2014 Bronze Medal, American Bourbon Whiskey No Age Statement – World Whiskies Awards
2014 Excellent/Highly Recommended – Ultimate Spirits Challenge

Single Oak Project

SingleOak_mfgEvery three months between May 2011 and Feb 2015, Buffalo Trace released 12 unique barrels from their highly experimental Single Oak Project collection and encouraged buyers to review them on the SingleOakProject.com website.  Each barrel produced approximately 400 hand-numbered 375ml bottles that sold for $45-$60 each, a hefty price to pay for an unknown bourbon. In the end, only about 6% (est.) of the ~76,000 total bottles produced were actually reviewed on Buffalo Trace’s project website and many of them ranked in the B/B- grade range compared to other bourbons at that price point.

Despite the mixed response from the public, there were a few barrels that managed to separate themselves from the pack and earn status as “must have” bottles for serious bourbon collectors and drinkers. Unfortunately, they earned this status well after their respective releases occurred, so these bottles are extremely difficult to find now outside auctions, trading groups, or dusty mom & pop shops.  They are barrel #80 (the overall winner for the experiment), barrels #82, #109, #161, and #179 (the four runners up for overall best), barrel #1 (wanted for collectible status), barrel #111 (highly rated on the website), barrels # 155, 187, 188 (earned a rare 5/5 rating from F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal), barrels # 14, 27, 30, 63, 101 (scored 95+ in Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible) and barrels # 56, 136 (referenced in a press release as favorites of voters with most barrels reviewed).

The best barrel (#80) was ultimately selected by a panel of experts. It had a rye-focused mashbill, 12 months of stave seasoning time, average grain size, 125º entry proof, #4 char, wood from the bottom half of the tree, and was matured in a warehouse with a concrete floor.  Buffalo Trace will produce a bourbon brand that matches that barrel, so it is the most valuable of the entire series for enthusiasts who want to try it or collect the original bottle.  In addition to that winner, all of the better rated and runners up bottles from this series will likely grow in value over the next few years as the whole line disappears from the market.

You can still find bottles on shelves in smaller stores with large bourbon aisles but remember, this one is all about the barrel numbers.  Good numbers are worth hunting, bad ones are a waste of money.  If you’re unsure about the barrel numbers, aim for the ones listed here or look over drinkhacker.com’s  detailed reviews & data on each barrel.

Producer’s Description: For over two centuries Buffalo Trace Distillery has been a pioneering leader in quality and innovation. The Single Oak Project is its most inventive and comprehensive experiment yet. It all started with 96 individually selected American oak trees that differed according to the number of growth rings per inch and growing location. Each tree was then cut into two parts – top and bottom – yielding 192 unique tree sections. A single barrel was constructed from each section. Prior to construction, the stave seasoning was varied. The 192 barrels were then charred differently. These single oak barrels were then filled with different recipe whiskeys, at various entry proofs and aged in a variety of different warehouse styles. This experiment allows whiskey connoisseurs to directly compare the impact of seven different critical variables across 192 bottles for a total of 1,396 taste combinations.  None of the 192 bottles in the complete set are exactly alike. The Single Oak Project is undoubtedly the most extensive bourbon experiment ever undertaken.

Producer:  Buffalo Trace Distillery
Release Category: Limited-Edition, Limited-Time
Release Frequency: 12 Barrels Every 3 Months (2011 – 2015)
Releases to Date:  16 (no additional releases planned)
Release Season:  Quarterly
Release Volume:  400 Bottles per Unique Barrel; 192 Unique Barrels
Release Region: Primarily US, some UK
Sell Out Timeframe:  Medium (varies widely by geography, store focus, and bottle #)
Bottle Size:  375ml
Nickname: SOP, BTSOP, Oak Project, Single Oak, SOP+Barrel (ex: “SOP75” is barrel 75)
Avg. Price Retail:  $55
Avg. Price Among Whiskey Traders:  $70 (general bottle) – $125 (uniquely rated)
Avg. Price on Secondary Market:  $100 (general bottle) – $150+ (uniquely rated)
Trading Value:  2/10 for general bottles; 4/10 for highest rated bottles
DSP Codes: DSP-KY-113
UPC Code: 00088004009915
Mash Bill: Varies by barrel

Releases
We estimate about 400 bottles per barrel# were released.
Release 16 – (Feb, 2015) – Barrels # 7, 20, 39, 52, 71, 84, 103, 116, 135, 148, 168, 180
Release 15 – (Nov, 2014) – Barrels #21, 22, 53, 54, 85, 86, 117, 118, 149, 150, 181, 182
Release 14 – (Aug, 2014) – Barrels # 2, 12, 34, 44, 66, 76, 98, 108, 130, 140, 162, 172
Release 13 – (May, 2014) – Barrels #11, 13, 43, 45, 75, 77, 107, 109, 139, 141, 171, 173
Release 12 – (Feb, 2014) – Barrels #15, 16, 47, 48, 79, 80, 111, 112, 143, 144, 175, 176
Release 11 – (Nov, 2013) – Barrels #19, 23, 51, 55, 83, 87, 115, 119, 147, 151, 179, 183
Release 10 – (Aug, 2013) – Barrels #9, 25, 41, 57, 73, 89, 105, 121, 137, 153, 169, 185
Release 9 – (May, 2013) – Barrels #5, 6, 37, 38, 69, 70, 101, 102, 133, 134, 165, 166
Release 8 – (Feb, 2013) – Barrels #28, 59, 60, 91, 92, 123, 124, 155, 156, 187, 188
Release 7 – (Nov, 2012) – Barrels #18, 26, 50, 58, 82, 90, 114, 122, 146, 154, 178, 186
Release 6 – (Aug, 2012) – Barrels #30, 32, 62, 64, 94, 96, 126, 128, 158, 160, 190, 192
Release 5 – (May, 2012) – Barrels #1, 17, 33, 49, 65, 81, 97, 113, 129, 145, 161, 177
Release 4 – (Feb, 2012) – Barrels #10, 14, 42, 46, 74, 78, 106, 110, 138, 142, 170, 174
Release 3 – (Nov, 2011) – Barrels #8,
 24,
 40,
 56,
 72, 
88,
 104,
 120,
 136,
 152,
 167
, 184
Release 2 – (Aug, 2011) – Barrels #29, 31, 61, 63, 93, 95, 125, 127, 157, 159, 189, 191
Release 1 – (May, 2011) – Barrels #3, 4, 35, 36, 67, 68, 99, 100, 131, 132, 163, 164

Reviews / Awards
2012 Ramsay’s Dram Hogmanay Award (The “Hoggies”)
Barrel #155 – 5 stars/Highest Recommended – F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal
Barrel #187 – 5 stars/Highest Recommendation – F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal
Barrel #188 – 5 stars/Highest RecommendationF. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal
Barrel #101 – 96/100Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible
Barrel #82 – Overall Favorite as of Jan 2015Voters at SingleOakProject.com
Barrel #109 – Runner-up for Overall Favorite as of Jan 2015Voters at SingleOakProject.com
Barrel #111 – Runner-up for Overall Favorite as of Jan 2015 – Voters at SingleOakProject.com


angels envy cask strength

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength

Angels Envy BourbonIt’s very hard to get your hands on a bottle of Angel’s Envy Cask Strength bourbon, as there aren’t many bottles in circulation and those that are only make it to a few select states.  It’s typically released in October/November/December and available in November/December/January for a suggested retail price around $170, although we’ve seen retailers charge as much as $300.  It’s one of those bourbons that often goes to a store’s best customer or into raffles in popular bourbon areas, so you’ll need to put in the legwork to earn this bottle.  If you’re in a lukewarm bourbon state, you may find a bottle or two sitting on store shelves into late January.

It’s relatively rare to find a prior batch bottle due to the extremely low release volumes, although they do surface occasionally in the secondary market.  The First Edition (2012) is considered a unicorn bottle.  The Second Edition (2013) and Third Edition (2014) are a little less valuable, but still in demand.  Signed bottles and bottles in well preserved cases have more value to collectors.  Splitting was relatively common on the collectible case that accompanied the bottle in 2014 and is not an indication of mishandling.

The 2015 bottle is considered the best tasting release so far, but it also marks a shift in opinions for this rare bourbon.  In early 2015, Bacardi Ltd. purchased Angel’s Envy, taking this from a boutique brand associated with the famed Lincoln Henderson to a corporate brand with no ties to bourbon history. The hard core bourbon community’s enthusiasm for this brand dropped significantly when this happened, as did the secondary value of these bottles.  While this is still a great tasting bourbon that is actively hunted, it isn’t as prized as it once was.

Producer’s Description: “The world’s highest rated bourbon.  Period.”  Perfection is a patient man’s game. So we waited until Angel’s Envy reached the perfect level of maturity. It can take years for a barrel to reach our Cask Strength standards. Then we aged the spirit in ruby port wine casks until we tasted a previously undiscovered sweet spot. Finally we stopped waiting and started enjoying. Angel’s Envy Cask Strength is unlike any bourbon you’ve ever tried. We judge only a handful of barrels exceptional enough for our lengthy ruby port cask finishing process, and we only release it at the end of every year. The result? Even at 123 proof, every sip is rare and worth savoring. A remarkably complex and unfiltered bourbon, we suggest you enjoy it neat or with just a splash of water to release the flavor nuances, and perhaps with a few friends who appreciate outstanding bourbon. Angel’s Envy Cask Strength was worth waiting for. Now it’s worth sharing.

Producer:  Louisville Distilling Company (now owned by Bacardi Ltd.)
Type: Non-Producer Distiller (NPD)
Age: Made from 4 – 7 year old sourced bourbons (finished in port barrels)
Release Category: Super-Premium, Limited-Edition
Release Frequency: Annual
Releases to Date:  4
Release Season:  Fall
Release Volume:  6,000 – 7,000 bottles
Release Region: Select US States
Sell Out Timeframe:  Immediate (typically pre-sold/pre-claimed/one day on shelf)
Bottle Size:  750ml
Nicknames:  AECS, Angle’s Envy CS, AECS w/ Release (ex. AECS2), AECS w/ Date (ex. AECS 2013 or AECS13)
Avg. Price Retail:  $180
Avg. Price Among Whiskey Traders:  $180 (no box) – $250 (with box)
Avg. Price on Secondary Market:  $250+
Trading Value:  7/10 (first release is 9.5/10)
TTB ID: 15070001000122
DSP Codes: DSP-KY-20022
UPC Code: 00850047003058
Mash Bill: 70-73% corn, 15-20% rye, and the balance malt
Finish: Finished in 59 gallon ruby port casks

Releases
2014 – 6,500 bottles produced, MSRP $169, 15 US states (CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MI, NJ, NY, OR, TN, TX, WA)
2013 – 4,200 bottles produced, 100 – 500 bottles remaining (est), MSRP $149, 8 US states (CA, FL, IL, KY, MA, NY, TN, TX)
2012 – 600 bottles produced,  < 50 bottles remaining (est), MSRP $149, 2 US states (KY, TN)