In a move that essentially acknowledges the fact that their product lineup has taken on a life of its own, Buffalo Trace announced today that it will be dropping the word “Jr.” from its highly sought-after Stagg Jr. brand, starting with Batch 18. Currently on Batch 17, which will be released in the near future, that means the name change will officially happen sometime in early-to-mid 2022.
Stagg Jr. was so named because it was essentially the less mature, more rambunctious version of the distillery’s even more sought-after George T. Stagg bourbon, a member of its premium Antique Collection, all of which are released only once per year. George T. Stagg, also known as “Papa Stagg” and “Stagg Sr.,” will in fact not be released in 2021 at all, after the distillery confirmed a few months ago that the long-gestating 2021 batch simply didn’t live up to the company’s high standards.
In other words, the Stagg Jr. name was simply a tongue-in-cheek way for the distillery to acknowledge that bottles of Stagg Jr. were “merely” 8-9 years old, rather than the extra mature 15-19 years that is common with George T. Stagg. Notably, Stagg Jr. is still presented at Buffalo Trace’s particularly high barrel proof, which has meant strengths that usually fall around 65% ABV (130 proof).
As originally designed, Stagg Jr. was also clearly meant as a way for BT to offer its consumers a very high value bottle—with MSRP set between $50-60, it was a well-aged, barrel proof expression. On paper, that makes Stagg Jr. a wonderful value, and a worthy competitor to brands such as Heaven Hill’s Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, trading a bit of maturation time for an even more friendly price point.
In practice, however, Stagg Jr. mania flared to life in the last half decade, following the mania for all Buffalo Trace products as bourbon neophytes flocked to the brand and hype quickly built to a critical mass. Just as the W.L. Weller line of formerly accessible, value-priced wheated bourbons became next-to-impossible to find after being labeled by bourbon bros as “poor man’s Pappy,” Stagg Jr. was quickly seen as the next best thing to more expensive BT bourbons, and secondary market pricing turned a $50-60 bottle into a $250-300 one. Package stores, sensing an opportunity to greatly inflate their profit margins, then started charging nearly as much as secondary prices for Stagg Jr., in a phenomenon of package store price gouging we’ve covered in depth. Today, the brand is rarely seen in the wild, and any bottles available for MSRP are typically snapped up by traders eager to flip it for other expensive bourbon or sell it themselves for a 400% markup.
And so, it’s perfectly fitting that BT would drop the “Jr.” from the name of a brand that is no longer treated like the “little kid” variant of anything. If anything, they may be imagining that the move will only increase the fervor for what will now just be known as “Stagg,” particularly in a year without an actual George T. Stagg release. Lord only knows how much higher the secondary prices on these particular bottles might soar. Bourbon geeks in online forums are already stating their intentions to hoard the brand with renewed fervor, even going out of their way to seek older Stagg Jr. bottles, which they reason might be worth even more in the future as a remnant of the previous “Jr.” era. Take a look around the bourbon bro trade market, and you’ll see plenty of avarice in action.
Regardless, here’s the list of previous Stagg Jr.—now just “Stagg”—batches that have been released to date.
Batch 17: Fall, 2021 128.7 proof
Batch 16: Summer, 2021 – 130.9 proof
Batch 15: Winter, 2020 – 131.1 proof
Batch 14: Spring, 2020 – 130.2 proof
Batch 13: Fall, 2019 – 128.4 proof
Batch 12: Summer, 2019 – 132.3 proof
Batch 11: Winter, 2018 – 127.9 Proof
Batch 10: Spring, 2018 – 126.4 Proof
Batch 9: Fall, 2017 – 131.9 Proof
Batch 8: Spring, 2017 – 129.5 Proof
Batch 7: Fall, 2016 – 130.0 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