Barrel Proof Showdown – Round 1

A multi-part series of barrel proof bourbons.  Because how many can you really try at one time?

First up, offerings from Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam and Heaven Hill.  All will be sampled just as they leave the bottle – without any water or ice intervention.


Stagg Jr. (NAS) (129.7 proof)

Nose:  Tough to read due to the very high alcohol content; wood, dark caramel, chocolate and vanilla; opens up with some time in glass to reveal some dried dark fruit.

Palate: High alcohol burn but little spice; raisins, caramel, bitter chocolate and some orange citrus.

Finish:  Finally some spice, more heat and some lingering Buffalo Trace brown sugar and chocolate sweetness; medium length.

Overall:  Possibly a bit young.  The wonderful Buffalo Trace sweetness is significantly muted by the high alcohol burn.  A bit hot for me and lacks some complexity; this leans significantly “sweet.”


Booker’s 2016 – “Toogie’s Invitation” (6 Yrs 4 Mo 4 Days; Batch No. 2016-03) (129.0 proof)

Nose:  Vanilla and a honey sweetness; caramel, oak and soft fruit.

Palate:  Hot and spicy; nutty; rich caramel and butterscotch; syrupy and coating.

Finish:  Vanilla and light oak; lingering fruit jam and peanut.

Overall: The Jim Beam nuttiness comes through compared to the others; balanced sweetness and complex.


Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (12 year) (139.4)

Nose:  Surprisingly easy to nose; maple, oak, and light fruit.

Palate:  Oak and caramel fading to spice and fruit.

Finish:  A slow progression from the beginning of the palate through the final finish; very long and warming; great spice, some peanut and lingering fruit; transitions from spice to fruit to slightly bitter chocolate.

Overall:  Incredibly long and transforming.  Great body and mouthfeel.  Feels older and more impacted by oak and time than the others.

Conclusions:  Simply the rankings.

Nose Rank:  Elijah Craig, Bookers, Stagg Jr.

Palate Rank:  Bookers, Elijah Craig, Stagg Jr.

Finish:  Elijah Craig, Bookers, Stagg Jr.

Overall:  Elijah Craig, Bookers, Stagg Jr.

Scott Hill
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.

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