I try to always have a bottle of Stagg Jr. Bourbon in the house. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to find, so the only reliable way to keep it in stock is not to drink very much of it. So is it worth "wasting" on a cocktail? Let's find out.
Note: I have decided not to go deep into the history and specifications of the whiskies I review. All of that information is readily available on the rest of the Internet.
I will, however include any personal anecdotes I might have. In the case of Stagg Jr. I don't really have a story, I just like it enough to buy it whenever I find it.
I wanted to try a Stagg Jr. Boulevardier because I hoped that the dark fruity profile of the bourbon would go well with the bright fruity Campari. The chosen bottom shelf competitor is Evan Williams Bonded. A bit of simple math told me something surprising: A 2:1:1 ratio Boulevardier made with Evan Williams Bonded (50% abv.) comes out at about 29.583% abv. (assuming about 20% dilution.) A 1:1:1 Boulevardier made with Stagg Jr. at 64.75% (at least, the particular batch I have on hand) is 29.653%. I'll be honest with you, my palate is not sensitive enough to pick up that extra 0.07%, so let's call them equal.
After proudly demonstrating my geekery to my accomplice for this tasting, I let him mix the cocktails, while I staged a quick photo shoot with the cat.
- 2 oz Evan Williams Bonded OR 1 oz Stagg Jr.
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth (home made)
Evan Williams Bonded Boulevardier
- Nose: Sweet and bitter, a bit of orange from the Campari wafts through.
- Palate: I love this cocktail, but the bourbon is not really making itself known.
- Finish: The Campari really dominates the finish.
Stagg Jr. Boulevardier
- Nose: Only just noticeably different. A little more subdued.
- Palate: Less bitter, more woody. The Stagg Jr. seems to calm the Campari a bit. All three ingredients seem better integrated.
- Finish: Long woody finish, less of the sharp bitterness of the other drink. Sweetness and oak flavors both ramp up as the cocktail begins to warm.
I was surprised by this. I was expecting more of a punch in the face from the Stagg Jr. (Of course, I did compensate for the ridiculously high proof by using less of it, but still.) What I got instead was a cocktail that was not radically different, but undeniably better. The Stagg Jr. acted like salt, pulling the best out of the other ingredients in a way that the EW Bonded, as great as it is, could not.
Stagg Jr. Bourbon makes a better Boulevardier.
And a successful cocktail experiment earns the blog a bonus cat photo