*Thank you very much to AP and Buffalo Trace for the samples!
The Eagle Rare brand was originally owned by Seagram’s and made its first appearance in 1975. It was created by Charles L. Beam and was sold as a 10 year old, 101 proof straight bourbon. Sazerac bought the brand in 1989 and in 2005, discontinued the 101 proof 10 year old, leaving the 90 proof, 10 year old single barrel and this one, the Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Bourbon, which is part of Buffalo Traces’ Antique Collection.
It may surprise you to learn that this edition of the Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Bourbon is actually 18 years and 7 months old. There are two possible explanations for this: 1) Buffalo Trace has figured out a way, perhaps via some kind of time portal in warehouse I or K, to shorten the length of a day by 8.5% thereby increasing the maturation time, or probably more likely, 2) it is up to the distiller to choose the best selection of barrels and though this expression will always be at least 17 years old, it will often be older due to the distillers discretion. The 2011 version was distilled in Spring of 1993 and was bottled from a selection of 24 barrels. It will sadden you to learn that nearly 53% of the original spirit was lost to evaporation. Those damn angels are a greedy and thirsty bunch.
The Nose: A warm, rich, fairly stirring nose full of sweet creamed corn, maraschino cherries, butterscotch, French vanilla ice cream and a bit of maple syrup over banana pancakes…yeah, I said it. There’s certainly a lot of wood present here as you might expect but it’s very well-integrated, it just lends a crisp slightly earthy, almost cedar-y edge to aforementioned sweeter notes. There’s also a nice, welcome, subtle copper penny tinge that hovers in the background over everything.
The Palate: A thinner than expected entry has more rye bite than the nose would lead you to believe. That rye, along with corn oil and Bing cherry notes is steadily subsumed by a wallop of wood and spice that is neither bullying or overwhelming, but quite insistent and bold. Tannic and peppery, without much sweetness, there’s bitter citrus pith, clove and cinnamon, but they play second fiddle to the cut-wood earthiness that grows towards the finish.
The Finish: A nice swell of that vanilla-tinged cut wood from the palate with subtle hints of leather, barrel char, and burnt popcorn.
Thoughts: I was initially very taken with the nose which balances those rich, sweeter notes against the greener wood notes really well. The palate didn’t quite live up to the nose’s rich, sweet promise, choosing instead to act a little rougher and leaner. This is an excellent, delicious, extremely drinkable older bourbon, the long years in wood are well-balanced and well-integrated throughout but for me, there’s just something lacking in the palate that keeps it from being truly fantastic. Definitely worth a try, though.