*Thank you very much to AP and Buffalo Trace for the samples!
For a wee bit of background/historical info on the Eagle Rare brand, please check out my review of the 2011 release. Like many of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Eagle Rare 17 Year Old releases that came before it, the 2013 Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Bourbon is not actually 17 years old. Indeed, it is actually 19 years old. You might well ask, “why not call it ‘Eagle Rare 19 Year old’, then?” A fair question to be sure. Most likely at this point, the name itself is seen almost as a brand, and since this particular whiskey is always a single release small batch, it’s easier to keep the name the same and not change it every year depending on the distiller’s choices that make up the expression. In 2011, this one was 18 years, 7 months old, this year it’s 19 years old, next year, who knows, perhaps it will be 17 years old again and we won’t have to go through this exercise. I know it doesn’t make much sense, but relax, lots of things don’t make sense, take the United States of America for example.
In any case, the 2013 Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Bourbon was distilled in the Spring of 1993 from Buffalo Trace’s #1 (high corn) mashbill of Kentucky corn, Minnesota rye, and North Dakota malted barley. 19 years and 25 barrels later, this little beauty was born.
The Nose: A wonderful, deep, rich nose full of wood, sweetness, and spice…pretty much like you’d expect it to be, I guess. Big notes of real butterscotch, toasted sweet corn, and vanilla extract loom large with slightly lesser notes of Vietnamese cinnamon and old, dark, polished oak following behind. The wood is everywhere on the nose, but it’s nicely integrated. There are subtler tones of maple syrup, tobacco leaf, dried orange peel, and candied almonds with even quieter hints of the brulee’d top of a banana cream pie and toasted coconut.
The Palate: More butterscotch and candied nuts initially with a bit of root beer and a little orange citrus zing. The cinnamon steals in quickly and shows up as both red hots and cinnamon stick. Quite a bit of wood influence here, perhaps a little less well-integrated than the nose, but still appealing. Lots of tannic, rough, dry oak, white pepper, and clove. A bit of barrel char and charred corn are evident towards the end.
The Finish: Long, dry, and warming, full of vanilla bean, scraped leather, popcorn, barrel char, and just a touch of drying tobacco leaf.
Thoughts: Impressive stuff to be sure. This is a bigger Eagle Rare than I remember the only other 17yo Eagle Rare I’ve tried, the 2011. The gorgeous nose is tough to put down, such lush sweetness tempered with complex mix of oak, tobacco and spice. The palate, while somewhat lighter, lives up to the nose a little better than the earlier incarnation I’ve tried, though in doing so, it definitely comes off as a very woody whiskey. The wood is integrated fairly well, but it does start to dominate there towards the end. But really, we’re quibbling…this is a beautiful older bourbon, well worth a look. Definitely Recommended.