*Thank you very much to AP and Buffalo Trace for the samples!
The 2016 Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Bourbon, like the 2015 version before it, is actually a 17 year old whiskey. While that might seem like an obvious thing to point out given the name, previous editions of the Antique Collection’s Eagle Rare 17 Year Old were more than 17 years old. The 2012, 2013, and 2014 versions of this one were all around 19 years old and were created from whiskey distilled in 1993, though each year used separate batches that were either bottled or tanked until needed. Today though, you may rest easy knowing that the 2016 version was distilled in 1999 and bottled in 2016, making the Eagle Rare 17 Year Old…17 years old. Finally, after years of such cavalier temporal disorientation, we return to solid ground…
The Nose: Lithe and sinewy, a complex, lightly fruity nose. Baked fruit pies, cherry and rhubarb, and Valencia oranges. Lots of complex sugars, but not very sweet; orgeat, dark brown sugar, and a touch of maple syrup. Light old leather and faint tobacco along with subtle hints of vanilla-almond cake and macaroons. The oak is sturdy but not overbearing as are the spice notes, old raw boards and polished furniture, warm cinnamon and vanilla bean, a little nutmeg and dried out star anise.
The Palate: A thinnish mouthfeel that’s initially more austere and robust than the nose. Continued baked fruit is joined by more juicy citrus and orgeat syrup. Mid-palate, there’s an increased nuttiness as well, salted almonds and peanut-y toffee along with cocoa nibs, slightly burnt toast, and toasted coconut. Like the nose, the oak is present, but not too strong with grippy, sturdy tannins, vanilla bean, cinnamon, clove, and thin coffee.
The Finish: Long and contemplative, pleasantly grippy oak, warming cinnamon, vanilla bean, more toffee, with subtle notes of barrel char and coffee grounds fading at the last.
Thoughts: The Eagle Rare is always very, very good, but usually fails to send me into a full swoon. At first sniff, the nose on this had me thinking swooning was possible. There’s complex fruit and sugar without being very sweet, and oak and spice without being overly woody. It’s inviting and elegant though somewhat reserved, instead of being voluptuously rich and enveloping. The palate, though it progresses nicely from the nose, ends up seeming a bit too austere and thin comparatively. The lengthy, complex finish helps end things on a high note, but that slight dip in the palate kept me from fully swooning and liking this more than I did. That said, it’s still great bourbon, and does a wonderful job integrating and balancing 17 years in wood. Definitely Recommended.
*There were no official individual bottle shots of this years collection, so instead you get arty iPhone app images to set the mood.