By Richard Thomas
The Eagle Rare 17 Year Old is a blend of bourbons, minimum age 17 (reportedly closer to 19 years old this time around), drawn from the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th floors of Buffalo Trace’s warehouses I and K. Some people think it a hoary creation, but compared to the other offerings in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection I have always found it the light and easy bourbon of the lot. The reason for that is as simple as it is objective: Eagle Rare 17 Year Old is bottled at 90 proof (45% abv), one of two Antique Collection whiskeys that aren’t cask strength, with the other being a rye.
Frankly, while I think of Eagle Rare 17 Year Old as a fine bourbon, I also usually think of it as the least of the Antique Collection expressions. In keeping with its reasonable alcohol content, the bourbon has a bright, middlingly amber coloring that positively scintillates when you give it the swish.
Taking in the scent, I found deep vanilla, with thick notes of corn and orange zest for sweetness, making the whole affair something like an upscale experiment in ice cream. Or it would be were it not for the dash, small but noticeable, of barrel char.
The flavor turns things upside down. First, it reverts to form by going from the somewhat creamy nose to the lighter mouthfeel I expect from Eagle Rare 17 Year Old. Also, the rye spice and barrel char are on top, the latter taking on a toasty, woody dry aspect. As opposed to being a bit fruity, this year’s is a bit earthy and chocolatey. The finish is light and a little spicy, and wraps things up speedily.
Compared to past installments, I think the flavor profile of this year’s Eagle Rare 17 Year Old has shifted a few degrees. It’s noticeably drier, and a little more like the hoary thing some people think it is supposed to be. For that reason, I like it a full notch more than past renditions too.
Like all of this year’s Antique Collection, Eagle Rare 17 Year Old has a recommended price of $80. Given the way so many vendors mark these things up, however, don’t be surprised if you pay more.