By Father John Rayls
You would have to have been living in a cave somewhere in (theoretically) liquor-free Afghanistan to be unaware of Buffalo Trace Distillery and its accomplishments over the last 15 years. Based out of Frankfort, Kentucky, this distillery either makes on contract or owns many of the most coveted American whiskeys, and has accordingly collected more than 300 awards and won 17 distillery titles since 2000.
Eagle Rare 17 Year Old is an example of its superb creations. One of the members of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, this is a straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey bottled at 90 proof (45% abv). The 2015 edition is especially notable, because it draws on a brand new source of stock than what was used in previous years, aged on the first, second and third floors of Warehouses Q and I.
I agree with the managing editor of The Whiskey Reviewer, Richard Thomas, when he said,”Compared to the other offerings in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, I have always found it the light and easy bourbon of the lot.” That isn’t a bad thing. It just helps set a proper expectation for the tasting experience.
The appearance of the Eagle Rare 17 Year Old is burnt gold. It has very long legs and appears to have a thicker viscosity in the glass than what I actually experienced in the mouth.
The nose leans more to the subtle side with notes of caramel, leather and almonds. At 90 proof, there isn’t much alcohol burn as you sample the aromas. The taste comes up much bigger than the scent would suggest. It is slightly oily and gives a wonderful feel on the tongue.
I am stopping short of saying this is a big bodied bourbon or even saying it is a full flavored whiskey. It is flavorful, but it is a softer version of truly big bodied and full-flavored. It is a little spicy, with almost all of the action at the back of the mouth.
The bourbon has a very long finish, of the kind which is always enjoyable. It comes across as a some what dry whiskey with hints of leather, vanilla and even some faint tobacco.
Many reviewers have used the word “delicate” to describe past versions of this bourbon. I couldn’t agree more with that choice of word. Delicate is necessarily want I go for in my bourbon experience, not frequently at least, but this one still earns a high mark.
Trying to establish a price range on Eagle Rare 17 Year Old bourbons proved to be a real roller coaster ride. The lowest price online that I found was $55.00 here in the states, but Wine Searcher lists the average market rate as just under $400. The recommended retail price is $80, but only a lucky few pay that.