By Father John Rayls
Sazerac, owner of Buffalo Trace Distillery, has released its annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, an annual and very limited Fall release event. This collection consists of five expressions, and most of the bottles disappear quickly, with the rest commanding high prices on the secondary (and often illicit) whiskey market. I’m starting for The Whiskey Reviewer’s 2nd Annual BTAC Week with this look at this year’s Eagle Rare 17 Year Old.
This particular version of their Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Bourbon was barreled in 1999 in new white oak with a #4 “alligator” char level at 125 proof. The mash was made from Kentucky corn, Minnesota rye and North Dakota Distillers malted barley. It spent the next 17 years patiently aging in warehouses H and K on the first, second and third floors. Thirty two barrels were chosen by taste, the whiskey was chill filtered, and then cut to 90 proof. A whopping 66%+ was lost to angels’ share before Spring 2016 bottling.
The appearance of this Buffalo Trace bourbon is amber with brass highlights. The legs are very long and slightly deceiving. It appears to lean towards a syrupy viscosity, but it is only slightly so on the palate.
It is very inviting on the nose. It is not aggressive, but readily available with aromas of leather, candied fruit, oak and vanilla. There is a slight alcohol burn on the nose as well.
The taste profile is a little more aggressive than the nose and more aggressive than previous years. However, the flavors match well with the perceived aromas. Flavors of leather, oak, vanilla with just a hint of tobacco and toffee are easily detected early on. The unusual part of this bourbon experience is that most of the flavor action is from the front to mid-mouth area. The finish is long in repeated multiple waves of activity from front to back until it settles in mid-mouth for a prolonged experience.
The suggested retail for Eagle Rare 17 Year Old is in the $90.00 range.
However, and this is a big “however”, there are several factors that make it very difficult to find this Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey at the suggested retail pricing. It’s released in very limited amounts annually, has a big reputation, and it has spent almost two decades locked away from the sun. Mark-ups average in the $500 range.