I kicked off my celebration of Bourbon Heritage Month a few weeks ago by reviewing one of Buffalo Trace’s popular brands of bourbon, Elmer T. Lee. Today I’m taking a look at another popular Buffalo Trace brand—Eagle Rare.
The Eagle Rare brand originated in the 1970s, when it was introduced by Seagram’s (who were the largest spirits company in the world at the time). It eventually came to be owned by the Sazerac Company, owners of Buffalo Trace. Eagle Rare has gone through a few different versions as a Kentucky Straight Bourbon since its introduction, starting out as 10 year old, 101 proof bourbon, eventually becoming a 10 year old, 90 proof, single barrel bourbon, and now its current form as a 10 year old, small batch* bourbon, still at 90 proof. In addition to the 10 year old, which is readily available in most fine wine and spirit shops, a 17 year old is also available as part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (which has an extremely limited annual production and is very difficult to obtain).
*Note: The term “small batch” has no legal definition or agreed upon industry standard when it comes to whiskey—it is basically just marketing gibberish.
Although the regular bottling of Eagle Rare 10 is now a “small batch” bourbon, Eagle Rare 10 is also available in single barrel form as part of Buffalo Trace’s store select program (where a store purchases and sells an individual barrel of bourbon). This particular bottle of Eagle Rare is a store select single barrel bottled for Craft Brewed in Nashville, TN. I visit Craft Brewed regularly, and I always try their store select bourbons when they get them (they usually have at least one store select single barrel of something good). I recently sampled their Eagle Rare and was impressed enough that I left with a bottle. Let’s see how it tastes!
Eagle Rare 10 (Single Barrel Select) Review
Freshly baked carrot cake with vanilla icing, just out of the oven. Brown sugar and gentle baking spices, nutmeg in particular. Warm apple cider. Dark roasted coffee beans. Sweet oak. Butterscotch. Roasted nuts. Freshly cut wood.
The carrot cake on the nose manifests as brown sugar, roasted almonds, marzipan, walnut oil, vanilla, and allspice on the palate. Fruits begin to emerge, in particular apricot and cherry, as well as apple cider. There’s also plenty of espresso and dark chocolate, along with hints of anise/black licorice. The mouthfeel is fairly full and viscous, surprisingly so for a 90 proof bourbon.
Fairly long, although somewhat subdued. Much of the palate carries over to the finish. Plenty of brown sugar. Espresso and bitter chocolate. Apple cider. Caramel. Black licorice becomes more prominent and by the end is pretty much all that’s left.
The carrot cake on the nose is wonderful—it’s like sticking your face in a warm cake that’s fresh out of the oven. The palate deconstructs the carrot cake, with tons of brown sugar and baking spices. Apple cider is subtly present from the nose through to the finish, as are the coffee notes. By the end, a lasting black licorice emerges and takes over.
I always prefer higher proof bourbons, and I often snub my nose at any bourbon bottled under 100 proof. But this particular bottle of Eagle Rare has a big enough flavor profile and a full enough mouthfeel to overcome its lack of ABV.
The only real weak spot is the finish, and it’s not really much of a weakness. It’s a little underpowered, but still fairly long and enjoyable (I like black licorice though—if you don’t, you might not care so much for the finish). Eagle Rare is not typically an extremely complex bourbon, but it does a good job of showing off what bourbon is all about—vanilla, brown sugar, and caramel, with a few surprises along the way. And this particular bottle is far from simplistic, as the brown sugar and spice, fruits, espresso, and anise all play nicely together. All around, this is very good whiskey.
As a single barrel, Eagle Rare 10 has often had the reputation of inconsistency from bottle to bottle—some bottles are good, others lacking. Having had a number of Eagle Rare single barrel bottles over the years, I can attest to this. I’ve had some good experiences, and some mediocre ones. But this particular bottle… this is the best Eagle Rare I’ve had.
As I mentioned in the intro, I recently reviewed a bottle of another Buffalo Trace single barrel product, Elmer T. Lee. I gave that one a score of 84/100. If you had told me a year or two ago that I would rate Eagle Rare higher than Elmer, I would have said you’re crazy, Elmer is way better than Eagle Rare. But here we are—I like this bottle of Eagle Rare better than recent bottles of Elmer. By a lot. This is a damn tasty bourbon.
That said, I would recommend caution when buying a store select Eagle Rare. Most stores carrying their own barrel will let you try a sample before purchasing. Be sure to do so.
Buy Again? Yes, but try a sample first.
Questions about my scoring system? Refer to the Review Method & Scoring Scale page.
For more reviews, check out the Whisky Review Archive.