Eagle Rare 17 year old – 2011 Release

Opened: January 5, 2012
90 proof (45% ABV)
Price: $74.99
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 17 years old
Producer-distiller: Buffalo Trace
Tasting Date: February 20, 2012

Color in glencairn glass: Uniform copper orange.

Nose: Sweet corn, wood varnish, vanilla orange rind.

Taste: The entry is more bitter than sweet. A fair amount of wood comes through on the palate, with semi-tart orange candy. The finish brings dusty leather, caramelized fruit sugar and clove spice.

This bourbon comes off as highly polished on the outside with earthy saddle-bag leather notes underneath. It sustains a nice spice for only being 90 proof, and it finishes strong. The entry is rather harmless, the palate shows an almost droopy age lifted by citrus candy notes, and the finish exceeds all other aspect of the whiskey with well-balanced wood, leather and syrup, extended by warming spices.

Value: $62/$75

As part of the annually released Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC), Eagle Rare 17 (ER17) is a bit of an outlier. Unlike the chill-filtered, 90 proof ER17, the other bourbons in the collection (George T. Stagg and William Larue Weller) are each unfiltered and barrel proof. Rounding out the BTAC are the unfiltered, barrel proof Thomas H. Handy Rye and the Sazerac 18 year old Rye, the only other offering that is both chill-filtered and cut to 90 proof.

When considering the value of a whiskey, it’s important to keep in mind that a barrel proof offering will typically offer up more tastes for its price. This is simply because most barrel proof whiskies improve with water, and the volume drank will increase when you add water. For instance, using this calculator, we see that in order to dilute the cask strength 2011 William Larue Weller from its bottling proof of 133.5 to the same 90 proof of the ER17, we would have to add 362.5 ml to a 750 ml bottle, upping the total volume to over a liter.

More, of course, does not mean better. The ER17 gets short shrift in comparison to the other four members of the BTAC. I think it’s a very polished, well-aged whiskey that should be evaluated on its own merits.

~ by WhiskeyWonka on March 4, 2012.

4 Responses to “Eagle Rare 17 year old – 2011 Release”

  1. I have a bottle of this at home and I enjoy it quite a bit. I recently had the 10 year, which I had not had in a great while, and did not care for it. I know it doesn’t get as much acclaim as any of the other BTAC releases, although I think every critic rates all of them over 90 points, it is still a solid choice you can’t go wrong in making.

    • Thanks Allen, I agree. I was a big fan of the 10-year old single barrel in 2009, but the quality has declined more recently. Binny’s in particular chose some great barrels in the past. I had an opportunity to speak to one of the guys at Binny’s involved in picking whiskey barrels and he agreed that they haven’t been as happy with what they’ve had to choose from.

      My theory is that all the best barrels of the 9-11 year old Eagle Rare recipe are going into the new line of Colonel E.H. Taylor that Buffalo Trace has been putting out. Incidentally, I really enjoyed the first run, the Sour Mash but have been pretty disappointed with the second release, the Single Barrel. I’ve heard great things about the current version, the Tornado Surviving batch, but I have yet to make a real comparison.

  2. This was the second BTAC I have had, with the first being a 2010 George T. Stagg. The Stagg was fantastic but I never felt like I could get the ABV right. I felt like every time I added any water it would become “watered down,” which is ridiculous. So psychosomatic or not, I stopped lowering the proof and stopped filling my glass so high. High on my want list is the Sazerac 18 year reviewed above.

    • I enjoy the Stagg much more with some water, but I agree it can lose some panache with too much of it. I have a small eye dropper bottle I keep filled with distilled water for when I’m drinking a cask strength whiskey that I feel needs some help. I basically just add a few drops at a time until I find the sweet spot. I like swirling the glass around, watching the water bring out the oils in the whiskey. Also, I find the longer the whiskey and water have to meld, the better the result.

      By the way, I do intend to do a write up comparing the 2010 and the 2011 Stagg, so stay tuned!

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