Eagle Rare 17 year old – 2011 Release
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.
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.