Eagle Rare bourbon and the holidays certainly go together. Hell, if we had to pick one bottle to pair with a big feast, it’d probably be one of the bottles below. Besides that, Eagle Rare is also one of the most sought-after bourbons in the world. So, we’re going to rank their three expressions today.
Brass tacks, Eagle Rare is a pretty standard bourbon made in an extraordinary place. The mash bill is a low-rye recipe that Buffalo Trace keeps to itself. They’re also not going to tell you which yeasts they use or just how they make the strong beer in their fermenters, which eventually becomes this delicious whiskey. What we do know is that Eagle Rare is aged for at least ten years at the entry-level and 20 years by the time you get to the top of the mountain with the brand.
To rank all three bottles of this iconic bourbon, we’re going on taste alone. Availability or price is not an issue below. If it were, then standard Eagle Rare would be number one every time. That’s a phenomenal whiskey that you can mix with or sip that’s also affordable and gettable. But this is about the taste of the juice in the bottle, so let’s dive in!
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3. BTAC 2021 Eagle Rare 17
Average Price: $1,390
This whiskey was produced in the spring of 2003. Since then, it lost 73 percent of its volume to the angels as it rested in warehouses C, K, M, and Q on various floors. The barrels were then vatted, proofed down, and bottled.
The nose has this matrix of dark holiday spices that layer into a Black Forest cake with the finest stewed cherries, the moistest chocolate sponge cake, and the richest cream with a touch of vanilla and dark chocolate shavings and a whisper of pink finishing salt. The palate really leans into the cherry with a bright but saucy vibe that’s spiked with nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon (and maybe a hint of ground ginger) while little firecrackers full of salted black licorice, dry cedar bark, and Cherry Coke fill in the background. The finish takes its time as the mid-palate cherry sweetness slowly dissolves into an old wooden garden box full of fresh dark potting soil bursting with fresh mint and spicy nasturtiums.
This year’s BTAC Eagle Rare was a dream. That being said, there’s a lot going on that could be off-putting (salted licorice is a lot) for some. So, we’re making taste accessibility a factor in this short ranking.
2. Eagle Rare
Average Price: $45
This might be one of the most beloved (and still accessible) bottles from Buffalo Trace. This juice is made from their very low rye mash bill. The whiskey is then matured for at least ten years in various parts of the warehouse. The final mix comes down to barrels that hit just the right notes to make them “Eagle Rare.” Finally, this one is proofed down to a fairly low 90 proof.
There’s a lot happening on the nose here, with worn leather mingling with dried orange, fresh sage, butter toffee, and cellared oak. The taste turns towards marzipan covered in dark chocolate with a touch of honey, cherry, and a sprinkling of dark spices with a clear orange basket holiday vibe. The mid-palate leans into candied nuts and cherries towards a finish that touches on that marzipan, toffee, and the cedar-y oak while ending short and cherry-sweet.
This is one of the best-made bourbons out there that you can still actually buy outside of Kentucky. This is a workhorse that shines in a cocktail (this should be your old fashioned go-to) and dominates as a great sipper on a rock or neat. That makes this a big winner when talking about taste because that’s a rare balance at any price point or style. That helps this expression edge out Eagle 17 above, but only barely.
1. Double Eagle Very Rare (2021 Release)
Average Price: $18,900
This whiskey ups the Eagle Rare game up in two ways. First, this is “double” aged, meaning that the whiskey spends 20 years mellowing in Buffalo Trace’s warehouses — or twice as long as standard Eagle Rare. That makes the barrels that go into this expression super rare. The second aspect is the decanter. The crystal decanter has two eagles, one as a stopper and one that is blown into the bottom of the bottle. It’s a striking bottle and only 199 were produced.
The nose on this gently draws you in with mellow hints of cherry liqueur, dry cedar tobacco boxes, rich vanilla pods that feel oily, and a buttercream toffee candy that’s more sticky than brittle. The nose then leans towards a woody spice matrix of cinnamon sticks soaked in cherry syrup next to a slight note of anise that’s more absinthe green than licorice dark. On the palate, a very dark cacao dust opens up our taste buds as dates soaked in floral Earl Grey create a base for a moist and very sticky toffee pudding with a small dollop of the silkiest vanilla ice cream you’ve ever had. The spices in that date-filled cake slowly rise after the sweet mid-palate veers into a soft and velvety finish that echoes with the woody spices but not the heat from them.
The very end leaves you with this dry cedar box that once held allspice berries, anise, and cinnamon but now holds a very dry leaf of cherry-choco tobacco.
There are so few of these bottles and, yes, the price is astronomical. But, goddamn, this is the nectar of the whiskey gods. I’d argue this is the best bourbon coming out of Buffalo Trace and, yes, I’m including Pappy 20 and 23 in that estimation (no disrespect intended). This is one of the softest, most distinct, and purely delicious whiskeys on the market.
If you do get a taste, make sure to dilute this with a little water. It’ll bloom into this shockingly (more) silken and robust sip of bourbon that will advance your palate to the next level.