December 18, 2018
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
Composition: Mash #1, speculated to be 75% corn, 10% rye, 15% barley
Aged: 10 years in virgin American white oak
Price: $30 (750mL) from Costco, $40+ in many markets
From the back of the bottle:
“Eagle Rare 10 year old Kentucky straight Bourbon whiskey has a sweet, oaky nose and full, complex body. Reminiscent of a fine port wine, this rare whiskey is best served neat, or over ice. Of course, feel free to drink Eagle Rare in such classic cocktails as the Manhattan or Whiskey Sour.”
Eagle Rare 10 is one of the many Buffalo Trace products made from the lower-rye Mash #1 that includes Buffalo Trace, EH Taylor Small Batch, and Stagg Jr. Unlike all the others, Eagle Rare carries a 10-year age statement, although I’ve read rumors that it could be older. In years past, Eagle Rare was a single barrel bourbon, but that changed when bottling switched from hand to machine-bottled, creating the chance that different barrels might mix.
I also must mention that like other Buffalo Trace products, Eagle Rare tends to fly off the shelves, leading to occasionally inflated prices at some stores. Can the inflated prices be justified? Let’s find out in this Eagle Rare review.
*As a side note, I also have reviewed Potomac Wine and Spirit’s Eagle Rare 10 Barrel Select, so if you like Eagle Rare, be sure to check out that review as well.
Buffalo Trace Lineup of Reviews
The first sniff reveals a light and delicate mix of sweet mashed corn, caramel, honey, vanilla, citrus, and a dark fruit I can’t quite identify, mixed-in with woody oak and minty rye. It’s has nice woody, spicy, and fruity qualities with minimal heat, attributed to the “lower” 45% alcohol. Swirling releases more charred wood, nuts, pine, mint, and rye, likely coming from the wood and not so much from the low-rye mash.
The agitated alcohol nicely accentuates the mint like the scent of a freshly opened pack of peppermint gum bursting from the wrapper. It also releases light vanilla frosting, orange and vanilla creamsicle, and the faintest hint of dark fudge and dried oranges. When the glass is empty, I smell bright mint and musty rackhouse wood. The nose is light but not lacking in character and complexity.
Moderate wood, spice, and mint immediately hit my tongue, followed by caramel and some alcohol heat. The first taste is not particularly complex, but “chewing” the second time around unveils orange, plum, more caramel, honey, and vanilla sweetness in addition to the existing wood, pine, and mint. There’s also a lightly nutty taste mixed with stewed corn. The alcohol remains reserved throughout, adding a little body to the otherwise thinner mouthfeel that’s a little rougher and unrefined than expected for a 10 year old bourbon.
Wood tannins initially linger throughout, mixed-in with vanilla, fruit, rye, and caramel. The woodiness transitions into chocolate and then light and tangy orange. “Chewing” really changes the finish. Wood and pine are still present, but a slightly stronger nuttiness appears as well as fleeting notes of coconut, fading into a lasting mint. It all makes my mouth feel a little dry. The taste is overall very pleasant and enjoyable, but not nearly as outstanding as something that flies off the shelves should be.
Eagle Rare 10 is pretty good. It’s well balanced and has essentially everything you could want in a bourbon but is a little rougher than I think it should be. The flavors could be there, but they’re held back and dulled by the lower proof that doesn’t allow it to showcase everything it has to offer. Still, it’s enjoyable and would be great as a more wallet-friendly daily sipper (assuming you can find it at MSRP).
Eagle Rare 10 for me is a small step up from Wild Turkey 101 and Maker’s Mark in flavor and complexity, but its far from being a top shelf bourbon. Even with the same mash, it’s very different than EH Taylor Small Batch and Stagg Jr. Stagg Jr. is at a completely different level, but I can definitely say that I prefer EH Taylor Small Batch to Eagle Rare. I’m happy to drink Eagle Rare and recommend it as a good place start drinking good bourbon, but I’m not going to be actively searching for it.