Eagle Rare is one of the many great offerings from buffalo trace distillery. Buffalo trace happens to be my favorite distillery so I have been looking forward to this write up. Eagle rare is a ten-year-old bourbon from Mash bill #1. For those of you unfamiliar with buffalo trace they have two basic mash bills that most of their products originate from. Mash bill #1 is Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Colonel E.H. Taylor, George T. Stagg, as well as a few others. Mash bill #2 is the source of Blanton’s, Elmer T. Lee, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock’s Reserve and a couple others. Of course Buffalo Trace has other mash bills like the wheated and high rye, but these are the main two. Today we are going to focus on Eagle Rare.
Some people call Eagle Rare a single barrel but technically this is not true. A couple years ago it was but since then they have automated their bottling line which means there is residual whiskey in the lines that fill the bottles so a trace amount of each barrel gets transferred from bottle to bottle. In my book it’s close enough for me but still technically disqualifies it from labeling it as a true single barrel. However there are single barrel store picks, in case you are unfamiliar with store picks I’ll explain. A store pick is when a retailer sends a representative to the distillery to taste multiple barrels of the same bourbon in order to purchase an entire barrel to be bottled and then sold at that store exclusively.
I was lucky enough to acquire a standard offering of Eagle Rare as well as a Store pick from barrel #5 chosen by Jackson’s wine & spirits in the San Francisco bay area. In my experience store picks are usually a step above and today I am going to compare the two. First let’s start with the standard offering, for reference this particular bottle was filled in the end of 2016. First thing I notice is the rich dark color, unusual for a 90 proof whiskey but not so unusual for something that was barreled for a minimum of 10 years. Next of course is the nose: the first thing that comes through is the scent of alcohol, which is honestly stronger than I remembered. Once it opens up a little that passes in order for a warm cinnamon sugar aroma to rise up. The palette is very similar to the nose only backwards, first I get the cinnamon sugar sweetness and then I get the bite from the alcohol. Finally the finish is what I would call medium, not as long as it’s barrel proof brothers but longer than I felt it should be for a 10 year old 90 proof whiskey. It starts with butterscotch and then as you swallow it turns into pepper and spice.
Now on to my Jackson’s store pick to see if there truly is a difference. The color is very similar, someone with more training might be able to detect a slightly different hue but in my book I am going to say they are the same in appearance. This is not the case with the nose however; I notice a difference right away. The store pick has less astringency from the alcohol and the aromas come through more intensely. I get way more of the cinnamon sugar and less of the alcohol itself. The next logical step, you guessed it, is to taste it. Wow, there is a noticeable difference here as well, the flavor is much smoother and sweeter up front. I wonder if the store pick is older than the standard 10 years. The refinement is the same here; the flavors have not changed they are just more powerful and more impactful. Finally the finish is shorter than the standard bottle with less of a burn while it leaves my mouth feeling slightly oilier as it did previously on the standard offering.
I would say the mouth feel is the biggest difference I notice, the store pick seems to coat your entire mouth while the standard offering feels slightly thin by comparison. All in all I like Eagle rare but I love the Jackson’s store pick of Eagle Rare. The flavors do not change but in essence they become more intense with the exception of the alcohol which fades away making the experience all the more enjoyable. I have heard of people collecting store picks for a certain bottle and after this tasting I think I shall keep a stern eye out for other Eagle Rare store picks.
Eagle Rare: Jackson’s Eagle Rare:
Nose: 85 Nose: 91
Palatte: 82 Palette: 87
Finish: 84 Finish: 88