Buffalo Trace Bourbon is, for many drinkers, their favorite pour. Eagle Rare, the next step up from Buffalo Trace's namesake bourbon, is a ten-year expression of the flagship brand.
Rare Eagle Rare
I was enjoying a "patio pour" with a friend who knew that I had recently swung by the Frankfort, Kentucky-based distillery. "You need to grab me a bottle of that [Eagle Rare] wherever and whenever you see it." While Wild Turkey is able to keep a steady supply of Russell's Reserve, Buffalo Trace continues to struggle meeting demand with Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare.
Just a couple of years ago, these brands were almost always on the shelf. Recently, though, I find I'm grabbing a bottle whenever I see it. Eagle Rare used to be, well, a little less rare. Now, however, I don't see it very often, and when I do, it's often significantly in excess of MSRP.
Owned by Sazerac Company, Buffalo Trace is one of the largest privately-held distillers in the country. You can still find buildings onsite that date back to its origins and carry the Old Fire Copper name of the O.F.C Distillery. Operations continued through Prohibition by producing medicinal alcohol for, then, parent Schenley Distillers Corporation. With names like Taylor, Stagg, Blanton and Lee, this historic distillery was purchased by Sazerac in 1992.
Buffalo Trace utilizes two main traditional bourbon mash bills, appropriately named Mash Bill #1 and Mash Bill #2. Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare share Mash Bill #1 - a low-rye mix, comprising corn, malted barley, and 10% or less rye (Buffalo Trace is mum on the exact ratio). Other bourbons utilizing this mash bill include the Benchmark, Stagg and E.H. Taylor brands.
Mash Bill #2 is a higher-rye mix, comprising corn, malted barley, and 12-15% rye. This ratio is used by the single-barrel lineup, including Blanton's, Rock Hill Farms, and Hancock's President's Reserve. There is also a third wheated mash bill used for the coveted Weller and Pappy VanWinkle products.
Eagle Rare carries a 10-year age statement on the back of the bottle. It is bottled at 90-proof and from the label, we're told to expect a sweet, oaky nose and a full, complex body.
Eye: Medium copper. Thin legs drip down the sides of the Glencarin glass.
Nose: Notes of citrus fruit, leather, oak, and honey. It's not overly complex, but definitely distinguishable.
Palate: Initial notes of vanilla and caramel are followed by leather and dried oak. There is a subtle balance between the dry oak and sweet toffee notes.
Finish: Medium with honey, leather, and well-aged oak.
Overall: Eagle Rare is a solid pour .... when it’s at a point near or a little above its MSRP. The notes aren't incredibly complex, but what's there is delightful, balanced, and works together very well. I used to find this regularly at $29.99 at a local grocery store - nearly always in stock. Now, if I see it, it's often $39.99 (not bad) or bid-up to the $60-$70 level (which starts to flirt with outrageous). At that point, I have a hard time justifying the price - especially when there is the readily available and flavorful Russell's Reserve 10-Year at a mid-$30 price point.