They say the Internet is 99% porn. The other 1% is Eagle Rare reviews. This bourbon is granted a great deal of attention because, among reasonably priced bottles in stock at almost any U.S. liquor store, this one’s as good as you’ll find. Its list of awards is gaudy (and well deserved), but the bourbon really isn’t. It’s just damn good. It’s not exotic or surprising—it’s simply what you want from a fine Kentucky bourbon.
Eagle Rare is distilled, aged, and bottled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery (owned by Sazerac) in Frankfort, Kentucky. The mashbill is intentionally mysterious, but anecdotal accounts suggest it’s from Buffalo Trace’s unofficial “Mashbill #1,” a low-rye mash common to Benchmark, Stagg, and Buffalo Trace. If that’s true, then Eagle Rare is essentially a judiciously selected and extra-aged version of Buffalo Trace bourbon packaged in a wine bottle. No complaints here.
Vital Stats: 90 proof. Aged ten years. Around $30.
Appearance: Glowing amber, almost mahogany. It’s gorgeous.
Nose: Mild oak and char, then cordial cherries (the kind your great aunt likes). A faint whiff of orange and acetone.
Palate: Woody, subtly sweet, and oily. The most impressive aspect is the integration and balance of flavors, such that no single flavor really stands out, for better or worse. Despite the lack of rye spiciness, the sweetness isn’t bright—it’s more of a rummy, molasses flavor. Hints of raisin and toast. Neither ice nor water provide any surprises, so take it neat.
Finish: Some would describe the finish as short or weak, but there’s value in a clean, brief finish that tingles every part of the mouth and then vanishes without any lingering off-notes. It feels polite and tidy, like a delightful house guest who knows when to depart and does so without leaving a mess.
My first experience with Eagle Rare was love at first sip. It couldn’t be more balanced, more well-integrated, more perfectly engineered to be a go-to bourbon for every palate. My enthusiasm has gently waned, perhaps because it’s a rather subtle dram that can seem mundane over time. Or perhaps the droves of web commenters are correct that the quality is inconsistent or slowly degrading over time. But it’s still fair to say that it’s a nearly flawless all-purpose bourbon that’s easily accessible and always a bargain. Thirty bucks for a lovely bourbon aged for 10 years? Please and thank you.
Ultimately, Eagle Rare doesn’t knock my socks off like it once did, but it’s still an excellent choice, especially for the price. It’s a bit like a Honda Accord: it’s not fancy or exclusive or especially stunning, but try finding an unsatisfied owner.
FINAL SCORE: 88/100 [SHOP FOR A BOTTLE OF EAGLE RARE]
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Mark is a poet, writer, editor, and cheese monger. He’s also a real trip on karaoke nights. After leaving a career as an English professor, he started a small business at ParagraphDoctor.com and moved to Portland. Now he’s all about birds, bourbon, and breweries. His ridiculous birding blog can be...