Friday, February 12, 2010

Bourbon of the Month - February 2010

You heard about my Bourbon of the Year for 2009 back in January, so I thought I'd continue the series and deliver my Bourbon of the Month each month.

This month I'm highlighting one of my favorite every day* bourbons - Eagle Rare.  Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is bottled from a single charred oak barrel and not blended with other barrels.  This creates a unique flavor for each barrel from which bottles are filled and then marked with their barrel number and the dates in which they were aged (in many cases though not all).  

Eagle Rare was first introduced by Seagrams in 1975 as a 101-proof bourbon before it was sold to the Sazerac Company in 1989, eventually ending up at the Buffalo Trace Distillery (what I also call Bourbon "Mecca") where it is produced today in two varieties.  The first variety is aged for 10 years and bottled at 90 proof.  This is the one you can find at many liquor stores and sitting on many bar shelves across the country.  The bourbon has a nose that begins with a grainy note to it and then quickly transforms into bourbon notes of charcoal and hints of banana.  The palate starts toasty and oak-y, then explodes with flavors of dried fruit, char, and spice.  The finish is a pleasant alcohol burn sweet with caramel undertones.  This is likely the sweetness of the corn shining through.  It's a surprisingly smooth finish to what begins as a spicy explosion on the palate.  This isn't a sissy-boy bourbon but it's no ass kicker either.  I like to sip it neat or with a single ice cube but I also will occasionally have one on the rocks as the flavors are strong enough to put up with a little watering down.  Eagle Rare 10 year is a phenomenal value bourbon that I've found anywhere between $25 and $30 per 750ml bottle.

The second variety of Eagle Rare is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and is bottled at the same 90 proof as the 10 year variety.  The difference is that this bourbon is aged for 17 years.  The extra 7 years in the barrel really allows the contents to pick up more of the flavor from the charred oak and results in a much darker amber color to the bourbon rather than the lighter honey color of the 10 year variety.**  The nose of the 17 year variety of Eagle Rare starts dry with that familiar note of grain and then opens up a bit, revealing leather, char, caramel, and spice.  The palate begins the same way - slightly dry before giving way to an explosion of dried fruit, almond, char, leather, and caramel.  The finish has a bit more pep than the 10 year variety but remains smooth with a nice warming feel from the alcohol as it heads down the throat.  I enjoy this bourbon neat.  It's flavors are more delicate and I find ice to have too much of a dulling effect on the taste.  Eagle Rare 17 year is an very impressive bourbon that I like to save for special occasions.  This is largely due to its price being anywhere from $65 to $70 per 750ml bottle due to limited production and the length of the aging process.  The 2008 version, for example, used 62 hand selected 53 liquid gallon barrels that yielded just over 17 gallons per barrel of bourbon after the aging process was completed.  This results in an availability of about 5400 bottles, that's it folks.  I was lucky enough to score a bottle this past fall at Total Wine & Spirits and that bottle still sits about half full on my bar today along with a bottle of the 10 year.

For the casual bourbon drinker, I definitely recommend giving Eagle Rare 10 year a shot next time you have the chance.  I know many bars in Miami are carrying it and, in fact, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink just made it their house bourbon.  Great move.  The more advanced bourbon drinker should keep an eye on the bourbon section of your favorite spirits store come fall to make sure you don't miss out on the 2010 variety of Eagle Rare 17 year bourbon.  That or see if you can buy online but be wary of pricing as online prices can and usually will be inflated. 

 * An every day bourbon is a bourbon that's price, flavor, and alcohol content are manageable enough that one could drink a glass every day
**the pics I'm displaying don't seem to showcase much of a difference in color most likely because I think they are trade renderings that I got from the Buffalo Trace website not actual product pics

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