Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Sazerac Company
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Release Date: October 2023
Age: 19 Years, 3 Months
MSRP: $125 / 750 mL (2023)
Wet seasoned oak | Slight earthiness | Dark chocolate covered cherries | Caramel | Raspberry | Brown sugar | Vibrant aroma with a funky undertone that jumps out of the glass
Seasoned oak | Black currant | Light caramel sweetness | Vanilla | Swell of rye spice on the backend
White peppercorn spice | Transitions to dry | Leather | Aged oak | Lingering “dusty” note
The oldest Eagle Rare 17 Year ever, it’s the best 101 proof version yet and will be a memorable edition thanks to its prominent “dusty” funk note.
Buffalo Trace transitioned Eagle Rare 17 Year from 90 to 101 proof in 2018, making 2023 the 6th 101 proof version since the change. Given that the Antique Collection already has two barrel proof bourbons, George T. Stagg and William Larue Weller, the contrast provided by the more elegant 90 proof Eagle Rare 17 Year always seemed to fit well into the group. Known for marrying aged oak with vibrant fruit and caramel notes, I’ve generally found the increase in proof to draw Eagle Rare 17 Year more towards spice at the expense of the fundamental qualities that I enjoyed most about the previous 90 proof releases.
This year’s Eagle Rare 17 Year is the oldest Antique Collection Eagle Rare to date, clocking in at 19 years and 3 months old according to the detailed fact sheet provided by Buffalo Trace. While previous releases have often exceeded the bottle’s 17 year age statement, the “17” has basically become baked into the whiskey’s name, and Buffalo Trace seems to treat it more like a minimum age requirement for each year’s bottling than a target goal, simply noting the specific age in their supplemental fact sheets.
For the first time since 2018, Eagle Rare 17 Year has finally reached a height I have not seen since its pre-2018 years. A few key elements really define this year’s release, with the first being an aroma that practically jumps out of the glass, and the second an underlying funk note that persists throughout the whiskey and gives it an almost “dusty” characteristic - a unique underlying presence akin to much older bourbons released in the early to mid-1900s. While the aroma introduces this note along with wet, seasoned oak that lays a somewhat earthy undertone, scents of dark chocolate covered cherries, caramel, raspberry, and brown sugar provide an enjoyable contrast. Black currant, seasoned oak, vanilla, and caramel give way to a swell of rye spice on the palate. The whiskey becomes dry on the finish, which isn’t surprising for its age. White peppercorn spice, leather, and aged oak overtake any lingering sweet flavors from the palate, and again the dusty funk note emerges and lingers.
While it doesn’t quite reach the height of the 2013 Eagle Rare 17 Year release, my favorite of the 90 proof editions, this year’s edition comes very close. Trading a bit of fruit and heavier oak for spice and dusty funk, 2023’s Eagle Rare 17 Year showcases different qualities exemplary of a refined high-aged bourbon. Its dusty funk note will not only make it one of the more memorable Eagle Rare 17 Year releases, but a more memorable high aged bourbon release in general.