Review: Eagle Rare 17 Year Bourbon

I am making my way through the last of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. For this review we are taking a look at Eagle Rare 17 Year Bourbon. This 17 year old whiskey is made using the same mashbill as Buffalo Trace’s namesake whiskey. The 2011 release is one of the better Eagle Rare 17’s I’ve had in the last 3-4 releases.

Eagle Rare 17 Year Bourbon, 45% abv (90 Proof), $75

Color: Medium Amber

Nose: Vanilla, baked banana and apple, sorghum syrup, old rum, a touch of corn, and sweet baking spices.

Palate: Viscous and creamy mouth feel. Vanilla fudge, spiced (cinnamon and clove) caramel, corn cakes, maple syrup, apple cider, and well toasted oak. There is a bit of resinous grip as well, but it drinks so easily.

Finish: Lingering fruitiness, tea, and juicy old oak – moderate length.

Overall: Eagle Rare 17 Year is not quite as interesting as it’s 4 other brothers in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC). For starters it has a rather pedestrian proof point in comparison. However, let’s remember that the BTAC is made up of some of the best whiskeys in the world. The pluses for Eagle Rare 17 are still many. It’s absolutely the easiest drinking of the bunch, and has an oily “texture” on the palate with tremendous aroma and flavor – no doubt aided by 17 years in oak. If you are new to the world of bourbon or perhaps don’t like the challenge of 125+ proof whiskey, then this is absolutely where I would point you within the collection. For the initiated willing to water their own, I would probably steer you to one of the others. Regardless this is beautiful stuff worthy of a Superb/Outstanding rating.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.0 (Superb/Outstanding)


  1. Bmac says:

    I agree, it’s perfect for a regular pour. It’s high end without requiring a special occasion. The 2011 expression was the first series i’ve had the pleasure of trying. Even my mother was blown away and tbat’s hard to do. There really are few bourbons above 12 years out there and it’s rather a shame as we can see that the wood does tame the bourbon the longer it sits.

    Spot on review as usual!

  2. Scott says:

    Hi Jason, I completely agree with your assessment on this one. While you are on the BTAC, are you going to do an evaluation of the Handy? This is quickly becoming one of my favorites!

  3. Dave says:

    This is a great bourbon. I think that a lot of the obsession over higher proof whiskies is overblown. The high test stuff is certainly hot — no pun intended — right now, but high proof does not always translate into good whiskey. The ER17, especially the 2011 version, doesn’t deserve the flack it gets relative to the rest of the BTAC. And while we are on the subject, although I like the Handy, it ain’t exactly “antique” at 6 years old. But it’s barrel proof, so it avoids much of the criticism that ER17 gets.

  4. Texas says:

    Won’t be buying this one. ER10 is awful stuff. Like chewing on a stick.

  5. GQuiz says:

    Sure wish more of this made it south to SA. Eagle Rare 10 is a fine tasting bourbon. Can’t imagine what 7 years does for it. Can only wonder and salivate.

  6. Ray O says:

    I am going to disagree with my fellow Texan on the Eagle Rare 10. I tried a bottle of “select” from Twin Liquors here in Austin and found it to pack a nice array of flavors, although just a bit loose. It’s also good as a mixer with a Mexican Coke.

  7. Texas says:

    Yep Ray O, I do seem to be in the minority on ER10..but good gosh it was awful to me…way too woody and astringent. The only things worse I have had are current Old Charter 8, and George Dickel #8…I love Dickel # 12, but #8 tasted way too young.

  8. GQuiz says:

    That would make an interesting thread… What’s the worst whiskey you’ve tasted? For me, Old Forrester. I think a lot hinges on who reviews the whiskey. Jason likes Basil Hayden’s. Paul Pacult says it offers “limp scents of wet cardboard and parchment.”. I’m very much a novice when it comes to all the nuances. Three categories for me… Hate it, like it, love it. I’m trying to match Jason’s notes when I sample. Just wish I could get my hands on the ER17 to sample. So what does it mean to taste “too young”?

  9. Joe Serapilio says:

    I’ve had a couple from 09& one from 2010.Not this year.Very good.Buy it the least of the BTAC.I think it is George T.Stagg at 90 proof basically.Far better than Elijah Craig 18.

  10. DBMaster says:

    Texas, I recently tried Dickel No. 8 for the first time. I agree with you. The No. 12 is light years better – to me. That is what is great about any subjective topic, a variety of opinions. My most recent acquisitions – to share bar space with my usual half-gallon of No. 12 – are Old Charter 10YO and Very Old Barton BIB. These two are great contrasts. One is very corn-forward and old school while the other is very oak-forward. And, both are made by the same company – Buffalo Trace (Sazerac).

  11. Joe, you hit the nail on the head. There are a lot of similarities to Eagle Rare 17 and George T. Stagg. In some ways it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that ER17 was really just watered down Stagg as you mention. It’s really a pleasure to drink, it just doesn’t quite offer the uniqueness and bang for the buck that the others do.

  12. Scott, I love Handy. Will have it shortly. Stay tuned!

  13. JDW says:

    Jason, glad to see you do justice by the mighty Eagle. While the criticism about this whiskeys variation over the years might be accurate, the 2011 is one of my favorite bourbons. Cheers! JDW

  14. Texas says: me, too young means it is rough and alcoholic…also sometimes too sweet as well.

    DBMaster..VOB BIB, another one I am “supposed” to like. I just did not. The wood overpowers it, and did not care for the banana note I was picking up.

  15. DBMaster says:

    Texas, forget about what you are supposed to like. You like what you like. Before starting this bottle of VOB I finished a bottle of Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. That made it easy to recognize the primary nose of VOB – OAK. Try doing a little home blending. Mix the VOB 50/50 with something very “corny.” Dickel No. 12 comes to mind, but I found that it mixes well with the Old Charter 10 as well. There is nothing wrong with playing around with something that the Scots have been doing for over a century – blending.

  16. Agreed DBMaster – like what you like. That’s great advice.

  17. Jefferson says:

    Great review of the Eagle 17.

    Just wondering if you had reviewed any of the Col EH Taylor releases. I just picked up a bottle and curious to hear what others thought.

  18. Jefferson’s I have reviewed the EH Taylor releases. I’ve not really loved the first two releases. I will have a review on the Tornado bottling in the next few days/week – it’s the best of the 3 releases so far. Cheers!

  19. Mark says:

    I was lucky enough to pick up a bottle of the Fall 2011 release. I’ve had a couple of tries now, and I really enjoy the Eagle Rare 17. I really enjoy the balance and the mouth feel. I went back to pick up the 2nd bottle the store had on the shelf and it was gone. I asked the owner if they had any more and he said come back the following Monday. Sure enough, he had a bottle for me, but it was the Fall 2008 release. After some research, I’m stoked, the ’08 seems to get exceptional reviews. Can’t wait to try them side by side.

  20. Enjoy Mark. Let me know what you think.

  21. Mark, what did you think about the 08?

  22. Mark says:

    Jason, unfortunately, I haven’t had a moment to open the 2008, been on the road for work and then up at the Indy 500 all weekend. The good news is I was able to stop at The Party Source (TPS) in Covington, KY on the way home from Cincinnati (took some clients up to the Reds/Braves game). I scored an additional bottle of the EH Taylor Tornado (so I don’t have to feel bad about drinking my current bottle, it’s all but dried up here in Atlanta), a bottle of the TPS OBSK cask strength 4 Roses Single Barrel (really excited about trying this one, I wish I had $500 to buy all 10 recipes), and a Ancient Ancient Age TPS Selection 10 year. The AAA is good, but very dry on the finish, but very drinkable. I’ve never had it before, but it’s not a bad “value” in my opinion. I’ll definitely let you know my thoughts on the 08 Eagle Rare as soon as I open it, but that 4 Roses is really begging to be the next bottle to get opened.

  23. Nick says:

    Hey Jason,

    Just found your reviews when I googled for Eagle Rare reviews, love the site and glad I found it. Do you have a twitter handle where you post reviews? I can’t seem to find it on this page? I don’t really use facebook but I’m on twitter all the time.

  24. Nick, thanks for the comment. Glad you found the site. I am jmpyle on twitter. I post all of my tweets on the front page of the website on the right hand side. Cheers to you!

  25. Cole Dublin says:

    Need some help here. Once a year I get to buy for my brother Pappy Van W 20 and or 15 year. He loves it. I don’t drink. But my brother gave me a kidney…. so I get him what he wants, No questions asked. May have a hard time this year (supply, my economics etc)….What is the closest thing to PVW that I can replace it with. He alway says it “Smooth”. Please advise if you can. I thank you.

  26. Tough question Cole. Pappy 15 is tough to come close to anything like it. I would say the Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18 year is a lesser Pappy 20. I’d start there for sure.

  27. RWT says:

    Just opened a bottle of the Spring 2012 release. I’ve gone back and tasted it 3 times now, and man, I cannot get into this bourbon! It is tasty, don’t get me wrong, but it feels flat and one dimensional to me! The caramel is certainly there, and the oak finishes nicely, but it leaves me wanting more. I do enjoy it, but I was hoping for something with a little more depth to it.

  28. tyler fox says:

    HI Jason: I have written to you a few times in the past few years. Heading to Western MA- Amherst- where they have a great whiskey/coffee bar. Going to have (whatever year and proof it does not matter) of the George T. Stagg- still my favorite- and which I had first there. Wondering what else to try- they have a few of the Pappy Van Winkles, but I have never been a great fan- too refined?- for some reason. They also have the Eagle, but if true, i don’t really want a watered down Stagg. I have been liking the cheap- Ezra Brooks- sour mash lately just as a go-to… Let me know what you think…


  29. DeanE says:

    Always a pleasure to read your reviews, Jason! I tried this last October at a bar in Denver (Interstate Kitchen & Bar) and was pleasantly surprised by the depth and complexity. I didn’t go and trade my 2011 PVW 15s for it, but still very good bourbon.

  30. So many to try Tyler. Elmer T. Lee, Four Roses Single Barrel, Elijah Craig 12 year. All are great. Give those a try.

  31. David says:

    Hello Jason, I am really enjoying your reviews and commentary, keep up the good work.

    I have been a scotch drinker for many years, while my tastes lean towards cask strength peated malts, I also enjoy some of the sweeter speyside and highland malts, preferably cask strength and non chill filtered.

    After following your blog and a few others for a while, I decided to take the plunge into bourbon. My first purchase was the Eagle Rare 17 (Spring 2012 release) I figured I couldn’t go too far wrong, it did after all win Best Bourbon of 2012 in the Whisky Magazine and John Hansell rates it a 94.

    While I found it very tasty and enjoyed the effect of the wood on such an old bourbon, I found it far too sweet compared to scotch, almost like a liqueur, I actually had a sugar crash after two small drams.

    So, I am very hesitant to purchase any more bourbon, if they are all this sweet, maybe it isn’t my cup of tea, on the other hand, I don’t want to give up so easily.

    Do you have any suggestions as to what I could try next ? Is there an ideal bourbon for a scotch drinker to try ? Any assistance is greatly appreciated.