Very rarely… like VERY rarely… a bottle of whiskey comes along and completely changes the whole game. Well, today is that day. Buffalo Trace released a true game changer — a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey that will shift how whiskey is aged, sold, and enjoyed.
The whiskey? Eagle Rare 25 Bourbon.
This 25-year-old straight bourbon is an anomaly. It’s extremely rare that a bourbon — or any whiskey from the United States — is good at 25 years old. The interaction of wood and liquid combined with a severed rate of evaporation (the angel’s share) usually leads to overly tannic and astringent whiskey when left to mature for that long. “Overoaked” would be an understatement. But the team at Buffalo Trace Distillery (where Eagle Rare is made), led by Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, seems to have outsmarted the barrel.
Not only did they figure out how to age bourbon for a quarter of a century, but they found that the whiskey changed drastically between 20, 23, and 25 years in the barrel. And it never gets too woody.
I was lucky enough to tour Warehouse P at Buffalo Trace a few weeks ago and taste Eagle Rare 25 Bourbon for the first time. What’s happening here is that Wheatley and team spent millions of dollars on an encased warehouse within a larger warehouse that allows them to adjust everything from the humidity to atmospheric pressure to the breeze going through the place (and the temp of course). This allowed them to age a 20-year-old barrel of Eagle Rare (which might have gone into Double Eagle) for another five years.
It was astounding. That high level of scientific control of the atmosphere shifted the whiskey away from the overly tannic or bitter oakiness that comes with age toward … a svelte, sweet, and lush bourbon unlike any other I’ve ever tasted. And certainly nothing like any other bourbon over 20 years old.
I’ve had the Pappy Van Winkle 25-year Decanter, and it’s an oak bomb with mild Pappy notes underneath massive waves of bitterness. The 23-Year Pappy is an oak bomb with huge spice bark notes that are hard to get past. Hell, even the 20-Year Pappy and Double Eagle Rare (also 20 years old) are very tannic and oaky and certainly not for everyone. This, on the other hand, is a lush and silken bourbon with hints of old oak accenting quintessential bourbon depth.
It’s mind-boggling, it’s game-changing, and it’s important. Okay, that’s enough preamble. Let’s get into what’s actually in this bottle of whiskey.
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Eagle Rare 25 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Eagle Rare Straight Bourbon is made from Mash Bill #1 at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. That’s their low-rye mash bill, and that’s all that’s known about the juice. That whiskey was then left to rest for nearly two decades in a warehouse before being moved into Buffalo Trace’s new state-of-the-art Warehouse P facility. When the whiskey hit 25 years old, something magical happened to the barrel and it was ready for bottling.
The single barrel was proofed down to Eagle Rare’s 101-proof and otherwise bottled as-is, yielding only 200 bottles. The bottle is also a collectible with a hand-hammered sterling silver eagle wing wrapped around a hand-blown crystal decanter. That striking bottle comes in a custom display box that opens like an eagle’s wings.
Nose: The nose hints at old oak staves resting in a musty warehouse before veering toward stewed cherries with hints of clove and nutmeg next to salted dark chocolate shavings and rich powdered sugar icing cut with bourbon vanilla and light pipe tobacco essences with a whisper of fall leaves and orchard barks.
Palate: The rich vanilla gets buttery and creamy with an almost eggnog vibe thanks to the spice on the lush palate has dried cranberry, brandy-soaked cherry, and dried figs lead to rich toffee rolled in dark chocolate and anise before getting cut with a touch of earthy tobacco pulled from fresh black dirt.
Finish: The finish hugs you gently with warmth tied to winter spice barks soaked in apple cider cut with black cherry as the dirt takes on a warehouse must with gently sweet oak staves mingle with a whisper of whole black pepper and clove buds over creamy dark orange spice cake.
F*cking amazing. It’s baffling that this is 25 years old and has this level of soft lush creaminess. It’s not dry at all. There’s not a moment of overoakedness. It’s just brilliant whiskey. Truly.
100/100 — This is a one-of-one whiskey for the ages.
Where To Buy:
Buffalo Trace will be shipping bottles to select retailers, bars, and restaurants in early November 2023. Good luck!