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Eagle Rare, the bourbon brand produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, just launched its oldest release to date—a 25-year-old, ultra-expensive, limited-edition expression. That’s very, very old for a bourbon, but this whiskey was aged in one of the distillery’s experimental warehouses and closely monitored throughout its maturation.
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In Scotland, whisky can age for two or three decades and not become overly tannic or overpowered by oak due to the cool, temperate climate there. In Kentucky, however, that is not the case—winters are cold, summers are hot and humid, and warehouses can reach well over 100 degrees at the top levels in those hotter months. That’s why most bourbon is aged for less than 10 years, because the interaction between whiskey and wood as it matures in barrels is pronounced and older bourbon is often just too oaky. There are exceptions, of course, most notably from Buffalo Trace, which produces Pappy Van Winkle in partnership with the Van Winkle family; the 23-year-old expression is one of the most coveted in that lineup.
Some people really like older, dusty, oaky bourbon, while others steer clear. But the new Eagle Rare 25 was not just left in a warehouse for a quarter century—it spent more than five years aging in Warehouse P, one of Buffalo Trace’s experimental warehouses in which humidity and temperature are carefully controlled. This whiskey comes from some of the first barrels to be moved there in 2018, and this is the first release from Warehouse P. “When crafting whiskey in conditions like those we experience in Kentucky, two reactions happen over time,” said master distiller Harlen Wheatley in a statement. “More liquid is lost due to evaporation—also known as angel’s share—and extraction of flavors from the barrel becomes more intense, often leading older whiskeys to taste over-oaked, astringent, and dry. The unique set of aging conditions in Warehouse P has allowed us to create a 25-year-old bourbon that smooths out the extractions and highlights the desirable flavors found in ultra-aged American whiskey products.”
We got to try a sample of this 101-proof whiskey, and there is indeed a lot going on. Twenty-five years in oak is a significant length of time, despite any amount of experimental aging, so you definitely have to be a fan of old, ultra-aged bourbon to enjoy this. There are notes of dusty oak, leather, and sour cherry on nose. The palate opens up with wet tobacco and grassy notes, then moves into menthol, pepper, dried wood, peanut butter crunch, and a touch of tannic bitterness that is present without overpowering. This might not be your average Tuesday night sipper, but it’s certainly a bourbon with sampling if you have the chance.
Of course, there’s a catch. The price tag is $10,000 and there are only 200 bottles available. As one might assume, the presentation is appropriately intricate as the whiskey comes in a crystal decanter housed inside a silver display case that opens to show eagle wings on either side of the bottle. Eagle Rare 25 will be available starting next month at select retailers. In the meantime, you can find a regular bottle of 10-year-old Eagle Rare available to purchase from websites like ReserveBar.
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