Kettle Corn Bourbon with a Bit-O-Honey – Eagle Rare First Impressions Review
Discovering Eagle Rare
When you’re starting to get serious about bourbon, Eagle Rare seems to be one of the first ones that’s recommended. It’s the first suggestion in Reddit’s Bourbon Gift Guide. Jordan at Breaking Bourbon asserts that Eagle Rare “is definitely a bottle I’d recommend any bourbon lover keep in their home bar.” And with a price that’s usually a bit less than $40, there’s not a lot to lose.
Eagle Rare is a Buffalo Trace bottling of their popular low rye mash bill. This is the same liquor that ends up in Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon but aged at least 10 years. It might also be single barrel(ish). Or it might not. We don’t really know anymore.
Eagle Rare went through a somewhat confusing label change around early 2015. They moved the age statement from the front of the bottle to the back. This is definitely still a 10 year bourbon. What is less clear now is whether or not it’s a single barrel. When the distillery changed from hand bottling to an automated bottling line, they dropped the single barrel nomenclature because it was possible a bottle could get spirits from 2 barrels when the line switched over. However, there’s no verbiage on Buffalo Trace’s site about this. It really doesn’t matter to me. But purists may have a preference.
Buffalo Trace has been awfully hard to find in Chattanooga lately –much less one of their smaller-volume bottlings, a good friend found this one for me and picked it up. There are a few things to learn from this: A good friend encourages your best habits. A friend with whiskey is a good friend. Always tell your friends which whiskeys you’re looking for. Thanks, Luke!
Burnished gold/bronze color with brilliant clarity and bright gold highlights. Turning the whiskey leaves a glass-coating syrupy texture with ropy legs.
There’s no other word for it –this bourbon is pretty. Damn pretty. I could just sit and look at it. This makes me question why they chose the black sticker label for the back of the bottle. The rest of the bottle is painted with sharp branding that screams premium booze. But the solid black label on the back really hides the beautiful appearance. To some, it might seem inconsequential. But we drink with our eyes first. Changing to an all-painted bottle seems like an obvious upgrade.
I get an immediate impression of kettle corn at The Chattanooga Market. You can smell it from blocks away and the aroma permeates the entire pavilion. It’s appetizing and distinct. A restrained vinous winey impression drifts in and quickly transitions to orange peel. Lots of caramelized sugar and hints of cinnamon continue. As the dram opens up, I get another heavy dose of nostalgia: Bit-O-Honey candy… my childhood favorite.
There’s a lot more orange in the front of the taste than what appears in the nose. The corn comes through nicely right after. Then comes charred wood, though not distinctly oak. Caramel and toffee feature in the finish. Follow-up sips reveal popcorn –even toasted kernels. This bourbon really has kettle corn written all over it. Oak eventually comes through with some restrained black cherry and dark vanilla. There’s a nice sweetness in the middle that dries out quickly after the swallow. This leaves a finish that I find much too short. Sure, it makes you want to take the next sip but it’s an abrupt stop to the enjoyment of the flavor.
Pillowy and silky. It floats in the mouth rather than coating it. There’s a nice alcohol tingle but nothing aggressive. Finishes quickly with nothing left on the palate but a slight tingly astringency.
This is an interesting bourbon as it’s unusual for me to immediately get an impression of a distinct aroma. Kettle corn at the market and Bit-O-Honey make this bourbon smell like home –even if it was distilled and aged four hours away. There’s plenty of complexity in Eagle Rare. The only shortcoming is in the short finish. But overall, this is a new favorite that I can’t recommend enough at the $40 price point.