Friday, January 25, 2008

Last Night's Tipple

Liquor Claus gave me two bottles of whisk(e)y for Christmas: a Glenfarclas 12 year old, which I wrote about back in December; and a bottle of Eagle Rare Single Barrel 10 year old Bourbon. I hadn't felt like drinking Bourbon until last night, so I hadn't opened the Eagle Rare. Last night I did, though.

Eagle Rare began life in the 1970s as a Wild Turkey knockoff. It was bottled at 101 proof, just like WT; and I suppose that the eagle was supposed to evoke memories about the debate over what the American national bird was to be. Ben Franklin thought it should have been the turkey; but the other founding fathers, in their infinite wisdom, realized that the eagle was a nobler and much more appropriate alternative. Similarly (I conjecture), Bourbon consumers would conclude that Eagle Rare was a nobler alternative to Wild Turkey. Originally a brand owned by Seagram's and distilled at what is now the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg (the Wild Turkey Distillery is located in the same town). Sazerac acquired the brand in 1989, and it's currently distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort.

A few years ago, Sazerac decided to take Eagle Rare up-market. They lowered the proof from 101 to 90, put it in a fancy heavy-bottomed bottle, and made it a single barrel bottling. Oh, yeah -- they raised the price, too. All of these changes were calculated to appeal to the yuppie boutique Bourbon drinker, and they have. Sazerac believes that Eagle Rare will be one of the engines of growth for their Bourbon business in the years to come. Buffalo Trace has three Bourbon mashbills: a wheated one used for WL Weller; a high-rye one used for Ancient Age, Elmer T. Lee, Blanton's, and others; and a low-rye one used for Buffalo Trace, Old Charter, and Eagle Rare. I didn't know that Eagle Rare came from the low-rye mashbill until I looked it up just now, but it's hardly a surprise. The Bourbon was corny. There was very little bite. Instead, it was sweet and smooth. Despite the age, I didn't get a whole lot of overt wood flavor, although it did have a decent amount of vanilla that must have come from the toasting on the barrel staves. My reaction to it is a lot like my reaction to Old Charter: a nice, tasty Bourbon, but not one (like Bulleit or 1792 Ridgemont Reserve) that I could get really enthusiastic about.

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