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November 23, 2023

Eagle Rare 25 Heralds New Era for Ultra-aged Bourbon

This is the first release from Buffalo Trace's experimental Warehouse P.

By Alex Martin

Buffalo Trace is pushing the boundaries of whiskey production with its oldest-ever expression of Eagle Rare bourbon. The Eagle Rare 25 Year Old is ultra-aged, ultra-rare and, at $10,000 a bottle, ultra-expensive.

Scotch drinkers may think 25 years doesn’t sound that old, but the rules governing bourbon, as well as the extremes of the Kentucky climate, means a quarter of a century is right at the edge of what is considered possible.

Bourbon has to be aged in virgin (new) American oak casks, which react with the liquid much more than the ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks used in Scotland. Throw in a few hot Kentucky summers and you’ll find whiskey reaches its peak age far, far quicker than in Speyside.

In usual circumstances anything as old as this Eagle Rare 25 would take on far too much influence from the cask, leaving it dry, tannic and potentially undrinkable. But this whiskey, which is limited to just 200 bottles, was born out of Buffalo Trace’s $20m program dedicated to defying existing perceptions of ultra-aged bourbon.

[See also: The Elite Traveler Wine & Spirits Gift Guide]

Eagle Rare 25 decanter
The Eagle Rare 25 is presented in a crystal decanter wrapped in sterling silver / ©Buffalo Trace

It is the first whiskey to emerge from the state-of-the-art Warehouse P, one of two sites purpose-built for wild experimentation. Eagle Rare 25 spent the last five years of its maturation in Warehouse P, where temperature and humidity levels are closely controlled and every cask is meticulously cared for.

It’s not just down to temperature and taste tests, though. Buffalo Trace is digging deep into the detail by experimenting with oak type, char levels and even where the cask is placed within the warehouse to see how it affects the end product.

[See also: The Most Exclusive Whiskey Tastings in the US]

Buffalo Trace’s master distiller Harlen Wheatley said: “We closely monitored Eagle Rare 25 throughout the aging process and discovered that the impact over time due to controlled, extended aging was optimally mature whiskey – by that, I mean whiskey that is uniquely smooth and complex with deep, mature flavors around every corner.

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“Eagle Rare 25 is unlike any other extra-aged bourbon on the market today. We are quite proud of this bourbon.”

Eagle Rare 25 Year Old – Tasting Notes

ABV: 50.5% / 101 proof

Nose: There’s a lot going on, as you would expect, but surprisingly there’s not much to identify this as one of the oldest bourbons ever released. There is still plenty of butterscotch and vanilla but also a more intense sweetness of black cherry jam served with a side of peanut butter brittle. Dig deeper and the oak will eventually appear alongside dark chocolate.

Palate: Although those oak notes are there, the liquid is light on the palate. There’s no dryness, which is remarkable. Lots of sweetness at the front of the palate with vanilla fudge dominating before the oaky notes take over. Dunnage warehouse floor, worn leather, pencil shavings and black pepper.

Finish: The oak dominates the finish but, importantly, it still doesn’t dry the palate. Adding a touch of water increases the spice levels and carries them through to the end, leaving you with a pleasant burn.

Conclusions: Eagle Rare 25 is an exceptional bourbon for its age, but it still retains the hallmarks of the ultra-aged category. It’s better suited to those who enjoy the tannic notes that come with age. It’s not an everyday drinker, but at $10,000 you don’t want it to be. This will spark debate and lend perspective – just what you want for your five-figure investment.

The decanter

A trophy bourbon needs a decanter to match. Each crystal decanter is encased in a hand-hammered sterling silver wing, marking both the spirit of Eagle Rare and the liquid’s silver anniversary. The decanter sits in an elaborate cabinet that opens to reveal outstretched wings, framing the bottle as the eagle inside.

[See also: Ardbeg Reveals $100,000 Whisky Set Celebrating Its Rollercoaster Past]

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