I remember the days when Eagle Rare sat on shelves here in Florida. It wasn’t that long ago—not even ten years. My friend and I would walk into places like ABC and Walgreens, mostly to get stuff to mix, and we’d notice stuff like Eagle Rare with its tentative $30 price tag and think “too much money.” Things have changed just a bit: Eagle Rare requires a bit of hunting and, unless you luck out at grocery stores that sell liquor, can cost anywhere from $45-$100 for a single bottle. And for a time, it was THE bottle I wanted in my collection.
Fast-forward a few months and several whiskeys and Eagle Rare has effectively been pushed to the side. Other expressions have left a mark while being easy to find for prices comparable to its MSRP. After all, the main selling point for Eagle Rare is its value as a solid, available bourbon aged 10 years for around $30. If any of those aspects is no longer the case, then it may not be such a slam-dunk of a buy. Or is it? My Secret Santa at work knew me well enough to get me a bottle for Christmas, so I think now is as good a time as any to revisit this bird and see just how high it flies.
Nose: Very sweet. Vanilla and red grapes. Brown sugar, cherries, and an oddly bright, somewhat watery oakiness eased out by the vanilla. Cherry notes become more licorice-like over time. Quite fruity with blueberry and toffee dessert. Post-sip brings more vanilla bean with candied fruit, almost like orange and lemon Skittles.
Palate: Lightly silky mouthfeel. Cherry vanilla ice cream in a burnt waffle cone. Barrel presence starts off relatively light and sweet with brown sugar before a slow build of tannins creeps up, eventually mellowing out for the finish. Lightly silky mouthfeel.
Finish: Short-medium. Gentle and slightly dry oak presence releases hints of more vanilla, lightly caramelized brown sugars, orange, and cherry.
Coming back to Eagle Rare after a short while has made me slightly more understanding to its current predicament. Were it still sitting on shelves for its intended price, this would likely be my daily drinker. The proof is easygoing without being too weak, the flavor profile is sweet and pleasant with decent depth thanks to its age, and the potential for use in cocktails is easy to pick up on. Everything about the whiskey itself just works. And unlike Todd Howard, I don’t say that with any level of irony.
Since I’m clearly a fan, where does Eagle Rare stand when my local pricing and availability are brought into the equation? It’s a bit difficult to say. For example, having to potentially call or visit multiple stores for a whiskey like this just feels silly. That’s something I’d reserve for a special/limited release, not a core offering that may or may not be poorly distributed. Not to mention paying $45 minimum for this only becomes more puzzling when we consider what else is available for the same price (or less): Coopers’ Craft Barrel Reserve, Wild Turkey 101/Longbranch/Rare Breed, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Knob Creek Small Batch/Single Barrel, Woodford Reserve, etc. Increasing the marked up price only adds even more competition to an already stiff selection. Eagle Rare might offer a great combination of qualities that you don’t quite get in other bourbons, but the same can be said for several other expressions. At MSRP it’s a nicely priced option and potential go-to; at anything higher than $40 it becomes a tough consideration.