...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Batch Match Up: Eagle Rare 10 year old versus Eagle Rare 10 year old

Brand: Eagle Rare
DistilleryBuffalo Trace
OwnershipThe Sazerac Company
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Region: Frankfort, Kentucky
Age: minimum 10 years
Mashbill: BT low-rye: approximately 80% corn, 12% malted barley, 8% rye
Maturation: charred white oak barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 45%

Unlike the High West Double Rye from Tuesday's post, Buffalo Trace's Eagle Rare 10 year old (ER10) bourbon is a single barrel release per its label.  But nowhere is it listed what barrel number is used.  It's just "single barrel" and no listing of any specific real or made up information.  You know, just something to throw to their customers, so that we may say "Hey, barrel 3701B and 185A are the sh*t!" and buy more of the same.

Eagle Rare uses the approach opposite to the same company's Blanton's single barrel bourbon, whose label lists more information than most of us desire.  The lack of disclosure on the Eagle Rare label makes me wonder "Is this really from a single barrel?", "Is there any proof they have to provide to the TTB regarding its Single Barrelness", and "How much should I really care?"  I'm not angry about it, I just think it's a little silly.  Disclosing the barrel number would not only benefit us, but it would lend a little boutique element to a mass-produced bourbon.

I'm a fan of Eagle Rare's little brother, the regular Buffalo Trace bourbon, a $20-$25 whisky that always hits the spot.  So when I saw a 375mL bottle of the ER10 on a shelf for $14.99 I snapped it up.  It was an easy drinker, having many of the elements I liked in Buffalo Trace.  Thankfully, I saved a review sample of it before the bottle was empty.  I was then inspired to buy a 750mL bottle selling it for less than $25.  But from the start, that bottle was......not as good.  As a result it went into a number of Old Fashioneds and highballs.  I may have even poured a few ounces down the sink.  It wasn't terrible, but life is too short to sweat over lesser whiskey.  Again, I saved an ounce for review because I really wanted to match it up next to the first bottle to see if the whiskey was different or if my palate had changed.

Though ER10 does not have that barrel number on the label, there is a bottle code one can reference.  Whether or not it's from a single barrel, the bourbon is bottled in batches of some size and the printed code (near the bottle's back bottom) will at least provide a date of bottling.  Here are the codes for the two "barrels" in question:

B13119 - This was the original 375mL bottle I'd purchased at Hi Time Wine Cellars in early September 2013.  My guess is that it was bottled on the 119th day of 2013 (April 29th).
B13140 - This was the 750mL bottle I'd purchased at Hi Time Wine Cellars in December 2013.  Again, my thought is that it was bottled on the 140th day of 2013 (May 20th).

Two batches of the same bourbon, purchased at the same store, possibly bottled within a month of each other.  Here's how they match up:

B13119, first bottle
Its color is actually slightly darker than the other ER10.  The nose holds the old school Robotussin note that I sometimes find in regular Buffalo Trace.  There's also corn syrup, corn chips, spearmint, cilantro, and maple syrup.  With a lot of air, more youthful spicy rye notes open up along with some light caramel.  Quite a bit of spice in the palate, mostly pepper.  Peppery vanilla and caramel, then it quickly goes dry.  Mild mint notes carry throughout.  It's not that sweet at first, but (again) after a lot of air, the whiskey grows sweeter, very sugary.  At first the finish is dry and tight, a little salt and savoriness.  Once the sample was aired out, more pepper notes arose, along with dried cherries and vanilla beans.

This needed at least 35 minutes in the glass before it came alive, which is (in my limited experience) a little unusual for a modern 10 year old bourbon.  But it needs to breathe or else it seems very closed up.

B13140, second bottle
The nose starts with mint, floral perfume, and new carpet smells.  Then some taffy and bubble gum.  Corn and caramel notes grow with time.  Orange oil, rubber, sugary glaze, and one moment of menthol.  The palate goes from brief sweetness straight to bitterness.  Very closed.  Maybe some vanilla.  Sweet corn and a slight herbal rye spice.  But plain bitterness makes up at least 75% of it.  More bitterness in the finish.  Hints of corn, caramel, tart citrus, and granulated sugar.  But mostly bitter.

This one does not improve with time in the glass.

Nose - B13140
Palate - B13119 by a considerable margin
Finish - B13119
Overall - B13119

The B13140 reminds me of an IPA that is all bitterness with nothing else going on.  The single note is interesting for one glass and then you look around the shelf for something better.  The B13140's nose is the best part of the package, but even that can be easily trumped by most of Buffalo Trace's other products.

I still like the B13119 better, but not enough to ever buy Eagle Rare 10 again.  The price on the bourbon is good and it makes for a mildly easy drink, but not much more than that.  To tell the truth, I didn't finish either of these small samples and instead vatted them for a future Old Fashioned.

But back to the original intent of the batch match up.  There is a significant difference in the palate between the two Eagle Rare bottles.  The B13140 was bitter and otherwise boring from the start of the bottle.  The B13119 was always sweeter, though maybe a little limited on the nose.  There are similar elements between the two.  The corn, rye spice, and caramel notes, though present in different quantities, are comparable when they show up.  But other than those somewhat common bourbon characteristics, I doubt I'd believe these were the same brand if I hadn't owned the bottles myself.

(Update: For a different take, here's MAO's review of the B13140.  And I think our samples came from the same fill level in my bottle.)

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $25-$35

Rating - 80

Rating - 74


  1. After going through a bottle of each, I find that I actually like standard BT better than ER. They're both usually going to be big sweeties, but the ER is a bit too woody for me. And given that ER doesn't provide the info that I want, I'd much rather just buy the cheaper whiskey that should be consistently good.

    1. Absolutely. BT wins out for me too. I'd do a matchup between BT and ER, but I'm really tired of ER. Part of the reason I liked my first bottle better is that it often reminded me of BT. So I'll just buy BT next time. I've been thinking that the second bottle's bitterness came from the oak of that particular "single barrel".

      I'm just rereading your ER10 review right now. Maybe I should try Elmer T next time.

    2. Yes I second that advice. I love Elmer T. Lee and would suggest trying that as an alternative. Yummy stuff right at the sweet spot between complex and drinkable. By the way you have a great blog.

    3. Thank you, Smokypeat! As we're fans of many of the same whiskies (especially Willett and Kilkerran), I appreciate your recommendation. LA is a little thin on the ETL but it's out there somewhere...

    4. Not that I know much about bourbon but I obviously liked the sample of the B13 140 you sent me more than you did.


    5. Was actually wondering when you were going to review it and forgot that you had already done so. Your sample came from the same point of the bottle as mine. I'll update the post with a link to your review.

  2. Eagle Rare 10-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was matured for a minimum of ten years in new, American oak casks under the intense, Kentucky sun. As a result of its decade-long beauty rest, the bourbon has a golden honey color, along with an aroma of gentle toast, fresh tobacco, and bananas.