Cocktail consultant, Liquid Productions
Co-owner, Pacific Standard
Co-owner, Clover Club, Leyenda, and Milady’s
As an allocated bourbon, Eagle Rare Bourbon may be difficult to source. But if you’re able to get your hands on this single-barrel bottling, you’ll be rewarded with a rich and full-bodied bourbon that is both approachable for newcomers and complex enough to satisfy aficionados.
Our reviewers unanimously recommend Eagle Rare for sipping neat or on the rocks, and it shines in spirit-forward whiskey cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan. Its $30 suggested price also represents an excellent value, although it has been known to be inflated by retailers.
Classification: Straight bourbon whiskey
Company: Sazerac Company (produced and distributed by Buffalo Trace Distillery)
Producer: Eagle Rare
Expression: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Cask: New charred white American oak barrels
Still Type: Unknown
Aged: at least 10 years
Awards: Gold, 2022 American Whiskey Masters; Silver, 2022 North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition; Silver, 2022 New York World Wine & Spirits Competition; Silver, 2022 Whiskies of the World
Great sipping whiskey that’s approachable enough for newcomers and complex enough for aficionados
Shines in spirit-forward cocktails like the Old Fashioned
Can be difficult to source since it’s an allocated bourbon
Retailers have been known to inflate the price
Some may find the finish tight
Color: Deep golden brown
Nose: Toasted oak, maple, flamed orange peel, honey, toffee, buttered popcorn, musty leather, dill, brine, caramel, chocolate, corn, clove, pepper
Palate: Rich and full-bodied, with notes of buttered popcorn, honey, tobacco, burnt caramel, vanilla, butterscotch pudding, paint esters, nail polish, peach, orange, dark chocolate, cherry, mild char smoke, and light tannins
Finish: Long and rich, with notes of oak, vanilla, toffee, butterscotch, and tannins
Similar bottles: Basil Hayden 10 Year, Bulleit 10 Year, Elijah Craig, Four Roses Single Barrel, Knob Creek, Michter’s 10 Year, Russell’s Reserve 10 Year, Woodford Reserve
Suggested uses: Sipped neat or on the rocks; spirit-forward whiskey cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan
This bourbon earned a unanimous recommendation from our tasting panel for sipping neat or on the rocks, as well as in spirit-forward whiskey cocktails like the Old Fashioned. Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Julie Reiner say it is a great choice for entry-level and experienced whiskey drinkers alike.
“[It’s a] very complex bourbon, but it is also approachable,” Reiner says. [It has] lots of sweet bourbon notes but a beautiful spicy finish.”
“Anyone who enjoys a classic bourbon will find something to enjoy in the beautiful, complex liquid within,” adds Morgenthaler.
Our reviewers each noted a full-bodied, rich palate paired with a long finish. “[The] finish is long and luxurious, with butterscotch lingering on the palate for quite some time,” says Morgenthaler. Jacques Bezuidenhout noted a rich finish but found it slightly tight owing to influence from the oak tannins.
While our reviewers recommend sipping this whiskey neat or on the rocks, they say that it will shine in spirit-forward cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan. Jacques Bezuidenhout says this bottling would also fare well in highballs. “[It] has the richness and structure to stand in tall cocktails,” says Bezuidenhout.
Morgenthaler notes that this limited-quantity bourbon can be difficult to source and, as such, retailers will sometimes inflate the price. If you’re able to find a bottling at a price that is comparable to the suggested $29.99, our tasting panel emphasizes the excellent value.
“This is a benchmark bourbon,” says Reiner.
Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon is produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, along the banks of the Kentucky River. Although the mash bill is undisclosed, Eagle Rare is said to use Buffalo Trace’s Mash Bill #1, which is believed to include about 10% rye. Like all bourbons, it must contain at least 51% corn in the mash bill. The producer’s flagship single-barrel expression ages for at least 10 years in new charred American oak barrels that are hand-selected for each batch, resulting in a slightly different profile for each realease.
Eagle Rare is an allocated spirit, meaning that stores only receive a certain number of bottles, which they cannot replenish until they receive a new allotment from Buffalo Trace.
Charles Beam, then master distiller of Four Roses Bourbon, launched Eagle Rare’s flagship expression as a 101-proof spirit under the now-defunct Seagram portfolio in 1975. It has been said that Eagle Rare was created to compete with Wild Turkey 101.
In 1989, the Sazerac Company acquired Eagle Rare from Seagram and, since it did not have a distillery of its own, moved production to Heaven Hill Distillery. Three years later, Sazerac purchased the George T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, whose history dates to 1858. In 1999, it was renamed the Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Fast-forward to 2005, and Buffalo Trace lowered Eagle Rare’s proof to 90. The distillery also began producing the whiskey as a single-barrel bourbon, meaning that each bottling comes from an individually selected barrel that remains unblended. However, Buffalo Trace eventually removed the single barrel language from its bottles after switching to an automated bottling line, as there is a chance two barrels may mingle in the line.
Since 2005, Harlen Wheatley has served as the master distiller for Buffalo Trace Distillery, which also produces such bottlings as Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Pappy Van Winkle, W.L. Weller, and Blanton’s. Today, Buffalo Trace produces the even rarer 17-year-old Eagle Rare, which often sells for thousands of dollars, and 20-year-old Double Eagle Very Rare expression, which may fatch upwards of $20,000 per bottle.
–Written and edited by Audrey Morgan
Eagle Rare founder Charles Beam was the grand-nephew of Colonel James B. Beam, also known as Jim Beam.
The Bottom Line
This allocated single-barrel bourbon can be tough to find—and even tougher to find at its suggested $29.99 price. However, the rich and complex bottling will please both novice and experienced whiskey drinkers, according to our tasting panel. It’s an excellent choice for sipping neat or on the rocks, or for mixing into spirit-forward whiskey cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan.