Eagle Rare bourbon is a highly sought-after bottle that tends to sell out rapidly, often commanding a premium on the secondary market. Luckily, I happened to check my local Garfield’s Beverage Instagram account and discovered they were releasing their latest supply of barrel select bottles that morning. Excitedly, I took a short 5-minute walk down the street and managed to secure the second-to-last bottle on the shelf, finally acquiring this coveted gem.
The brand known today as Eagle Rare has a fascinating history that began in 1975 when it was introduced by the Seagram Company under the guidance of master distiller Charles L. Beam. Distilled at the Old Prentice Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, this bourbon quickly gained acclaim for its exceptional quality and distinctive flavor profile.
In the early 1980s, the Seagram Company made the decision to rebrand the bourbon as Eagle Rare, paying homage to the majestic bald eagles that nested near the distillery. The iconic image of a bald eagle was incorporated into the bourbon’s label, becoming a symbol closely associated with the brand.
In 1989, the Sazerac Company, a renowned spirits producer and importer based in New Orleans, Louisiana, acquired Eagle Rare as part of its portfolio. As part of the transition, production was moved to the George T. Stagg Distillery (now recognized as the esteemed Buffalo Trace Distillery) situated in Frankfort, Kentucky. Buffalo Trace’s reputation for crafting exceptional bourbons made it an ideal new home for Eagle Rare, ensuring the continued dedication to meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail that has become synonymous with the brand.
- Learn More: What Is Bourbon Whiskey?
As with all whiskey, this spirit starts with a combination of grains, and the specific mixture and percentages of grains is called a “mash bill”. While specific details about this particular mash bill are not readily available, sources suggest that Eagle Rare utilizes the Buffalo Trace “#1 mash bill”, which is known to be light on rye. As a bourbon, it is required to have a minimum of 51% corn among the other grains in the mixture.
The chosen grains are then ground and mixed with water, creating a mash. Yeast is introduced to initiate fermentation, during which the sugars present in the mash are converted into alcohol. After fermentation, the resulting liquid undergoes distillation in traditional copper stills where the distillery concentrates the alcohol and selectively captures the components they want in their finished spirit.
Following distillation, Eagle Rare bourbon is meticulously aged in new, charred oak barrels. One of the standout features of Eagle Rare is its extended aging period — a minimum requirement of ten years compared to the traditional two year period for most bourbons. During this aging process, the bourbon interacts with the wood of the barrels, acquiring color, flavors, and tannins that contribute to its unique character.
This specific bottle is a barrel select bottle of Eagle Rare. Barrel select releases (also known as single barrel or single cask bourbons) are highly regarded for showcasing the individual characteristics of a specific barrel instead of the typical blended flavor profile. Expertly handpicked by the knowledgeable team at Garfield’s Beverage, this bottle represents a unique and exceptional expression of Eagle Rare bourbon.
The bottle design for Eagle Rare bourbon showcases a sleek and sturdy shape, exuding a timeless sophistication. It features a tall, slender form with a long neck, creating an elegant profile. The top of the bottle is adorned with a foil-wrapped synthetic cork, complemented by a plastic topper. Crafted from thick, clear glass, the bottle beautifully displays the captivating amber hue of the bourbon. Its well-balanced size and substantial weight provide a satisfying feel when held.
Emphasizing its identity, the front of the bottle proudly presents the iconic Eagle Rare logo in silver. The logo portrays a bald eagle in the pursuit of a fish, capturing the essence of the brand’s namesake. The bold script of the brand name “Eagle Rare” is prominently displayed, with the stylized “E” forming the head of an eagle. This eye-catching design adds a touch of distinction to the bottle.
The label design is well executed, and it is worth noting that the logo and text are directly printed on the bottle itself, elevating the overall presentation. This choice enhances the perceived quality of the product compared to printing the elements on a paper or plastic label that is then stuck to the bottle. However, it is worth mentioning that the stopper, made of plastic, may not match the same level of quality as the rest of the bottle. That said… considering the price point of around $39 (at the time of this review), it is understandable that compromises might be made in certain aspects of the packaging.
A neat glass of this immediately starts with captivating aroma — a delightful olfactory journey, if you will. The nose reveals a warm nuttiness (reminiscent of the mixed nut bowl commonly encountered before dinner is served during air travel). This familiar nuttiness is accompanied by baking spice notes, adding depth and complexity to the overall aroma.
Upon taking a sip, the pronounced nuttiness takes center stage, and subtle hints of cinnamon and possibly nutmeg add a light spice that enhances the overall taste profile. The bourbon also carries a peppery quality, contributing to a well-balanced flavor profile that brings a touch of vibrancy to the experience. Finally, a note of dates adds a sweetness that beautifully balances the spice elements, enriching the overall tasting journey.
Drinking this bottle neat does not disappoint — each sip reveals additional layers of complexity. In particular, the warm nuttiness and subtle spices create a well-rounded and enjoyable experience.
When served over ice, the spirit undergoes a subtle transformation while still maintaining its flavor profile. The nutty and spicy notes, previously prominent, mellow and blend into the background. This results in a slightly smoother and sweeter experience.
The bourbon now takes on a delightful richness akin to indulging in a slice of pecan pie, with its caramelized pecans and decadent sweetness. This balances beautifully with the cold ice, creating a refreshing and satisfying drinking experience.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
There is no other way to start this section: this makes a great old fashioned.
The inherent sweetness of Eagle Rare beautifully balances the bitters, creating a harmonious and well-rounded cocktail. The addition of bitters enlivens the baking spices (most notably the nutmeg) and amplifies their presence while adding depth to the overall flavor profile.
This interplay of flavors makes Eagle Rare an ideal choice for an old fashioned to be enjoyed in the autumn (it mght be the bourbon old fashioned equivalent of the Starbucks PSL). It captures the perfect harmony of sweetness, bitters, and spiced elements, resulting in a delightful old fashioned.
One of the trickiest parts of a Kentucky Mule is balancing loud flavors — lime, ginger beer, and whiskey. It’s a difficult dance to pull off successfully, with many spirits being overpowered by the mixers (in which case, you might as well just use vodka and make a Moscow Mule).
But Eagle Rare’s rich and slightly sweet notes complement the bright and spicy flavors of the ginger beer, resulting in a lively combination that highlights all of the components equally. Most importantly, the bourbon flavor profile shines through, ensuring that you are enjoying this rare bourbon in your cocktail.
This bottle truly is an excellent value, particularly considering its impressive 10-year aging process. After experiencing it firsthand, I now understand why it’s highly sought after. In fact, it stands out as one of the top bourbons under $40 in our comprehensive list here at Thirty One Whiskey.
If you come across a bottle at its suggested retail price (MSRP), I highly recommend purchasing it. In fact, the last bottle at my store went to a young woman looking to find a nice gift for her new boyfriend (the checkout line did that guy a solid). However, I don’t advise adopting a “bourbon bunny” lifestyle, constantly hopping from store to store chasing elusive bottles hoping to secure a rare find. Even within the $50 price range (click here for the full Thirty One Whiskey under $50 list), there are plenty of exceptional options available without having to resort to paying exorbitant prices on the secondary market.
|Eagle Rare 10 Year Aged Garfield's Barrel Select Bourbon|
Kentucky, United States
Classification: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: 10 Years
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $39.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 5/5
Fantastic bourbon if you can find it at MSRP — just don’t pay the secondary market premium.