Produced and distilled by Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare bourbons are some of the most sought-after bottles on the market. Aged for no less than 10 years, each barrel used to age Eagle Rare is hand-selected to offer consistent flavor from batch to batch, but also to showcase each batch’s unique flavors and aromas.
“Easily one of the most tactile yet assertive and expressive bourbons I’ve tasted in the last two years; fasten your seat belt.”
-Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal
By law, bourbon must be matured in charred oak barrels. Charred barrels lend both color and tasting notes to the spirit, which is important since U.S. legislation also dictates that no additional coloring or flavors can be added to the liquid. But when it comes to charring barrels, distilleries have room to play.
The charring of barrels is ranked on a scale from 1 to 7. The level at which at barrel has been charred will provide different characteristics to not only the wood of the barrel itself but also to the aging beverage that is stored inside. The higher end of the spectrum, 6 and 7, isn’t normally used by distilleries, but the middle category, described as a level 4, is a preferred choice for many labels. A level 4 char results in what is called “alligator char,” the product of an almost one-minute burn that turns the surface of the barrel into a texture that looks like the skin of an alligator.
As such, Eagle Rare uses white oak No. 4 “alligator char” barrels for each of its whiskeys. Before they house whiskey, each barrel is exposed to a flame for one minute to add a char to the wood. This open flame leaves behind deep ridges in the wood, which mimic the ridges on an alligator’s back. Once the aging process is complete, distillers ensure consistent flavor from one barrel to the next via a taste test to be positive that the liquid, and thus the barrel it was aged in, meets its strict standards.
“When charring at this level, the wood starts to peel off the barrel, which gives the liquid more surface area to come in contact with, thus infusing it with more flavor. This offers a surprising amount of variation. On one side, you get a subtle vanilla palate from the wood, but by using a No. 4 char, you’re also adding a smoky, char flavor that contrasts nicely with the sweeter notes,”Master Distiller Eddie Russell
While you may also see bourbon aged in toasted barrels, the heat used to scorch these barrels is applied at lower temperatures for longer periods of time, so instead of a flash flame, a longer, slower heating process results in wood more deeply impacted by heat. Notice the labels on the next brands you sample to compare the flavor profiles of the different blends you try.
About Buffalo Trace Distillery
Buffalo Trace Distillery is a distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, owned by the Sazerac Company. It has historically been known by several names, including the George T. Stagg Distillery and the Old Fashioned Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery. Its namesake bourbon brand, Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey, was introduced in August 1999. The company claims the distillery is the oldest continuously-operating distillery in the United States. The company says the name “Buffalo Trace” refers to an ancient buffalo crossing on the banks of the Kentucky River in Franklin County, Kentucky. The Sazerac Company purchased the distillery in 1992.