Ten years ago, as we were laying the groundwork to change an industry, Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley was reserving a new crop of bourbon barrels at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, 650 miles away in Franklin County Kentucky. A very precious one of those barrels, placed on the third floor of Warehouse K, would grow to become a special part of our 10 year anniversary.
Late last year, in preparation for our approaching anniversary, CEO David Moritz traveled down to the Buffalo Trace Distillery (where Eagle Rare is also produced) to sample from a few truly rare barrels of bourbon whiskey.
Over the years, bourbon has developed an aura of rough-riding and masculinity, but the process is actually delicate and masterful. True bourbon is defined by three simple factors – American heritage, majority corn-content mash, and charred new American Oak barrel aging. Yet within this wide-sweeping definition, the tiniest of changes can yield the most diverse results. The unique mash bill, the exact location of the barrel, fluctuations in temperature – all produce very different characteristics. Most unknowable and most critical to a truly sensational bourbon, however, is the barrel.
A bourbon’s rich color and, more importantly, flavor are almost entirely the result of the unique barrel in which it is aged. Years spent resting in a barrel impart a range of unique natural flavors including vanilla, caramel, spice and cocoa. The most rare and elusive of barrels are responsible for the world’s very best bourbon.
After a meticulous and exhaustive search, our CEO, along with spirits expert John McCarthy, and Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley himself, unanimously selected – from its perch on Rick 46 – the barrel we would bottle as our Anniversary Bourbon.
To learn more about the process of buying a barrel and our journey through the process, read the chronicling article on Forbes: