Small Batch Whiskey: A Loosely Defined Term in the Spirits Industry

Eagle Rare, a bourbon brand, was launched in 1975 by Seagram's and later acquired by Sazerac in 1989. The brand's evolution highlights the varying interpretations of "small batch" whiskey, with no precise legal definition.

author-image
Aqsa Younas Rana
New Update
Small Batch Whiskey: A Loosely Defined Term in the Spirits Industry

Small Batch Whiskey: A Loosely Defined Term in the Spirits Industry

In the world of whiskey, the term "small batch" is often used to denote a premium, carefully crafted product. However, the definition of small batch whiskey varies widely among distillers and bottlers, with interpretations ranging from just 2 barrels to over 40 barrels in a batch.

Why this matters: The lack of a precise legal definition for "small batch" whiskey can lead to consumer confusion and mistrust in the industry, ultimately affecting the sales and reputation of whiskey brands. As the demand for premium and craft whiskeys continues to grow, understanding the nuances behind marketing terms like "small batch" becomes crucial for consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.

One notable example is Eagle Rare, a bourbon brand first launched in 1975 by Seagram's to compete with Wild Turkey. The original Eagle Rare was blended from stocks of bourbon that had been aging for at least 10 years at Seagram's centralized Lotus warehouse facility in Kentucky. Seagram's owned several distilleries at the time, including Old Prentice (now Four Roses), which distilled high-rye mash bill bourbon and whiskey for blending.

Eagle Rare was initially bottled at 101 proof with a 10-year age statement, targeting Wild Turkey 101 drinkers. The early batches might have contained distillate from various Seagram's distilleries. A 1983 bottling, assumed to include some older bourbon in the blend, provides a glimpse into this period of the brand's history.

In 1989, Sazerac acquired the Eagle Rare brand from Seagram's. It later became a single barrel product under the Buffalo Trace lineup. Today, the Eagle Rare 17 Year is bottled at 101 proof, a nod to the brand's origins.

The story of Eagle Rare highlights the evolution and varying interpretations of "small batch" in the whiskey industry. While there is no precise legal definition, the term continues to be used by distillers and bottlers to signify a higher-end, more carefully produced whiskey compared to larger-scale, mass-market brands. As the popularity of premium and craft whiskeys grows, understanding the nuances behind marketing terms like "small batch" becomes increasingly important for discerning consumers.

Key Takeaways

  • The term "small batch" whiskey has no precise legal definition.
  • Interpretations of "small batch" vary widely among distillers and bottlers.
  • Lack of definition leads to consumer confusion and mistrust in the industry.
  • Eagle Rare's evolution showcases the varying interpretations of "small batch".
  • Understanding "small batch" nuances is crucial for informed consumer purchasing decisions.