Last Updated on December 29, 2022 by Lydia Martin
Now that the holiday season is almost upon us, it may be time to stack up some good bourbon bottles for expected guests. Since the bottles will be for sharing, we suggest something around the $50-ish price point.
Eagle Rare Bourbon and Angel’s Envy come to mind instantly. We like how both are pretty rare, but not so that you can’t get a bottle anywhere. We also like they have vastly unique profiles.
If we were to choose only one, which one would reign supreme? Here’s our exclusive take on Eagle Rare Bourbon vs Angel’s Envy.
Comparing Eagle Rare Bourbon & Angel’s Envy
One major difference between Eagle Rare Bourbon and Angel’s Envy is how they’re matured and finished.
Eagle Rare has a more traditional approach to maturing their bourbons: to age the spirit inside American white oak barrels anywhere from 10 to 17 years (depending on the expression) before bottling.
On the other hand, Angel’s Envy has what they call a “double maturation process.”
The bourbon first spends its time aging inside charred virgin oak barrels (as per bourbon regulations ), then afterward spends a bit more time finishing inside ex-port wine barrels.
You can already assume that this second maturation process gives the bourbon plenty of port wine influences in terms of flavor.
History & Origin
Eagle Rare Bourbon is a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. It was first established in 1975 as a 101-proof, ten-year-old bourbon, but that iteration was discontinued in March 2005. Today, it is bottled at 90 proof.
Master Distiller Charles L. Beam first created it (yes, of the Jim Beam family) under Seagram. Sazerac bought the label in March 1989.
On the other hand, Angel’s Envy had been kept within the family since its inception.
It started as a father-and-son idea when Lincoln Henderson, former Master Distiller of Brown-Forman and creator of Woodford Reserve, had the idea to finish bourbon inside ex-port wine barrels.
His son, Wes Henderson, encouraged him to bring his idea to fruition when he finally retired in 2003.
In 2006, they started working on the brand, which would eventually be released in 2011. He passed away a few years later in 2013, and his grandson, Kyle, eventually joined the team.
They named the bourbon “Angel’s Envy” after the industry term “angel’s share” as a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that we were finally getting a better deal than the angels.
How It’s Made
Eagle Rare Bourbon used to be a single-barrel bourbon, but Buffalo Trace had dropped that claim when they switched to an automated, machine-bottling process (as there is always a chance that different barrels might mix).
The brand now markets Eagle Rare as a small-batch bourbon.
Similarly, Angel’s Envy is a small-batch bourbon made from batches of eight to twelve barrels. These bourbons are typically aged for up to six years, after which they are finished inside 60-gallon ruby port barrels.
Like most of their other labels, Buffalo Trace does not specifically disclose the ingredients in their mash bill for Eagle Rare. The only thing we know for sure is that it is made with a low rye mash bill they call Mash # 1.
Other labels that use the same mash bill include E.H. Taylor, Stagg Jr., and their flagship Buffalo Trace Bourbon. Eagle Rare is bottled and sold at 90-proof.
On the other hand, Angel’s Envy is made with a mash bill that comprises 72 percent corn, 18 percent rye, and 10 percent malted barley. It is bottled at 86.6 proof (43.3 percent ABV).
Eagle Rare Bourbon spends 10 or 17 years aging inside new, charred oak barrels, depending on the expression.
Angel’s Envy uses a double-maturation process for aging their bourbon. It first spends no less than six years aging inside virgin charred white oak barrels.
They are then transferred to 60-gallon ruby port barrels imported directly from Portugal to finish for three to six months.
Eagle Rare Bourbon
- Palate: Eagle Rare is not complicated upfront, but doing the “Kentucky chew” brings out more nuances in the palate. You’ll get traditional bourbon flavors like caramel, honey, and vanilla, alongside more unconventional wood, pine, and mint notes.
- Nose: Eagle Rare has a dainty, fruity nose, with notes of sweet mashed corn, caramel, honey, and citrus and a woody and spicy undertone.
- Color: Eagle Rare has a light amber color.
- Finish: We find that Eagle Rare has somewhat of a short finish, which can be attributed to its “lower” proof. The woody and spicy trend continue in its finish.
Angel’s Envy Bourbon
- Palate: The time it’s spent finishing inside port wine barrels gives Angel’s Envy a raisin-forward profile, alongside leather, muted vanilla, and light oak notes.
- Nose: Angel’s Envy has a fairly unimposing nose. It has light notes of vanilla, oak, and just a touch of dark grapes, which we assume is influenced by the port wine barrels. 
- Color: Angel’s Envy has a beautiful copper hue.
- Finish: One of the best parts about sipping Angel’s Envy is its finish, as it has a distinct light spice that lingers long and gets you excited for that next sip.
Eagle Rare has ten and 17-year-old expressions alongside Double Eagle Very Rare, a limited-edition 20-year-old bourbon housed in a luxurious silver box and crystal decanter.
Angel’s Envy has dabbled in finishing their bourbons in every cask you could think of: rum, port wine, oloroso sherry, tawny port wine, Madeira oak, ice cider, and Japanese mizunara oak.
Ownership & Distillery
Eagle Rare is owned by The Sazerac Company, a privately-held alcoholic beverage company based in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is produced and distilled at the historic Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfurt, Kentucky.
On the other hand, Angel’s Envy is produced at the Louisville Distilling Company and sold as one of Bacardi Limited’s brands.
Price Comparison Chart
|Brand||Size||Alcohol Proof||Average Price|
|Eagle Rare 10-Year Bourbon||750ml||90||Around $50|
|Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey||750ml||43.3||Around $55|
Which bourbon is better for cocktails, Eagle Rare or Angel’s Envy?
We find that Eagle Rare is better for top-shelf cocktails. Angel’s Envy would do okay in a glass of Old Fashioned, but we find that sipping it neat or on the rocks would allow you to appreciate its port wine notes more.
On the other hand, Eagle Rare’s more delicate profile will work extremely well when combined with mixers, like in a Whiskey Sour or Boulevardier.
Is Eagle Rare harder to find than Angel’s Envy bourbon?
Both Eagle Rare and Angel’s Envy bourbon are rare bourbons, but we have to say that we have more difficulty finding Eagle Rare in stores.
Eagle Rare has a perceived “rareness” to it, which is why people often snatch them up as soon as they see a bottle available.
In the battle of Angel’s Envy and Eagle Rare, we have to say it’s a toss-up between which bottle is ultimately better.
If you like a more traditional bourbon, go for Eagle Rare. It’s a decent option, especially if you’re a fan of more delicate, fruity bourbons. You will also appreciate its lengthy 10 (or 17) year aging period, which translates well into the spirit.
On the other hand, Angel’s Envy has more of a “winey” feel, which can be attributed to the fact that it’s spent some time aging inside ex-port wine barrels. Angel’s Envy is more raisin-like and tannic, which may or may not put off bourbon purists.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.