The Good Life: Eyeing the top shelf

Steve Palec on Bourbon

Steve Palec

Last updated on March 6th, 2023 at 05:24 pm

We are all flawed.

Don’t @ me or mock me on Tic Tac Toe or whatever it is the kids say these days.

I’m the first to admit I have too many flaws to list. But I’ll go first…

If you ever find yourself with me in an establishment that has rare and expensive bourbon, don’t offer to buy. I will take it. In a second.

Our family once had a celebration at a restaurant that had a spectacular bourbon selection, and a close friend of the family, Jessob, offered to buy me a drink. I choose a $100 pour.

By the way, yes, it was the same Jessob prominently featured in the hit Netflix documentary “Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker.” You would have thought my family was prepared to lobby for the Congressional Medal of Honor to go to Kai, the convicted murderer the show revolves around, rather than be seen with me after that incident.

But I can’t help it. When given the opportunity to enjoy the best bourbon has to offer, I take it.

I have friends for whom I will pull numerous strings to obtain tickets for us to attend events. But if the venue has bourbon, they all know the quid pro quo is to buy me the most expensive offering in the building.

Once, I was in an establishment with someone when the bartender insisted I try a very hard to find and expensive 17-year-old bourbon. I had a few or, as they say in Wisconsin taverns, a “couple-two three.” I do not recall. I would state under oath that I offered to pick up the tab. But the plaintiff I was with suggests otherwise and doesn’t like me to this day.

So let me make up for it. I willingly share with you what I believe is easily the best value and bargain in the world of fine bourbon: Eagle Rare.

It is smooth, tastes wonderful and has been aged for ten years. That is amazing for a bourbon with a list price under $40. It used to be widely available. Unfortunately, though, I am a bit too late in sharing the wealth, and Eagle Rare now gets snatched up quickly or at a drastically increased price.

The recommendation of Eagle Rare as a value proposition is as award-winning as both the product and the story behind it.

In what almost sounds like the Bluth family continuing to lead an extravagant lifestyle after changed circumstances in the TV show “Arrested Development,” Charles Beam, of the famous Beam family, boldly envisioned Eagle Rare. The bourbon business in the 1970s was hurting, since most drinkers at the time eschewed brown spirits. He started Eagle Rare in 1975 both as an homage to Wild Turkey and to compete with that venerable brand. The uncompromising quality of Eagle Rare helped revamp the popularity of bourbon.

Sazerac bought the brand in 1989 and produced it at Heaven Hill until 1992, when the company purchased Buffalo Trace Distillery. Eagle Rare has since been distilled by Buffalo Trace alongside roommates like E.H. Taylor, Blantons and Pappy Van Winkle.

Remember that 17-year-old bourbon I mentioned that resulted in the nefarious bar tab controversy? That was Eagle Rare 17, part of what is known as the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. It is spectacular, but like trying to choose between a Saturday or a Sunday off from work, I’m good with either. The regular 10-year Eagle Rare is a perfect bourbon.

And just in case you don’t like to save a little money, and identify instead as an oligarch, there also happens to be a Double Eagle Very Rare 20-year version I have seen on the secondary market for five figures.

If you see a bottle of Eagle Rare, I strongly suggest you grab it.

If you see the 20-year version, grab it and run VERY fast.

Steve Palec is chief marketing officer of Milwaukee-based commercial real estate development firm Irgens. ‘The Good Life: Steve Palec on Bourbon’ lifestyle feature appears regularly at

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