Bourbon barrels next to charred wood
The Reason Eagle Rare Bourbon Is Aged In 'Alligator' Barrels
To qualify as bourbon, a whiskey must be aged in charred oak barrels to add flavor and coloring with no additives. "Alligator barrels" are a more unique type of bourbon barrel.
Eagle Rare bourbon uses alligator barrels to create a liquor with a deeper color and spicier notes. An oak barrel can qualify as an alligator barrel if it has the right char level.
Charring is ranked on a scale of 1 to 7, and each level lends different characteristics to the barrel. A level 4 barrel, or "alligator char," is burned for almost a whole minute.
After the burning session, the surface of the barrel takes on a "cracked" texture that looks like the skin of an alligator, with deep ridges and the wood peeling off slightly.
Master Distiller Eddie Russell tells Tales of the Cocktail that the peeling wood gives the bourbon more surface area to come into contact with, infusing it with more smoky flavor.
"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," Russell said.