Ken, I have a history question that you may be able to answer. Or at least have some fun trying to find out...
Once upon a time, way back before single barrels and small batches, there were basically two "premium" bourbons. They were the same two that most dull, uninteresting bars still stock as their only premium bourbons to this day -- Wild Turkey and Maker's Mark. Three, actually, if you count Jack Daniel's as a bourbon, which virtually all of these bars did (and still do).
Now sometime in the late '60s I believe, Seagram's began marketing blatant knockoffs of these popular brands, or at least two of them. The marketing was directed toward the same people who buy imitations of well-known designer cologne brands. Eagle Rare 101 (their alternative to Wild Turkey) was a good one and Benchmark (their version of Maker's Mark) was, well, not. At least that seems to be true of those brands today. Seagram's sold them to Sazerac at some point and production moved to Buffalo Trace (Ancient Age then) from the Old Prentice distillary outside of Lawrenceburg (well, they called it the Old Prentice; I imagine it was really the Spanish mission distillery where they make Four Roses now). Both brands are still being made and sold by Sazerac, but there doesn't seem to be any attempt to associate them with other brands anymore. In fact, the single-barrel version of Benchmark isn't bad at all, and the recent release of Eagle Rare 17-year-old has brought new (and well-deserved) attention to this fine brand.
Please don't think I'm being derrogatory here. What I casually call "knockoffs" are just clever marketing (at least they were at that time) of what still needs to be decent bourbon if it's ever going to last. Which these have. And it should also be mentioned here that Seagram's has long had a reputation for, shall we say, inventive use of brand names in marketing that goes beyond what other bourbon distillers seem to feel is really necessary.
So my questions are,
(1) Just when did Sazerac purchase the brands from Seagram's?
(2) Is the 17-year-old Eagle Rare from the old Seagram's stock?
(3) Will anything like this be done with any remaining Benchmark stock?
(4) Did Seagram's ever release a similar knockoff of Jack Daniel (like just about everyone else did)? If so, whatever happened to it? Did Sazerac buy that one?
(5) What can you tell us about a Buffalo Trace brand called "Kentucky Rain"?