As the bourbon boom has brought (long justified) esteem to America’s native spirit, it has also had the effect of creating a demand for middle aged whiskeys that no one anticipated a decade ago, when those whiskeys were being laid down in the rickhouse. The result, while not exactly a full-blown shortage, has caused several high-profile brands, like Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old and Knob Creek 9-Year-Old, to drop their age statements.
The shrinking ranks of those middle-aged Bourbons has brought more attention to the once-sleepy category of the Bottled in Bonds. These whiskeys are made according to regulatory standards drawn up in the same progressive food and drug purity era that gave us Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Designed to protect the public from phony whiskey, the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 specified that whiskey receiving that appellation should be: 1) at least four years old; 2) from a batch from one distiller and a single distilling season; 3) matured under government supervision; 4) bottled at 100 proof.
The shoddy times that demanded such standards be spelled out in Federal law are long since behind us. Yet as markedly better bourbons have become dearer, the Bottled in Bonds have become a category that offers reliable quality at a good price. The result is a revival in the importance of the designation of Bottled in Bond, as more and more enthusiasts turn to them as replacements for the discontinued big brand names of the small batch era.
Heaven Hill Bottled In Bond 6 YO
At $12 a bottle, this old fashioned, white-labeled beauty is a serious bang for your buck kind of gem. Its humble appearance, harkening back to the dark days when few cared about, much less wanted, bourbon, belies what the bottle actually contains. There are plenty of Bourbons out there offering half as much quality as Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond White Label for three times the price. The catch is that this expression is available only in its home market of Kentucky. So, the next time you are plying the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, make a point of finding some and take home two bottles (and I say two because it’s cheap enough that you can easily afford doubles).
Evan Williams Bottled In Bond 5 YO
If you aren’t going to partake in Kentucky’s Bourbon tourism in the near future, you should consider picking up a bottle of Evan Williams Bottled in Bond instead. It’s essentially the same stuff as Heaven Hill Bottled In Bond, only a year younger, a point denoted by how it comes in a white label too. At a mere $18, it offers plenty of bang for the buck too. If you are a fan of Evan Williams, there really is no reason not to fork over five bucks more and buy the Bottled in Bond version instead.
Jim Beam Bonded
Knob Creek went from being a 9-year-old to a no age statement (NAS) small batch last year, which should put more of a focus on Beam Bonded down the road. From the day of its introduction, it was dubbed the “Baby Knob Creek,” since it was in many respects a half-aged version of that 100 proof, small batch whiskey. The age gap will surely narrow in the near future now that Knob Creek is an NAS, and Bonded costs a third less.
Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch
The Colonel E.H. Taylor line is composed almost entirely of Bottled in Bond releases, with the Small Batch version being the most readily available. It’s also the oldest example profiled here, for although it does not bear an official age statement, Taylor Small Batch is around seven years old. As such, it’s also the most expensive of the whiskeys on this list, but still very reasonably priced at around $40 a bottle.
Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond
This is the middle expression of Old Forester’s Whiskey Row line, so it’s mandated 100 proof places it between the more typical strength of the 1870 Original Batch and the ballsy 1920 Prohibition Style. The result is a sweet, full-bodied bourbon, that joins the Colonel E.H. Taylor line to thicken the ranks of premium Bottled in Bond Bourbons. While the price point, at $60, is higher than the aforementioned Taylor Small Batch, Old Forester 1897 is more widely and reliably available. Among premium Bottled in Bond Bourbons, this is the only one you will find in most (but even then, not all) upscale liquor stores on a regular basis.