Bottled In Bond Whiskey
As we get closer to crowning the best American whiskey under $35, it should really be no surprise that 3 out of this year's final 4 are all Bottled In Bond. Nothing is truly more American in American Whiskey (as well as any other aged American spirit) than being Bottled in Bond. So what exactly does that mean? Well, let’s take a little tour back in time.
Prior to 1897, when distilleries made Bourbon, they didn’t bottle it. In fact, in that time not only were there no standards for calling whiskey Bourbon, there were no standards regarding whiskey at all. Even more so, there were no standards regarding products to protect consumers from anything. Distilleries would make whiskey, barrel it, and sell the barrels off. Sometimes it would be sold to general stores, and sometimes to what would be known as rectifiers. The name of the distillery would be branded on the top of the barrel, which is where the term brand comes from. This is how distilleries (and every other product we know of today) gained name recognition, thus in turn developing a reputation for quality. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people would take these barrels and cut them with other things, giving them twice as much product to sell. People would buy the product based on name recognition but not receive the quality product they were expecting. This practice could greatly damage a distillery's reputation. Old Forester was the first to recognize the dangers of this, and as such became the first company to bottle its own whiskey in 1870, to ensure quality and protect its own name. But that was not enough.
So Edmund Hayes Taylor (EH Taylor) and Secretary of Treasury John Carlisle put together what would become known as the Bottled in Bond Act. On March 3, 1897 it passed in the 54th Congress and became the FIRST consumer protection law enacted in this country. 9 years later, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 would be passed, showing that we cared about protecting our whiskey before we cared about anything else.
The Bottled in Bond Act stated that whiskey (or any other aged spirit):
- had to be made by one distiller
- in one distilling season (Jan – June or July – December)
- aged a minimum of 4 years in a government supervised (bonded) warehouse
- bottled at exactly 100 proof
There were also tax benefits, since taxes did not have to be paid until the product was bottled, as opposed to yearly as it ages.
This prompted a bit of a war with the rectifiers, who claimed it gave distillers an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Eventually, that would lead to definitions of Whiskey, Straight Whiskey, Blended Whiskey, and Bourbon and Rye. But what does that mean to you, the consumer today?
Well, when you buy a typical bottle of whiskey, or any other aged spirit, it is typically blended. It is blended with product from different ages, sometimes from different distilleries, and sometimes it is blended with different products altogether. So when you pick up a product labeled Bottled in Bond, you are guaranteed that it was made by the same person. It was also all made at the same time, so it is not a blend of different aged spirit. You will know it is at least 4 years old, and that it is 100 proof. You will know without a doubt, that you are getting the most pure, most strictly regulated product that the distillery has to offer. And by the way, Bottled in Bond is a strictly American designation, so you are also picking up a uniquely American product.
So again, it is no surprise that 3 out of our final 4 American Whiskies in our under $35 challenge are Bottled in Bond. Here they are: