Bottled In Bond Whiskey
By Bernie Lubbers; Whiskey Professor – WhiskeyProf.com
Have you ever wondered what the words, “Bottled In Bond” means on a whiskey label? These are three of the most significant words you can ever find on a bottle of whiskey in my opinion. The Bottled In Bond Act of 1897 was the first consumer protection legislation in the history of the United States, and it was about whiskey! Nine years before we cared about passing laws regulating our food in the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906, we cared more about our whiskey!
The late 1800’s was in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, and a lot of companies were acting out of greed and for pure profit. They were not distillers, but they were rectifiers and blenders, and thus they would buy whiskey or grain alcohol from anyone, and then to make it consistent they would add colors and flavors like iodine, tobacco, prune juice, or just about anything that would work.
A distiller named Col. Edmund H. Taylor, Jr at the O.F.C. Distillery (Old Fire Copper) had enough of this practice, and he decided he was going to do something about it. (Being politically connected; (his great uncle was Zachary Taylor, and he also was related to James Madison) he worked closely with Secretary of the Treasury, John G. Carlisle and together they passed the Bottled In Bond Act of 1897. Some folks credit this act from saving bourbon and other straight whiskies from the rectifiers and blenders.
So if the words “Bottled In Bond” appears on the label, that whiskey must meet these criteria;
– aged for at least 4 years
– bottled at exactly 100 proof (50% alcohol)
– The product of one single distillery, and that distilleries DSP (Distilled Spirits Producer) number must be listed, as well as the location that it was bottled
– Must be the product of one distilling season. (Today that season is Jan-Dec, but back then there was a Spring Season which was Jan-June and a Fall Season July-Dec)
Following the Bottled In Bond Act of 1897 was The Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906 which among many things also required that certain special drugs, including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, morphine, and cannabis, be accurately labeled with contents and dosage. Previously many drugs had been sold as patent medicines with secret ingredients or misleading labels.
Then it was President William Howard Taft that made a decision ending a dispute between straight whiskey producers, and the rectifiers and blenders who used neutral grain alcohol and added colors and flavors like those sugars, iodine or prune juice.
The Taft Decision of 1909 formally defined the types of whiskey that are still present today. Taft said that for a whiskey to be called “straight,” water is the only thing that can be added. If anything other than water was added to the whiskey, it must be called a “Blended” whiskey.
So when you look at a bottle of whiskey, and it says BOTTLED IN BOND KENTUCKY STRAIGHT WHISKEY (whether it is Bourbon, Rye, Corn, Wheat Whiskey) it is under the most strict standards of what can be produced.
Since the Small Batch and Single Barrel craze everyone goes nuts for those, but some of those today are products of rectifiers and blenders today, although they are not adding iodine and flavors, but rather buying whiskey on the open market and putting their names on it. So give me a Bottled In Bond whiskey any day, so I can look on the label and see just who made it, sip history, and spend a fraction to boot!
How Many Bottled In Bond Whiskies Exist?
Bottled In Bonds are kind of rare because you can only use barrels produced in one distilling season…so you’ll rarely find a brand that is either national, or planned on being a volume player because of that. “Pre-Prohibition Style” refers to the four year old B.I.B. specifically. Some carry up to 10 years of age (Henry McKenna) but that is for today’s consumer. Folks in 1897 – 1920 and then post Prohibition preferred four year old whiskey.
Right now the current list of B.I.B. that I can find are the following:
Old Heaven Hill B.I.B. (Heaven Hill)
Heaven Hill 6 Year Old B.I.B (Heaven Hill)
Evan Williams B.I.B (Heaven Hill)
Old Grand Dad B.I.B (Jim Beam)
Very Old Barton B.I.B (Sazerac)
Kentucky Tavern B.I.B. (Buffalo Trace)
Edmund H. Taylor, Jr small batch B.I.B (Sazerac)
Edmund H. Taylor, Jr single barrel B.I.B (Sazerac)
Edmund H. Taylor, Jr Rye B.I.B (Sazerac)
Rittenhouse Rye B.I.B. (Heaven Hill)
Mellow Corn B.I.B. (Heaven Hill)
Old Fitzgerald B.I.B. (Heaven Hill)
David Nicholson 1843 B.I.B. (Luxco)
J.W. Dant B.I.B. (Heaven Hill)
J.T.S. Brown B.I.B. (Heaven Hill)
T.W. Samuels B.I.B. (Heaven Hill)
Henry McKenna 10yr Single Barrel B.I.B (Heaven Hill)
Old Tub B.I.B. (Jim Beam) * only available at the Beam Visitors Center in .375ml size
William Heavenhill B.I.B. (only available at the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center)