New Arrivals on the Wall
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release 12, 68%, $10
Our usual reminder that we don't announce ALL our new arrivals. We like to leave a few things as surprises for patrons scanning the wall on their own. There's a couple of very special and very limited bottles up there right now as I write this. In fact, looks like some people have already discovered 'em.
Twice a year Heaven Hill releases a limited amount of 12 year old Elijah Craig straight from the barrel. These are always big whiskies, exhibiting lots of leather and spice on the nose.
Jefferson’s ‘Ocean Aged at Sea’ Voyage 8, 45%, $12
Jim Beam Signature Craft ‘Harvest Bourbon Collection, High Rye,’ 11yr 45%, $14
Jim Beam Signature Craft 12yr 43%, $12/2 oz
Two exceptional values from Beam/Suntory. The High Rye is part of a set of experiments that Fred Noe oversaw around the time his dad, Booker, retired. The 12 year old is a super smooth Bourbon that's great for beginners.
Old Forester Birthday Day Bourbon 2016, 48.5%, $10
Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 22yr 45.2%, $17
Parker’s Heritage 10th Edition, 24yr bonded (Fall) 50%, $40
This is another BIG whiskey from Heaven Hill. If you decide to take the plunge, spend some time with it before coming to any conclusions. After all, it took 24 years just to get to you!
Westland ‘Garyana’ 56.2%, $20
I cannot say enough about this whiskey. Easily the most sophisticated American single malt I've ever tried, with several layers of aroma and flavor. Only 2500 bottles released.
Our complete September whiskey list can be found here.
About Bottled-in-Bond Whiskey (Part 2)
This is the second part of a two-part article on bottled-in-bond whiskey. With roots in the 19th century, this gaming changing product category is showing signs of making a come back in the 21st.
Part 1 of this article can be found here.
It’s a good bet that the last time you bought a bottle of American whiskey you probably didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what might be in the bottle or how it got there. Whiskey is made from grain (mostly corn if it’s Bourbon), aged in a barrel, usually diluted to a lower proof with water, put in a bottle by the distillery, and sent to the store where you buy it. However, things weren’t always that simple—or reliable. Once upon a time the contents of that bottle might have been quite different. This is part of the story of how that changed.
Part 2: Bottled-in-Bond in the 20th Century
Our story now fast-forwards to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. At this time the Federal government takes important steps to ensure the health of the recovering American whiskey industry.
First was the establishment of modern standards of identity for all spirits, including whiskey. This meant the definition for “straight” (unadulterated) whiskey finally attains the force of law, which it hadn’t had before Prohibition. It now takes its proper place along side “bottled-in-bond” whiskey as a meaningful term of art. Spirit created entirely through rectification can no longer make any claim to be whiskey, and more or less disappears as a result.
Actually, an obscure clause in the standards of identity for whiskey allows the addition of up to 2.5% “harmless coloring, flavoring or blending materials” if it’s done in accordance with an “established trade usage.” The prevalence of rectified whiskey sold as rye prior to Prohibition grants it this exception. (The moral of this story is to never trust a rye, or any other whiskey for that matter, that isn’t labeled as a “straight.”)
Second, was the establishment of the so-called “three tier” model that separates the making, distributing, and selling of spirits into distinct business categories. This was to prevent the creation of natural monopolies that could limit competition and affect quality and pricing. Most whiskey is now bottled by the distillery as a matter of course.
Then in the late 1940’s another significant change occurs. In the run up to the Korean Conflict, some distilleries gambled, that as had happened during World War II, there would be a huge demand for industrial alcohol by the military, so they began to stockpile whiskey in anticipation of a windfall. And, as usual, they placed the whiskey in bond to defer paying excise tax. However, demand during the Korean Conflict was far less than anticipated, leaving these distilleries with a glut of whiskey quickly approaching the end of its bonding period.
The fear was that the enormous tax liability represented by this whiskey would bankrupt the industry as a whole. This led Louis Rosenstiel, the head of Schenley Industries, (one of the largest spirits companies at the time) to lobby in Washington for relief. The result was the first change to the bonding period since it was set at eight years nearly a century earlier. The Forand Bill, as it was known, extended the bonding period to 20 years, and, most importantly, was applied retroactively to all stocks already in bond. Rosenstiel had headed off catastrophe. Now the only question was what to do with all the whiskey. Rosenstiel’s solution was to invent of a new category of extra aged whiskies, marketed as luxury items in a country coming already in a period of great prosperity. Schenley's Old Charter, while not bottled-in-bond, was the first of these.
So: remember how the original Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 didn’t include any specific mention of a minimum bonding period? That omission, coupled with the passage of the Forand Bill, now meant that one could release bottled-in-bond whiskies as old as 20 years without any change to the language of that original legislation. Someone in the 19th century was thinking way ahead!
By the beginning of the 1960’s there were several extra aged bottled-in-bond selections on the market. Some of the most famous were from the Stitzel-Weller distillery, at the time best known for its Old Fitzgerald brand. (The Van Winkle brand, so revered today, did not yet exist.) There was both a “Very Xtra Old” 10-year-old release and a “Very Very Old” 12-year-old release, both of which came packaged in a fancy gift box. This was another innovation of this time.
With the general decline in whiskey demand that started in the early 1970s, interest in bottled-in-bond also fell off. In no small part this reflected the fact that the import of the category was now lost on generations of whiskey drinkers born long after the time when government supervision of this degree was necessary to ensure quality. The emphasis on “lighter spirits” (in particular vodka) may have also led distilleries to regard 100-proof whiskey as a rather heavy option.
Today, of course, the American whiskey market is quite the opposite, with demand for product often outstripping supply. And people are once again becoming interested in bottled-in-bond offerings. Even more heartening, some of the newer so-called craft distilleries have finally been around long enough to have stock old enough to meet the basic criteria set forth in the original 1897 Act. So we can expect to see even more coming in this category in the next couple of years. Bonded is back, baby!
I want to end this with a shout out to a distillery that’s probably done more to keep the bottled-in-bond concept alive in the 21st century: Heaven Hill. At last count they have 12 bottled-in-bond products, the most recent of which is a 24 year old bottled-in-bond Bourbon under their “Parker’s Heritage” brand. Not only is this the oldest bottled-in-bond whiskey to be released since Prohibition, they also managed to release two versions, one distilled in the Fall of 1990 and the other in the Spring 1991. Two seasons, just like the original Bottled-in-Bond Act. That’s tradition!
Here's' a list of all the bottled-in-bond products currently offered by Heaven Hill. (Note that some of these brands are regional and not available everywhere.)
More questions? Feel free to ask any of the bar staff or just send us an email: email@example.com.
- Evan Williams white label
- Heaven Hill white label
- Henry McKenna 10 year old single barrel Bourbon
- J.T.S. Brown
- J.W. Dant
- Mellow Corn corn whiskey
- Old Fitzgerald *
- Old Heaven Hill gold label
- Parker’s Heritage 10th edition 24 year old Bourbon
- Rittenhouse rye
- Sacred Bond brandy
- T.W. Samuels
Just a few of the bottled-in-bond spirits available at the bar. (Look closely: not all of them are whiskey!)
Ask Hard Water
We're always standing by to answer your American whiskey questions. This past month we had some questions about bottled-in-bond whiskey that stumped a number of "experts" so we're feeling pretty saucy about ourselves. Maybe your question will stump us!
We look forward to hearing from you! Write soon! firstname.lastname@example.org