With a growth of over 170% since 1999 and more than $1 billion worth exported to outside markets, bourbon is one of the most popular spirits in the world. And it’s easy to see why. Strict laws dictate what ingredients distillers can use and the aging requirements of this spirit, making it a pretty straightforward, honest spirit. The difference comes in longer aging, the proportions of the ingredients and the art and science behind distilling. Labels like Pappy Van Winkle and some Eagle Rare bourbons cause near hysteria among bourbon enthusiasts because they have nearly perfected their aging process and recipes. Their golden liquid is unlike any other.
But there are other labels out there that are also unlike any other: labels with bonded or bottled-in-bond stamped across the front.
In the early 1800s, the rules were a little less strict. In fact, they were downright nonexistent. Crooks and con-men would bottle nearly anything they wanted and color it with prune juice, tobacco and turpentine—a whole slew of terrible things that started making people ill—deathly ill—when they drank it. Enter government regulation.
To keep suspect “bourbon” out of people’s hands, the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 was passed. Essentially, the act listed a set of rules distillers must follow in order to include “Bottled in Bond” or “Bonded” on their labels. The public would know they were drinking true, quality bourbon if the bottle carried the designation. The regulations were fairly simple. The bourbon must be:
- Made in a single season (January-December)
- Made by one distiller and one distillery
- Aged for at least four years in secured warehouses
- Aged under government supervision
- Bottled at 100 proof (50% alcohol)
- Labeled with the distillery name and bottling location
The result was better bourbon.
Bonded bourbons aren’t nearly as common as they once were, but there are a few still around that follow the guidelines in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. One such spirit is Jim Beam Bonded.
With a sweet, oaky aroma and flavors of spice, vanilla and subtle nuances of toffee, this bourbon is medium-bodied, balanced and smooth.
It’s the perfect taste of history for celebrating National Bourbon Heritage Month.
Meghan Guarino, copywriter