There’s more whiskey being produced now than ever, with craft distilleries and global brands all scrambling to meet the seemingly insatiable thirst for the spirit. Given all the new expressions hitting shelves, it might seem odd that many bourbon obsessives are seeking out a rare bottle reflecting the heritage of the longest continually operated Kentucky distillery under the same ownership.
Despite usually costing less than $30 for a liter, it’s been difficult for many to actually get their hands on Early Times’ Bottled-in-Bond since it was originally limited to five states and is now available in eighteen. You’ll probably need to go on a lengthy search if you don’t want to wait to experience why this bourbon has caused such a stir among hard-core whiskey fans.
One sip of Early Times’ Bottled-in-Bond will make the appeal—and the willingness to cross state lines to find a bottle—obvious to anyone with a decent palate. But you need to know the story behind the designation and its deep ties to the early days of bourbon history to understand why it’s a sensation in the whiskey world.
Early Times started distilling whiskey in 1860, using the “early times method” of mashing grain in small tubs and boiling beer and whiskey in copper stills over open fires. Prohibition stalled production for a five year period, before the brand was acquired by Brown-Forman who breathed new life into the brand by purchasing the Old Kentucky Distillery: DSP No. 354. Today, the historic plant, now named the Brown-Forman Distillery, remains the home of Early Times and stands as the longest continuously operating distillery under the same ownership in Kentucky.
Early Times was exploring different ways to bring bourbon history to life throughout its long history. In 1945, Early Times introduced a bourbon that strictly adhered to the 1897 Bottled-in-Bond Act. The landmark piece of legislation states that whiskey must be the product of one distillation season and one distiller at one distillery, before being matured in the same warehouse for at least four years.
Bottled-in-Bond was a hit for Early Times when it was first released, helping the brand become the top-selling Kentucky bourbon in America by 1953. Still, it came as a surprise when Early Times brought back the distinct style of whiskey with a limited release in 2017, using the same traditional methods that have allowed the brand to thrive for 160 years.
Early Times’ Bottled-in-Bond is crafted with pure water and a mash bill composed of 79 percent corn, 11 percent rye and 10 percent malted barley, before being fermented with DSP No. 354’s proprietary yeast strain and carefully distilled.
The process leads to a deeply sweet flavor that melds notes of soft caramel corn and shortbread, coated with hints of chocolate, oak and cinnamon. A minimum of four years in new charred oak barrels rounds the smooth, classic taste and character of the bourbon.
You can fully appreciate this complex profile by sipping Bottled-in-Bond on the rocks, but that shouldn’t be the only you experience the old-style Kentucky bourbon. Bottled-in-Bond can also elevate classic whiskey cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan.
No matter how you choose to enjoy Early Times’ Bottled-in-Bond, you’ll be thankful you put in the effort to track down a bottle. Because every serious spirit fan should try this delicious time capsule from the dawn of Kentucky whiskey.
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©2020 Brown-Forman. Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 50% ABV, Early Times Distillery Co, Louisville, KY.