Bottled in Bond. Once a symbol of quality, the designation had fallen on hard times. New Bonded Bourbons were few and far between. But when Bourbon hit a resurgence, Bonded Bourbons were quietly surging with them. Known as a historical oddity to most consumers, to the Bourbon devotee a Bonded Bourbon was something in which you knew exactly what you were getting: a high enough proof to bring flavor, an age above four years, and most importantly a good value. The quality was good and the price didn’t seem to reflect that. It was a Bourbon lover’s dream.
For the longest time, I felt that the best Bonded Bourbon values were being released by Heaven Hill. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Old Grand-Dad, but JW Dant, Evan Williams White, Old Fitzgerald, JTS Brown, Henry McKenna, and of course Heaven Hill 6 year old were the ones I was spending my money on and recommending to others. Dant won the Bottom-Shelf Brackets once and was a finalist another time. Evan Williams and Heaven Hill each went through a phase where they were always on my shelf.
Anecdotal evidence among my Bourbon-loving friends says that the glory days of the Bonded Bourbon as an amazing value may be coming to a close. At least from Heaven Hill, that is. I’ve gotten multiple texts from friends along the lines of “are you noticing that Dant is tasting really young or is it just my bottle?” I’ve personally noticed the same from Evan Williams White Label. The beloved Heaven Hill 6 year old has been discontinued and the Old Fitzgerald Bonded has been transitioned to a $100 plus limited release.
But all is not lost for the lover of Bottled in Bond whiskey. And we have the craft distillers to thank for it. They sold young whiskey for so long that many are using the Bottled in Bond designation to separate their new fully mature whiskeys from their previous offerings. Whisky Advocate noted last year that “examples come from Kings County Distillery, Laws Whiskey House, Mountain Laurel Spirits, FEW Spirits, and Tom’s Foolery.” Around the same time, GrowlerMag.com added ones from Old Pogue and Wiggle to that list. And most pertinent to tonight, just a few months ago New Riff released their New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey which also happens to be Bottled in Bond.
New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Bottled in Bond
Purchase Info: $39.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Liquor Barn, Jefferson Commons, Louisville, KY
Details: Distilled Fall 2014. Bottled Fall 2018. 50% ABV. Non-chill filtered. Mashbill: 65% corn, 30% rye, 5% malted barley.
Nose: This has the classic spicy Bourbon nose. It just smells like Bourbon. Along with that are cinnamon, cola, and tobacco with a light grain sweetness underneath.
Mouth: Baking spice forward. Cinnamon, brown sugar and menthol.
Finish: Spicy and on the longer end of medium. Flavors from the mouth continue into the finish and linger.
Thoughts: I’m impressed with this one. The flavors are vibrant and rich with no hint of youth. Much more rich and vibrant than many other bonded bourbons, even those with higher age statements like the dearly departed Heaven Hill 6-year-old. This is flat out a pretty great bourbon with a decent price. I can’t wait to try the rye and single barrel that they list on their website.
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