EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Bottled in Bond

Blind Tasting Bourbon Less Than $50

A while ago I organized a blind tasting of bourbons that cost less than $50. I was inspired to put this together after a small group of friends and I did a blind tasting of whiskeys under $20. That tasting was both a lot of fun and introduced me to a couple of bourbons that I really love. Wanting to repeat this process I put together a game plan. First, I wanted to focus the tasting only on bourbons between $20 and $50. I picked this price point for two reasons: one, my expectation was the overall quality would be a little higher than the under $20 bracket; and two, because it falls in the range that I and many of my friends would feel comfortable spending on a bottle to drink at home from time to time without feeling like its so expensive or exceptional we'd have to save it for some sort of special occasion. Second,  I only wanted bourbons that I knew were sold by the distillery i.e. no Non-Distiller Producer bourbons like Bulleit or Black Maple Hill. Third, I didn't want any single barrel products because by nature their flavor profile can change from barrel to barrel and I wanted to help people find a bourbon that they would like and be able to return to and have it taste the same as it was at the party.  With these criteria in mind I went about finding bourbons that fit.

I found over dozen bourbons that matched my criteria however, 12 samples of bourbons even at 1/4 oz each starts to add up. I wanted to be sure that people could get home safely so I limited the field to nine. As I spread the word among my friends I was able to find about 25 people who committed to coming and who were willing to chip in to cover the costs of the whiskey.

Now, because I also wanted to participate in the tasting, the trick was figuring out how to set things up so the tasting was blind for me as well. The solution I settled on was I would mark nine brown paper lunch bags with the planetary symbols, Mars ♂, Venus ♀ etc. and then my wife bagged the bottles. For a couple of the bottles that were more easy to identify we decanted the bourbon into clean wine bottles.

The tasting was hosted at a friend's house and I placed three bottles of bourbon in the kitchen, the living room and a spare bedroom. The reason for this was that it forced people to move around and not just all congregate in one room of the house. I wasn't concerned about the order in which people tasted the bourbons so it worked fine. In a more formal tasting, flight order is important but for our purposes it was an easy sacrifice.

After a few hours or tasting and eating snacks, I collected the score sheets that I handed out the to tasters. They rated each bourbon from 1-10 based on what they liked. When I tallied the results, one of the first things that stood out was there were no bad bourbons in the batch.  While people liked some bourbons more than others there were no clear winners or losers. In the tasting under $20 it was very obvious that there were a couple of whiskeys that everyone liked and a couple that everyone didn't like, but not this time. This was an encouraging result because what it said to me was if you are going to buy a bourbon in the $20-$50 price range, you can be sure that it is a quality product though you can't guarantee the it will be your favorite.

After tallying the scores here were the results from our group of tasters:

  1. Russel's Reserve 10 Year Old 90 Proof (45% ABV) Distilled by the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY.

  2. Henry DuYore's Straight Bourbon 91.3 Proof (45.65% ABV) Distilled by Ransom Spirits in Sheridan, OR. (This was the only craft bourbon and the only bourbon not from Kentucky in the tasting.)

  3. John E. Fitzgerald Larceny 92 Proof (46% ABV) Distilled at the Bernheim distillery in Louisville, KY and owned by Heaven Hill.

  4. Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bottled in Bond 100 Proof (50% ABV) Distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY.

  5. Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select, 90.4 Proof (45.2% ABV) Distilled at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, KY and owned by Brown-Forman.

  6. Elijah Craig 12 Year Old 94 Proof (47% ABV) Distilled at the Bernheim distillery in Louisville, KY and owned by Heaven Hill.

  7. Four Roses Small Batch 90 Proof (45% ABV) Distilled at Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, KY.

  8. Basil Hayden 80 Proof (40% ABV) Distilled at Jim Beam's Clermont and Frankfort distilleries in KY.

  9. Maker's 46 94 Proof (47% ABV) Distilled at the Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto, KY.

From my personal score sheet my highest rating went to Colonel Taylor which was something I had never tried before and I was happy to find a new bourbon  that I really enjoyed. The other interesting thing was I gave my lowest rating to Maker's 46 which didn't surprise me since I'm not a huge fan of Makers Mark. It was reassuring to see that my taste buds are pretty reliable both when I know what I'm drinking and when I tasting things blind. In the end, this was a really fun event to organize and it was a blast getting a house full of people drinking and discovering some really good bourbon.

Review: Heaven Hill 6 Year Old Bottled in Bond Bourbon

Heaven Hill 6 Year Old Bottled in Bond Old Style Bourbon, distilled by Heaven Hill Distilleries and bottled at 50% ABV. 

Price Range: $9-$15

In 1939 Heaven Hill Distillery release their first Bottled in Bond bourbon call Old Heaven Hill. Since then the brand has persisted even though it was supplanted by Evan Williams in 1957 when Heaven Hill decided to make E-Dub their flagship brand. Living in California, I never see Heaven Hill Old Style Bourbon, but this probably due to the fact that it has the same mash bill as Evan Williams. However, while I was visiting Louisville, for ADI's 2015 Conference I found some. I drove out to Liquor Barn and I perused the bourbon aisles I came across Heaven Hill's 6 Year Old Bottled in Bond Old Style Bourbon. I was excited to see this bottle for two reasons. First, because Evan Williams dropped its age statement sometime in the early 2000s, and second, because it was a Bottled in Bond. In the Late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Bottled in Bond used to be the gold standard of bourbon because it guaranteed a certain level of purity and quality. Today, Bottled in Bond bourbons don't have the same cachet that once did but I see rumblings of a comeback. However, since a bottle of the bourbon was only about $12 I grabbed two to take home. 

TASTING NOTES

Nose: After the pour the nose is surprisingly closed off despite the its higher ABV. Once it has had time to breath the bourbon opens up with aromas of oak, apple, brown sugar, pumpkin bread and maraschino. 

Palate: On the palate the bourbon is a little astringent from oak tannins, the whiskey starts warm and crescendos to a nice level that isn't completely overpowering. In the mouth, flavors of cocoa, cinnamon, and nutmeg play against a pleasant sweetness and balanced with oak.  

Finish: The bourbon has a long finish and while the warmth from the alcohol lingers, notes of sweet maraschino fade into dry oak.

With Water: More caramel, toffee, and hazelnut comes through on the palate and interestingly, the oak flavor intensifies.

Conclusion: In the end Heaven Hill 6 Year Old Bottled in Bond Old Style Bourbonis a solid value bourbon for making cocktails. Taken neat the bourbon is a little too hot, the palate is slightly bitter and the nose is closed off. However, this bourbon works well in classic whiskey cocktails such as the Manhattan and Old Fashioned.

Exploring Bottled in Bond Whiskey

Not that long ago I read Bernie Lubbers' book Bourbon Whiskey - Our Native Spirit.  In the book he wrote fondly of bonded bourbon whiskey.  For those unfamiliar with the term bonded whiskey, also labeled as bottled in bond, refers to whiskey that has been: aged for at least 4 years, bottled at exactly 100 proof (50% alcohol), the product of one single distillery, and the product of one distilling season. To be honest, before reading his book, I hadn't thought much of bonded whiskeys. Most of what I saw seemed to occupy the bottom shelf in the liquor store or back bar of my local watering holes so I assumed they weren't as good as the whiskeys higher up on the shelf.  But, as I discovered in my blind tasting of inexpensive whiskies, price and enjoyment are not always correlated.

Inspired by Bernie's passion for bottled in bond whiskeys I've decided to search them out and allow myself to have an open mind.  According to Bernie's website there are now 17 commercially available bonded whiskeys, up from 13 just three years ago, and two others only available at the Jim Beam Visitor Center and the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center.

To the best of my knowledge all of these Bottled in Bond Whiskeys are available for retail purchase somewhere in the US. Updated: 7/3/16, 12/30/17

Heaven Hill Distilleries

  1. Old Heaven Hill B.I.B.
  2. Heaven Hill 6 Year Old B.I.B.
  3. Evan Williams B.I.B
  4. Rittenhouse Rye B.I.B.
  5. Mellow Corn B.I.B.
  6. Old Fitzgerald B.I.B. 
  7. J.W. Dant B.I.B.
  8. J.T.S. Brown B.I.B.
  9. T.W. Samuels B.I.B.
  10. Henry McKenna 10yr Single Barrel B.I.B.
  11. William Heavenhill B.I.B. (Bourbon Heritage Center Only)

Jim Beam

  1. Jim Beam Bonded B.I.B.
  2. Old Grand Dad B.I.B.
  3. Old Tub B.I.B (only at Beam Visitor Center)

Laws Whiskey House

  1. A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon B.I.B.
  2. A.D. Laws Secale Straight Rye B.I.B.

Willett Distillery

  1. Old Bardstown B.I.B.

Brown-Forman

  1. Old Forester 1897 B.I.B.
  2. Early Times B.I.B

Sazerac Company: Buffalo Trace Distillery

  1. Very Old Barton 6 Year Old B.I.B.
  2. Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch B.I.B.
  3. Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye B.I.B.
  4. Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel B.I.B.

Luxco (NDP)

  1. David Nicholson 1843 B.I.B.

Tom's Foolery Distillery

  1. Ohio Straight Bourbon B.I.B.

Kings County Distillery

  1. B.I.B Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Oregon Spirit Distillers

  1. B.I.B. Bourbon Whiskey
  2. B.I.B. Wheat Whiskey
  3. J. Becher Straight American Rye Whiskey B.I.B.

Review: E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bottled In Bond Bourbon

Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch Bottled in Bond Kentucky Bourbon is distilled by Buffalo Trace Distillery and and bottled at 50% ABV.

Price Range: $40-$50

Buffalo Trace is located in Frankfurt, Kentucky and owned by  Sazerac, a privately held company, headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1992, Sazerac purchased what was then called the George T. Stagg Distillery and after completing renovations in 1999, they renamed it Buffalo Trace Distillery. 

The E.H. Taylor bourbon line consists of four standard variations all of which come in a lovely canister and are labeled bottled in bond except for the barrel proof bottling. The E.H. Taylor Small Batch is distilled from Buffalo Trace's Mash Bill #1, a high corn mash bill which is believed to have 10% or less, rye as a flavoring grain. E.H. Taylor has no age statement so it is legally required to be at least 4 years old, however, most estimates place it between 7 and 12 years old.

E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon was one of nine whiskeys I included in a blind tasting of bourbons less than $50.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: Smells of light vanilla and rose petals with milk chocolate, and a hint of orange zest.

Palate: Tastes slightly sweet, with a smooth texture. The heat from the 100 proof is noticeable on the first sip but it mellows as you continue to drink.

Finish: Full of warm spice notes like clove and ground ginger.  It has a woody character like young pine with medium tannins that leaves the palate dry waiting for the next sip. This wood flavor is non-traditional for a Kentucky Bourbon so it may not appeal those who prefer a more pronounced oak character.

Conclusion: This bottling of Colonel Taylor is very floral and has a light nose, with its young woodiness it is a fun and different kind of bourbon that doesn't taste like everything else. While a solid bourbon, at its price point, I'm not sure it would make it into my regular rotation or that I would buy a second bottle. However, at 100 proof it will hold up well in any bourbon cocktail especially a Manhattan.