My Whisk(e)y Of The Week: A Dangerous Precedent, A Delicious BourbonEdit Post
Contributed by on Oct 18, 2018
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One of the best things about bottled-in-bond whiskey is that it's cheap. Of course, it's got plenty of other things going for it, too. Bonded whiskeys (for a bit more background go here) must, by law, be distilled in one six-month distilling season at one distillery, and labeled as such. It must be aged for at least four years under federal supervision. Four years isn't going to give you the most sophisticated sipping whiskey, but it's enough to give it some nice oaky overtones without it getting too tannic. And it must be bottled at exactly 100 proof, which is perfect for cocktails, and you can sip it without "burning your bird," as Frank Sinatra would say. So, yeah, Old Grand-Dad or Rittenhouse are terrific whiskeys. But the fact that they're affordable (you can generally find them in the $25-30 range) counts for something, too.
The problem with something cheap and good is that the temptation is always there to make it expensive and good. Hell, that's why Grey Goose exists. So when Heaven Hill decided to revive the venerable Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond expression earlier this year — and stick it in a fancy bottle and charge in the neighborhood of $100 for it — I thought, uh oh, here we go, the superpremiumization (if I did not make that word up, I'm taking credit for it anyway) of bottled-in-bond.
The second Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon (Fall 2018) (50% ABV, $90) has two things going for it that place it at a level above most B-in-Bs. The first is the gorgeous decanter-styled bottle, a throwback to a vintage Old Fitzgerald bottle from the '50s. This is not utilitarian — this is fancy. Same goes for the liquid inside. Where most bonded whiskey is aged for four years (the minimum required by law), this bourbon is aged for nine years. And those five extra years really do make a world of difference. Bonded bourbons are great for mixing or everyday drinking, but this is a top-shelf, special-occasion sipper through and through. I'm not always a fan of wheated bourbons (so called because they use wheat as a secondary grain instead of rye), but this is a beauty, rich and round and creamy and oh-so-smooth, with tons of flavor. Vanilla and caramel galore, with hints of ripe apples and walnuts in there as well — a perfect autumnal bourbon, though it'd be fantastic in July or January as well.
Heaven Hill kept the bottled-in-bond torch burning brightly when nobody really cared, and they're doing the category justice now that the spotlight's back on it. I just hope that gussied-up and higher-priced B-in-Bs remain the exception and don't become the rule.