Recent releases have proved that bottled in bond whiskey is back and better than ever. To qualify as bottled in bond, a whiskey (of any style, not just bourbon) must meet the guidelines outlined in the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897—the whiskey must be 50% ABV, distilled by a single distiller in a single season, and aged for a minimum of 4 years in a federally bonded warehouse. Though the guidelines are specific, that hasn’t stopped distillers from churning out a diverse range of new bottled in bond releases, and our Fall 2020 Buying Guide features several high-scoring ones.
Among them is the follow-up to Whisky Advocate’s 2019 Whisky of the Year, George Dickel 13 year old Bottled in Bond. The new release, an 11 year old distilled in 2008, scored a whopping 95 points in the Buying Guide—and it’s in good company. These whiskeys are united by their high scores and bottled in bond style, but they vary in price and taste. So pour a dram and delve into this burgeoning style!
8 BOTTLED IN BOND WHISKEYS TO SEEK OUT
Lush, rich, and deep from the start, with blackberry, cherry, spiced plum, cinnamon, mint, and maple syrup aromas. Even more density on the palate, which has deep flavors of cocoa powder, Raisinets, roasted walnuts, cinnamon, mint, maple syrup, and chewy oak. Extraordinary length on the finish, which carries the chocolate, dark fruit, spice, mint, and rich oak notes for minutes. A phenomenal follow-up to its 13 year old antecedent, our 2019 Whisky of the Year. —Susannah Skiver Barton
Oak always leads the character of well-aged bourbon, sometimes dominating it, but here the balance is just right. The nose gives an impression of sweet syrupy fruit, like candied orange peel and cherries jubilee; there’s also creamy flan, dusty spice, cocoa powder, and leather bookbindings. Richly oaked and dense with flavor, the palate has dark chocolate, roasted walnuts, cola, black currant jam, and peppermint. It finishes generously with mint-flavored dark chocolate, blackberry jam, and coffee bean. Skip the water. (14,400 bottles) —Susannah Skiver Barton
Deep, complex, and ever-developing flavor that doesn’t quit. The nose shows cherry Robitussin, leather sofa, old books, polished oak, and a refined sweet nuttiness, like Jordan almonds. Chewy and oak-driven on the palate, with cherry cough syrup, roasted pecans, dried ginger, white and black pepper, and ample oak; flavors of burnt ends and burnt marshmallow hint at the peat—which comes from the use of peated malt whiskey backset—but could just as easily be mistaken for barrel char. The peppery, ashy, chocolaty finish keeps going and going. (2,250 bottles) —Susannah Skiver Barton
Frey Ranch Bottled in Bond Rye (Batch 1)—93 points, $60
Fragrant and inviting on the nose, with a juxtaposition of floral and fruit notes—rose petals, fresh cherries—then saddle leather, spice, mint oil, tea leaves, and almonds. Those aromas are echoed on the palate’s robust Gobstopper of flavors: dark chocolate-covered cherries, cinnamon, maple syrup, Italian plums, walnuts, and undertones of mint. More dark chocolate, mint, and almonds on the finish, which has remarkable length. Water is transformative, bringing out more fruit, but with or without it, this is an outstanding whiskey. —Susannah Skiver Barton
Grain takes pride of place here, with kettle corn, honey peanuts, and corn muffin on the nose, as well as milk chocolate, licorice root, blueberry jam, cinnamon, allspice, and brown sugar. More sweet grain and nuts on the palate, along with blueberry, fresh ginger, cinnamon, and a hint of mint. Add some water to lift the veil on the more subtle flavors. The rounded finish continues with nutty sweetness, milk chocolate, and well-integrated oak. Excellent balance. —Susannah Skiver Barton
Old Overholt Bottled in Bond Rye (2020 Edition)—91 points, $25
This relaunched version of Old Overholt’s bonded rye is not chill-filtered, and it makes a noticeable difference. Aromas of cinnamon-sprinkled apple slices, toasted grain, spearmint and peppermint candies, and Cinnamon Life cereal carry into the palate, which balances oak and grain superbly: fresh mint, licorice, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, cacao nibs, and walnuts. The vivacious spices almost pop in the mouth, but settle down into a satisfying finish of black pepper, cacao, mint, and well-integrated oak. Well-balanced without water, but a few drops serve it well. — Susannah Skiver Barton (Best Value)
An unconventional flavor profile with a nose featuring fresh mint and chocolate in abundance, along with secondary notes of candle wax tinged with a bit of alcohol heat. It’s the chocolate that sticks around through the palate, as gentle sweetness is quickly swept up in warming spices and bitter Mexican chocolate, supported by flavors of nutty, honeyed malt. Enjoyable and highly original. —Jeffery Lindenmuth
Old Tub Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon—87 points, $23
This is more about mashbill than barrel, a fine showcase of grain. Light and sweet on the nose, with peanuts, nougat, creamed corn, banana pudding, coconut cake, and Popsicle stick; water brings out fresh apple. It stays consistent on the palate, showcasing the purity and sweetness of the grain: cream, vanilla taffy, toasted coconut, and toasted wood. It finishes with peanuts, toasted coconut, clean grain, and oak. —Susannah Skiver Barton