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The Best Bottled-In-Bond Bourbons to Drink Right Now

Best Bottled In Bond Bourbon 01 Hero

While remarkably simple in its necessary ingredients — typically a fermented grain mash made from barley, corn, rye, or wheat that’s then aged in wooden casks — whiskey is a remarkably complex beverage, both in regards to its potential flavor profiles and its long and storied history. And while there are a number of different types of whiskey (usually defined by the type of mash used), there are also a number of other defining characteristics that speak to the quality and care with which the beverage was distilled.

Most folks know some of these and how they affect the spirit. For instance, it’s generally understood that whiskeys aged for longer periods often develop deeper flavors and smoother profiles. Similarly, whiskeys with tightly controlled and monitored ingredients — like single malt scotch — are often of a higher quality than their blended brethren. There’s a lesser-known term, however, that even the most casual whiskey fan should know: bottled-in-bond. With a story that’s uniquely American, bottled-in-bond bourbon whiskeys are some of the most highly respected and sought-after by experts and aficionados around the world. In the following guide, we explore what they are and how they came to be, and offer a few examples you can pick up and try for yourself.

Best Bonded Bourbon Whiskeys

What Is Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon?

Up to the mid-1800s, whiskey typically wasn’t sold in bottles. Rather, it was served up straight from taps put into barrels at pubs, general stores, pharmacies, etc. It was also highly unregulated — meaning it was exceedingly difficult to tell whether the whiskey you were buying was properly distilled with quality ingredients or if it was a hodgepodge of chemicals mixed with low-grade alcohol, like the rotgut of the Old West (low-quality grain alcohol often mixed with tobacco).

Then, in 1870, the folks at Old Forester — a renowned whiskey brand that’s still around to this day — started selling their spirits in sealed glass bottles, starting a trend that would continue up through the present. While this development did, by happenstance, function as a kind of self-regulation in the whiskey community, lawmakers (and the nobler folks engaged in the whiskey trade) were still not satisfied by the assurances of a sealed container. So, in 1897, they passed a bill that would put assurances and controls in place as a means of assuring customers that the spirits they were imbibing were of a certain quality and consistency.

The guidelines as set out by the Bottled-in-Bond Act are as follows: for whiskey to fall under the bottled-in-bond umbrella, it must be distilled in its entirety by a single distiller in a single American distillery within the course of a single year. Following its creation, that whiskey must also then go through a four-year aging process under government supervision in a federally-bonded facility (essentially a warehouse owned and operated by the State). Finally, it had to be bottled at 100-proof — or 50% alcohol by volume. Put into place to ensure distillers were producing whiskey of a certain quality suitable for public consumption, this law was a huge boon for the whiskey industry on both sides of the transaction because it guaranteed assurances and a level of control that previously didn’t exist.

Bonded Whiskey In (Semi-)Recent History

There are a number of reasons that bottled-in-bond bourbon whiskeys fell out of public favor and our collective lexicon, but there is also an equal number of reasons they’re beginning to resurface. In regards to the former, the Bottled-in-Bond Act was passed prior to Prohibition. As many folks know, Prohibition — the outlawing of alcohol in the United States from 1920 to 1933 — was a devastating blow to the whiskey industry. And most distilleries that had been open prior to Prohibition collapsed before it was repealed. Similarly, the government facilities that once functioned as storage for the required four-year period were repurposed for other goods, put out of commission, or — in some cases — demolished.

Post-Prohibition, a number of surviving distilleries continued (or revived, depending on your point of view) the tradition of bottled-in-bond bourbons — including the likes of Jim Beam and Heaven Hill. And while this style of whiskey nearly went the way of the dodo a second time — during the vodka/gin boom of the ’70s and ’80s — the recent revival and renewed interest in whiskey as a spirit have led distilleries to begin producing bottled-in-bond varieties once again.

Today, the requirements for bottled-in-bond whiskey are the same as they were back when the act was first passed. Interestingly, historical examples of bottled-in-bond whiskey have been relatively cheap and could be found on the bottom shelf — likely a result of their stringent guidelines that prevent distillers from over-proofing their offerings or adding expensive, extraneous ingredients. However, more modern examples have been made with higher-grade ingredients (those that are organic, for instance) and, therefore, result in a higher end cost. And while these more high-end varieties are likely to continue popping up, there are still a number of bottled-in-bond whiskeys that are available at shockingly low price points.

Best Bottled-In-Bond Whiskies

Wet Your Whistle

Rittenhouse Bottled-In-Bond Straight Rye

Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond

We’ve heard it said that Rittenhouse’s Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye makes for the best Old Fashioned you’ll ever have. We’ve also heard it said, however, that putting this whiskey into a cocktail is a waste because it is so good on its own. Regardless of whichever side of the argument you fall on, one thing is for certain: it’s a high-demand whiskey at a bargain bin price. In fact, you can find it on sale for as little as $23 a bottle.

Style: Straight rye
Tasting Notes: Cocoa, citrus, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla

Jack Daniel’s Bonded

Jack Daniels Bonded

Last year, Jack Daniel’s had the whiskey world in a tizzy when it launched its Bonded Series, featuring the eponymous Bonded expression first and foremost. It’s a corn-heavy Tennessee whiskey with its mashbill consisting of 80% of the grain. Malted barley (12%) and rye (8%) rounded out the mix. The result is a high-proof version of Jack, with notes of oak, dark brown sugar, and cooked fruit, giving way to a finish of baking spice and a dash of smoke. While it has no age statement, its bonded stamp means that it’s at least 4 years old.

Style: Tennessee whiskey
Tasting Notes: Oak, dark brown sugar, cooked fruit, baking spice, smoke

George Dickel 13-Year Bottled in Bond

George Dickel Bonded

Not every brand that goes through the rigorous bonded process wins awards for the task. However, George Dickel’s 11-year version that was released in 2020 (from the 2008 distillation season) was met with critical acclaim. The Tennessee-based distillery tapped that 2008 batch once more for a 13-year whiskey a couple of years later — and sits at an unbelievable price considering that age statement. Continuing to flourish, the expression held its notes of pecan, maple, and dried apple thanks to the high 84% corn mashbill rounded out with 8% each of rye and malted barley.

Style: Tennessee whiskey
Tasting Notes: Pecan, maple, dried apple

Catoctin Creek Rabble Rouser Bottled-In-Bond Rye

With a name that harkens back to Old West barroom brawls and bootlegging, Catoctin Creek’s Rabble Rouser Bottled-in-Bond Rye is a much smoother and gentler drink than its name might suggest. As perfect in classic cocktails as it is on its own, this whiskey has a deep caramel color, both spice and sweetness on the tongue, and a finish that tapers off smoothly without lingering for too long. If you can find it, it should cost around $100 a bottle.

Style: Rye whiskey
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, lemon, spice, espresso, clove

Colonel E.H. Taylor Bottled-In-Bond Small Batch Bourbon

Colonel EH Taylor Bottled in Bond

One of many superb offerings from the Buffalo Trace distillery, Colonel E.H. Taylor’s Bottled-in-Bond Small Batch Bourbon is a fan favorite that’s highly sought after by those who are lucky enough to have tried it at any point. It makes for an excellent Old Fashioned but, arguably, is better served neat or with just a couple cubes of ice. Regardless of how you choose to enjoy it, this is also one of the easier-to-find bottled-in-bond offerings, thanks to the fact that it is made by Buffalo Trace. Still, you’ll want to snatch it up if you ever see it on the shelf, because the demand is still quite high.

Style: Bourbon
Tasting Notes: Oak, butterscotch, dried figs, tobacco, dark spices

Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon

This distilled spirit from Henry McKenna just made some major waves in the whiskey industry and has made a pretty excellent case for granting it the title as one of the best bourbons in the country. In fact, the 10-year-old whiskey garnered a number of prestigious accolades upon initial release back in 2019 — including Best in Show Whiskey at the SF World Spirits Competition, amongst a slew of others. As an offering from the legendary Heaven Hill distillery, this should come as no surprise.

Style: Single-barrel bourbon
Tasting Notes: Oak, honey, caramel, spice

Kings County Bottled-In-Bond Straight Bourbon

Kings County Bottled in Bond

What we love about Kings County’s offerings is that their labeling — which harkens back to the days of Prohibition — lets the whiskey inside their bottles speak for itself. Perhaps nowhere is that truer than with their Bottled-in-Bond Straight Bourbon. Don’t let the no-fuss packaging fool you, however, this offering from the New York-based distillery is a formidable whiskey if there ever were one. Smooth enough to sip neat, the depth of flavors might surprise you for an offering that costs well under $100 a bottle.

Style: Bourbon
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, caramel, molasses, cinnamon

New Riff Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon

New Riff is an interesting newer brand that operates on a unique premise: all of their offerings (save a select number of extremely limited releases) are said to be bottled-in-bond. And that started with this bourbon you see before you. Distilled specifically to meet the stringent rules and regulations laid out by the Bottled-in-Bond Act, this is a supremely high-quality bourbon that is just begging to be enjoyed. And that’s made all the more enticing by the fact that it is non-chill filtered — meaning the natural oils and flavors that come from the distilling process aren’t stripped by filtration.

Style: Bourbon
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, caramel, rye spice

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Old Fitzgerald 11 Year Bonded

Dating back to 1870, Old Fitzgerald is one of the United States’ oldest whiskey brands. What you might not know, however, is that they’re still around — and still highly renowned. And their Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a perfect example as to why. Some of their bonded expressions have been as old as 19 years, but this 11-year-old version is plenty pricey enough and just as formidable. Smooth and drinkable by itself or in a classic cocktail — like a Sazerac or Manhattan — this relatively inexpensive offering is top-tier.

Style: Bourbon
Tasting Notes: Butterscotch, cocoa powder, dried figs

The Complete Guide to Bourbon Styles

Photo: Buffalo Trace

If you want to explore the other styles of America’s whiskey, check out our complete guide to bourbon styles.