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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
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    Chicago
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    12,536

    \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    A correspondent from the Netherlands wrote me about a statement I made in an article, that "straight whiskey is the product of one distillation at one distillery and is fully aged." He had read in an article that Four Roses is "a blend of 11 different bourbons" and that "straight whiskey means that there aren't any non-bourbons or neutral grain spirits." He noted that one of us must be wrong. I confessed that it is me. Today the rule is "'Straight whisky' includes mixtures of straight whiskies of the same type produced in the same State." That is taken right from the ATF regs. What I don't know is: when did that change? Or did it? I know the requirement for "bottled in bond" is that "the whiskey must be produced in the same distilling season by the same distiller at the same distillery." That too is verbatim from the regs. Maybe that was always the rule for "bond" but never for "straight" and I had the two confused. Does anybody know?

    --Chuck Cowdery

  2. #2
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    I'm pretty sure that was always the case, and that was also the basis of our discussion some time ago, relative to whether Distiller's Masterpiece should be called bourbon. Let me get my finger out of this dike and I'll continue...

    Actually, I believe the "bottled in bond" definitions pre-date the "straight whiskey" ones. The former were compiled in 1897 and were very restrictive, as they were oriented toward the quality of the liquor that was being guaranteed. The idea was to create a set of criteria that only the most upstanding, highest-quality distillers could meet. The latter definition, dating from after prohibition, is from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (at that time a part of the Internal Revenue Service), and is mostly oriented at defining liquor classes (of all kinds) for taxibility and marketing purposes.

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  3. #3
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    My mistake. What is interesting about this is that, in a way, bonds are more closely akin to single barrel bourbons than they are to other straights. A bond must still be the product of one season and one distiller at one distillery. A single barrel is that by definition. Most bourbons probably are that by default, but the law allows bourbons from many distilleries, makers and seasons to be mingled together and still called "straight bourbon."

    The other interesting thing about bonds is that because they are uniform as to age and proof, they are a great way of comparing one distillery to another. Like a limited class in auto racing, the range of variation is narrowed.

    --Chuck Cowdery

  4. #4
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    It does kind of make you wonder why distilleries today are marketing straight bourbon, at 100 proof, aged within the 2-20 year range allowed for bonded whiskey, and they're *NOT* bonded. Even brands that once WERE bonded. For example, why is Knob Creek not bonded? Supposedly there is a financial benefit for complying with the bonded whiskey laws; you'd think Beam would want to take advantage of that - is it not qualified because it's produced in two distilleries (Boston and Clermont) even though both are owned by the same company? What about Old Grand Dad? I think that's also distilled at both locations. And Heaven Hill is keeping all the bottlings of Old Fitzgerald except one... the classic green label 100-proof botted-in-bond. Oh, I think they ARE continuing to bottle it at 100 proof; just not BIB any longer. Why is that? It's not as though they don't already have several other brands aging in bonded warehouses (Heaven Hill, Dant, Dowling, etc). I think one explanation might be that there is more mixing and mingling going on now than used to be. To tell the truth, with only a handful of bourbon distillers in existance, and all of them first-rate quality, and little chance of anyone starting up a cheap fly-by-night company anymore, I don't think it matters so much if they trade off stock amongst themselves (thus disqualifying them for bonded status). If the likes of Jimmy, Elmer, Gary, Parker, Steve, Julian, Even, or whoever's at David Sherman these days offers me their latest product, I don't care if it's taken from ALL of their warehouses, I know it's going to be special and I know it's going to be good. Well, at least if they don't go flavoring it with mesquite!

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  5. #5
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    John,
    The main reason they are not marketing Bonded Bourbons anymore is that the marketing people think we don't want bonded bourbon. It sounds too old fashioned and is not "hip". I think they are stupid, but that is their thinking.
    Mike Veach


  6. #6
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    Actually, I think the SMARTEST way to make and market fine bourbon is to emphasize tradition, distinctive flavor, history, and the lasting values of generations of distillers. Quit trying to appeal to folks who've grown up looking for beverages that taste like fruit juice and concentrate on a small core of enthusiasts (not unlike ourselves, as a matter of fact).

    So where does the money come from in order to pay for all this, you ask?

    Well, how about fine china or leather bags and briefcases? Fruity premixed cocktails and coolers made with Tennessee whiskey? Why, you could even support restoring a dilapidated but historically important and beloved distillery to pristine condition, outfit it with custom-designed copper pot stills and then use it to make VERY small batches of highly experimental craft bourbon that will probably never pay for itself. You do this, of course, by not mentioning it to your stockholders. Take a look at the July 2000 CEO report for Brown-Forman. See their record earnings? See how Jack Daniel's, Southern Comfort, and Lenox all had their best year ever? See all their wines and champagnes, Irish and Scotch? Now run a search on "Labrot". Find anything? Nope. Something like six million dollars to restore the distillery and six years worth of distilling experimental whiskeys and not a single word. Why? Because the investors would probably lynch poor Owsley Brown if they knew he was making all that money to pay for saving a historical landmark from the scrap heap (without even building a profitable theme park next door to it) and making what could be the finest whiskey made in America since the Civil War. For the head of a multinational corporation (even if his family does hold controlling interest in it), that takes real courage, and a real love of bourbon's heritage. Using Creggor's rating phrase system, I'll certainly give a tip of my hat to Owsley Brown II for upholding his own family tradition of dedication to the world of Kentucky bourbon.

    Oh, and by the way, Old Forester is still bonded. And old fashioned. And not hip. And one of the best-kept bourbon secrets out there.

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  7. #7
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    Well San Jaun you do got that right! So what if other investors did know about L&G? What are they going to do? Sell their shares in a first rate profitable company? A company that makes money no matter what the market as a whole is doing? Those that really understand what makes America great would only buy more while the price was down. Can we invite Owsley Brown II to our fun raiser?

    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

  8. #8
    Enthusiast
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    Nov 2000
    Location
    Frankfort, KY
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    499

    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    OUCH! Mike, I can tell you that during market visits to Louisiana, I have seen bottles of Bonded Old Charter that are at least 5-10 years old. We still produce some bonded whiskey, however, consumers have voted with their pocketbooks and they have migrated away from those 100 proof offerings.

    Ken


  9. #9
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    Ken,
    Using Old Charter as an example is not a very good way to go. I worked for U.D. during the period that you are talking about (5-10 years ago) and I know that they put little or no money into advertising the brand as a whole. They were letting the brand die a slow death so of course Charter Bond from that era is still going to be on the shelf. What are your figures for AA Bonded? that would be a better example unless yor company was also failing to support the brand. I have heard marketing people at U.D. and B.F. say that "Bonded whiskey is too old Fashioned to sell. It needs to be modern and hip to sell." In my opinion these marketing people were just plain wrong (and some of them at U.D. were Bozos as well).
    Mike Veach


  10. #10
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    Don't want to hurt anyone's feelings here, but folks, it's just plain old Machiavellian economics...

    Y'see, it costs more to produce Bonded bourbon than it does to produce regular 100-proof and people will buy it anyway. So why bother? In fact, if you dilute it down to 90 proof, you'll save more money than what you'll lose from disgusted soon-to-be-ex-customers. Most won't even know the difference. So let's do that. Of course, there are limits; our marketing experts found that taking it down to 86-proof will lose you more revenue than what you'll save, so you'd better just stop at 90. What a shame we have to deal with a nosy, intrusive federal government that forces us to actually change the labels each time we lower the proof. Life was better in the good old days of freedom from gov'mint oppression.

    Is that what people mean when they talk about consumers voting with their pocketbooks?

    By the way, does anyone remember what was being said about Sazerac 18yr Rye when it first came out at 90 proof? That would have been AFTER all the reviewers had sampled the original 110-proof version they were expected to write about? That's the version that won all those medals and honors. Search through these very forum pages, folks (that'll be a lot easier now that Jim has redesigned the search defaults. Thanks Jim!)

    Dangerous place, the internet; it never forgets.

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

 

 

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