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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    \"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
    **DONOTDELETE**
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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
    Enthusiast
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    A straight whiskey is one that is at least 51% of a particular grain (a straight rye must include at least 51% rye in the mashbill). It must also be aged for at least 2 years (for it to be a Kentucky Straight Whiskey, it must be aged in Kentucky at least 1 year before it completes its maturation of another year somewhere else). In addition, any combination of straight rye whiskies can be mingled (The use of the term "blended" is confusing) resulting in a straight rye whiskey, however, if one of the mingled whiskies is anything other than a straight rye, the resulting product becomes a blend.
    Blends may include up to 80% grain neutral spirits (Crown Royal), plus coloring and taste additives. A straight bourbon whiskey can only have water added. It gets further complicated by us marketing people. We often use terms out of context or that are just plain wrong. And I suppose this practice will continue until someone points out the error and then takes legal action for them to cease and desist.

    Ken


  4. #4
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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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

  5. #5
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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

  6. #6
    **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


  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    Hi John,

    The Old Fitzgerald green label 100 proof is still Bottled in Bond.

    Bettye Jo


  8. #8
    **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

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

    Hi Bettye Jo,

    When we were at the Bernheim plant we asked Jim Land, the production manager there, why there wasn't a sample bottle of the green-label 100 BIB in the display case with the other bottles and he told us that it was because it wasn't being made anymore. We asked him if he was sure and he said yes. Are you sure? I guess you'd certainly know it if new green label 100 BIB were being bottled (different label; different setup; Hey! Where's that mechanic? BETTYE JO!!). Are you just using up current stock, though? Is any Old Fitzgerald bourbon going INTO bonded warehouses now?

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

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Re: \"Straight\" vs. \"Bonded\"

    I always make sure that I know that the answer is correct before I post. I pulled the new label with the DSP 31. It is Bottled in Bond green label Old Fitzgerald.

    Hope to see you next week. Trying to work out my schedule. I am training on day shift with the "PRO" mechanic's right now. They are all so very patient and very supportive. The entire plant is cheering me on right now.

    Bettye Jo


 

 

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