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Thread: Bonded bourbons

  1. #21
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Bonded bourbons

    Jim Murray is especially beholden to no one.
    Most of Jim Murray's income comes from consulting fees and other compensation he receives from distilleries, mostly for conducting tastings for them with their big customers. I'm not suggesting he colors any reviews based on who is or is not retaining his consulting services. I have no information about that one way or the other, but to say he is not "beholden" ("Owing something, such as gratitude, to another; indebted.") might not be entirely accurate.

    But not to be coy, what do I really think? I think Jim likes to bite the hand that feeds him from time to time. He's that way. Might his opinion of a whiskey also reflect his opinion of the people who make it? I can't say no, since he doesn't taste blind. I know most of the whiskey writers (there aren't that many of us) and I don't think honesty is really a problem with anybody. Anybody in this business who is selling his soul is selling it cheap, because it doesn't pay that well.

    So I guess, Mike, I really would only quarrel with you about the word "especially." Just because Jim has slammed a couple of products, that doesn't necessarily make him less "beholden" than other people.

  2. #22
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    Re: Bonded bourbons

    Oh yes...let me hasten to clarify! When I said that bottling in bond isn't necessary, I meant from the standpoint of legal requirements. I did not mean to imply that it wasn't necessarily desirable, though. Indeed, my first bourbons were BIBs (Old Grand-Dad, Old Taylor, and Old Fitz), and today I am often unimpressed with bottlings lower than 100 proof.

    My tastes were carved out on the stuff and I will always keep a space for it on the liquor shelf of my heart, but I am grateful that the market is such that whiskey that approaches the quality of BIB is readily available...that it's not a world of 80 proof whiskey taking over out there, which is what it really seemed to be (to me at least)back in the 80s, when I was laughed at for drinking "WW II Veterans' Whiskey" instead of lighter blends - some of which I thought tasted more like lighter fuel.

    Michael Shoshani
    Chicago

  3. #23
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    Re: Bonded bourbons

    This discussion reminds me of a statement which whisky and beer expert Michael Jackson once made in relation to beer. He said each time a traditional process is altered, something is taken away from the drink. The change may be subtle, but a series of changes taken together means a drink becomes something different than it was and often, lesser. He had in mind changes such as moving to cylindro-conical fermenters from open vat fermenters, increasing the use of refrigeration (especially again in relation to ale production), use of hop extracts instead of full flowers, use of grain adjunct to substitute for barley malt, and so on. One can apply this perspective usefully to bottled-in-bond. While legal in origin the concept (as for later bourbon regulation) was to ensure, albeit for certain purposes, the integrity of the product. Originally, whiskey was sent in barrel to the customer or the vendors. I doubt mingling was practiced, not methodically anyway. Customers, certainly those who paid for the best product, got whiskey uncut and tasting pure and distinctive of its season and source and probably around 100 proof if not higher. Later, bottling in bond ensured fidelity to this original practice for bottled whiskey and quality was maintained. The practice subsequently (which existed before) to dilute, mingle and blend pure, aged whiskey has continued to this day, but those who want the product in its purest form were drawn to bottling-in-bond and BIB still offers a guarantee of quality. Today, some higher proof regular expressions and many small batch products are either effectively bottled in bond or close enough to ensure high quality. So the consumer has a choice: those who prefer the (relatively) lower price and house character of, say, Old Grandad 86 proof can buy that; Jim Beam Black Label is another example. Those drinks are very valid too because they exhibit a complex, house character and are certainly bourbon! Some people prefer them to the bonds whereas I see each as having its own merits. Even blends had their merits, I speak in the past tense because so few blends today exhibit real character; this was not so (always) in the past.

    Bottled in bond and similar offerings offer the best example in bourbon of what might be called a varietal character. American Chardonnay does not taste like bonded bourbon but each drink shows the essential features of its type, is authentic. Often, this will ensure a fine drink but not always; many winemakers prefer blends of varietal wines, for example (the great Bordeaux red wine style is a combination, usually, of cabernet sauvignon and merlot). The point is not to lose the original type of any of these drinks and that has not happened. Americans in particular have an enviable choice of authentic products in wine, bourbon and rye and beer, more so than ever, I think. Where local production has fallen off or disappeared, modern distribution and transport ensures a good range is brought near (enough) to one's town to allow a decent if not, well, fulsome choice.

    Gary

  4. #24
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    Re: Bonded bourbons



    It's been a few years since I ran the label machine...

    How many 100 proof bourbon, BIB's I can remember?

    Heaven Hill
    Old Heaven Hill
    Old Heaven Hill 10 yr.
    J.T.S. Brown.
    J.W. Dant
    John Hamilton
    T.W. Samuels
    Henry McKenna (SB)
    Dowling
    Heaven Hill Old Style WHITE
    Evan Williams WHITE
    Old Evan Williams GREEN
    Old Fitzgerald
    Olde Bourbon
    Old 1889 Brand

    It's been about four years since I "actually" kept up with the labels.

    Chuck, you are right about the changes. Nothing drastic (on the HH gold), the face, back and wrap stay the same with the exception of the collar. Lots and lots of collar changes when I ran the machine. One of the many mistakes for a label machine operator was accidentally mixing up the B-G with the D-4's', D-3's...next on the list of screw ups ---upside down labels---

    It's been so long, I hope I have not gotten any mixed up...I probably left out one or two.

    We do various sizes in bottlings...It's not unusual to look across the lines at HH and see the "same label" running on several lines...It kinda follows each other. One line will run it in a flask 200, A-line...B-line, produces a round 750. C-line a round LTR. D-line a handle and the new square 1.75...the next...square, 750 and ltr. and plastic,carry pack, etc. etc. etc...


    Bettye Jo

  5. #25
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    Re: Bonded bourbons

    Bettye Jo, your hands-on knowledge is current enough and adds a lot to our understanding of what products receive BIB labelling and how the packaging process works.

    Speaking of packaging, in the current All About Beer magazine, I noticed a small story (really just a note in the industry developments section) about a brewery, I believe in Pittsburgh, which recently introduced a beer in a metal bottle. It is said the bottle is not breakable, is light and will chill faster than glass. A photo of the bottle is shown, it is silvery gray, and quite attractive. Is this the thin edge of the wedge that will displace the remaining use of glass containers for beer and its near- exclusive use for spirits? Of course, some people will wonder about the effect of metal on beverage alcohol. However, I understand such containers, including current aluminum beer cans, are lined to preclude off-flavors. I don't mind canned beer; as long as it is good, fresh and properly packaged, it should be fine.

    Yet, part of the idea of spirits is to see (save for vodka, and even then) the color. There are one or two vodkas sold in a metal bottle, my sense is such containers have not taken off as yet. But if metal will be used extensively to replace glass in beer packaging, not just in the States, where cans are already a big part of the beer market, but elsewhere, where they are not (e.g., Canada) one wonders if this will have a, um, spill-over effect in the spirits industry. Blanton's in a henceforth silver, gold, etc. metal bottle..? Seems hard to picture, but maybe the day will come. I think it will if, (i) metal bottles cost overall less than glass, factoring in that is shipment weight and breakage factors, and (ii) the environmental implications can be worked out.

    Gary

  6. #26
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    Re: Bonded bourbons

    Isn't a "metal bottle" just a bottle-shaped can? I suppose it has a bottle-style closure but otherwise, so what?

    Now a clear or translucent metal bottle, that would be something.

  7. #27
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    Re: Bonded bourbons

    Ah, but if consumers accept the bottle-can in replacement of the glass bottle - sipping Corona from a metal bottle, for example, why not introduce it for bourbon and other spirits? If it costs less to package beer and whiskey in metal and people accept metal bottles (especially in bars and heretofore glass-dominated contexts), what bodes for glass and whiskey..? The first cans in the 1930's looked (somewhat) like bottles (the famous cone-tops). That type of can did not last; this time it may be different.

    I should add: the bottle in question is resealable. The beer is Iron City by the way (Pittsburgh Brewing), and Allcoa makes the bottle - kind of a neat symmetry (more or less) in the brand name and image and new packaging.

    Gary

  8. #28
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    Re: Bonded bourbons

    My point in observing that a metal bottle is just a bottle-shaped can is that what IC has introduced is a novelty and not a sea change. The prices of metal and glass beverage containers are already comparable, especially when you make the metal container resealable, a necessity for spirits products. In the case of whiskey, if not other spirits, the ability to see the product will continue to give glass an edge. I believe the only inherent advantage of metal is weight.

  9. #29
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    Re: Bonded bourbons

    And lack of breakability. Just the other day I was buying bourbon at the LCBO and behind me someone sent a bottle of Scotch flying.

    A novelty, probably, yes, but sometimes these things take off.

    Gary

 

 

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