It is fitting that both Bourbon Day and Flag Day are being celebrated on June 14th this year. What distilled spirit is more identified with America than bourbon? If you said rye, I would point out that most Canadian whiskey is called rye.
One of the most significant legal developments in the history of bourbon was the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897. It said that only domestic distilled spirits that met certain qualifications could use the terms “bond”, “bonded”, “bottled in bond”, “aged in bond” or similar phrases. This told the consumer that the whiskey, bourbon, or other spirit that they were buying was what it said on the label. They weren’t getting some neutral spirit with added coloring and tobacco juice added for “flavor”.
This was codified into Title 27 CFR 5.42. Section 3 states:
(3) The words “bond”, “bonded”, “bottled in bond”, “aged in bond”, or phrases containing these or synonymous terms, shall not be used on any label or as part of the brand name of domestic distilled spirits unless the distilled spirits are:
(i) Composed of the same kind of spirits produced from the same class of materials;
(ii) Produced in the same distilling season by the same distiller at the same distillery;
(iii) Stored for at least four years in wooden containers wherein the spirits have been in contact with the wood surface except for gin and vodka which must be stored for at least four years in wooden containers coated or lined with paraffin or other substance which will preclude contact of the spirits with the wood surface;
(iv) Unaltered from their original condition or character by the addition or subtraction of any substance other than by filtration, chill proofing, or other physical treatments (which do not involve the addition of any substance which will remain incorporated in the finished product or result in a change in class or type);
(v) Reduced in proof by the addition of pure water only to 100 degrees of proof; and
(vi)Bottles at 100 degrees of proof.
In addition to the requirements of § 5.36(a) (1) or (2), the label shall bear the real name of the distillery or the trade name under which the distillery produced and warehoused the spirits, and the plant (or registered distillery) number in which produced; and the plant number in which bottled. The label may also bear the name or trade name of the bottler.
Bernie Lubbers, the Whiskey Professor and brand ambassador for Heaven Hill, is a true believer in Bottled in Bond bourbon. So much so that he has it tattooed on his arm and his license plate reads “Stay Bonded”. He and fellow writer Fred Minnick explain it in the YouTube video below. Bernie is the author of Bourbon Whiskey: Our Native Spirit which is an excellent book in my opinion and Fred is the author of Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker which is another great book on bourbon. I both in my collection.
So when you get home from work tonight, pour yourself a nice bourbon or mix a cocktail with bourbon and then sip it while looking at your flag. Better yet, make it a bottled in bond bourbon!