What Does Bottled-in-Bond Mean as it Relates to Bourbon?

Written by Peoples Bourbon Review Staff |

When shopping for spirits, it is difficult to know what is quality bourbon. One way to narrow the field is to look for the designation "Bottled-in-Bond" on the label.

Unlike the typical whiskey, Bottled-in-Bond bourbon is produced in the United States as per precise federal guidelines that require spirits to be aged and bottled according to a set of legal rules. While the term Bottled-in-Bond has been around for over a century, it lost significance during prohibition and then regained its distinction about two decades ago.

This review helps the modern drinker understand what bottled-in-bond means as it relates to Bourbon today.

What is Bottled in Bond?

Bottled-in-bond refers to a specific set of standards for American-made distilled beverages. A bottled-in-bond spirit must be bottled as per the legal regulations of the government's Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits produced within the US borders.

Every Bottled-in-Bond bourbon whiskey is the product of a single distillation season, by a single distiller, at a specific distillery, and allowed to age in a federally bonded warehouse under federal supervision for at least four years. Additionally, each bottle should meet the requirement of fifty percent alcohol by volume; while the label must identify the distillery and location of bottling.

Bottled in Bond whiskeys are:

  • Distilled entirely by a single U.S. Distillery
  • Distilled within the same calendar year
  • Aged at least 4 years
  • Bottled at 100 proof or 50% alcohol

Additionally, the Bottled-In-Bond Act prohibits the addition or removal of any substance or material that can change the original nature of the bourbon. For instance, bourbons cannot be infused with other additives like fruit, spices, or flavorings.

When was the Bottled-in-Bond Act Introduced?

The guidelines were introduced as the Bottled-in-Bind Act of 1897 following the widespread adulteration of whiskey in the 1800s. To eradicate Bourbon whiskey laced with tobacco and iodine, BiB 1897 was introduced to maintain the integrity of American spirits.

The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 gave producers tax incentives, empowered the federal government as a guarantor for the spirit’s authenticity, and adopted practical measures to collect due taxes. Producers took advantage of this provision to improve production.

Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey

To label a whiskey as bourbon, the mixture of grains/mash should contain at least fifty-one percent corn. The mash should be distilled at 160 proof or less, after which the distillate is kept in a charred oak barrel at 125 proof or less and free of additives.  It has to be a product of the United States in accordance with federal standards. While most of the bourbon producers are from Kentucky, there has been a surge in bourbon whiskey producers in the recent decade.

Importance of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897

Before stocking your shelf with your favorite whiskey, you should ask, what does bottled-in-bond mean as it relates to the consumer?

After some digging, you realized that the act rose to prominence to protect whiskey consumers in the United States and beyond. In the 1800s, the lack of standard production for alcohol gave room for unscrupulous producers to deliver substandard products. In the late 1870s, the lack of proper seals and labels gave rise to adulterated whiskey brands.

To curb the rising cases of poisonings, politicians and craft distillers of the time created the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. Introducing government measures related to the labeling and sealing stage gave consumers peace of mind. Storing the drinks in a bonded warehouse ensures that each drink has a mark of quality and oversight.

Bottled-in-Bond Today

After helping the production of quality bourbon in the U.S. and beyond, the value of the label Bottled-in-Bond was eventually lost. Bottled-in-Bond production lost its honor as inexperienced drinkers did not understand its significance, pushing them to bottom-shelf liquors.

About twenty years ago, craft distillers reappeared in the whiskey industry with a determination to reclaim the lost glory of Bottled-in-Bond beverages. Major producers abiding by the BiB guidelines include Heaven Hill and Jack Daniels, while upcoming distillers include Wilderness Trails and New Riff Distilling.

The resurgence of Bottled-in-Bond is attributed to bartenders, mixologists, and enthusiasts. More drinkers have come to realize the significance of bonded spirits in cocktails.

Best Bottled-in-Bond Bourbons to Try in 2022-3

To get the best quality of whiskey free of impurities, you should try:

Author: Peoples Bourbon Review Staff
The People's Bourbon Review - The ultimate Bourbon reviews and tasting notes by enthusiasts and the people.


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