My post earlier this month gave details about the origin and passage of the Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897, why it was needed, and what’s left of it today ("Bottled in Bond" -- Bourbon Propels Early Consumer Protection Law). Now it’s time to put the books down and celebrate the 117th anniversary of the Bottled-in-Bond Act with a comparison of three BIB bourbons in three price ranges – under $20, under $30 and under $40. Here is the order, arranged by price:
Old Grand-Dad Bottled In Bond
Distillery: Jim Beam, Clermont, Kentucky
Yes, that’s Basil Hayden pictured on the front of the bottle. Old Grand-Dad reportedly uses Jim Beam’s high rye mash bill (27% rye), and it is also offered in lower and higher-proof versions.
Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10 Year Old Bottled In Bond
Distillery: Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, but aged in Bardstown
Age: 10 Years
Heaven Hill produces the most BIB brands, and this Henry McKenna is unique among BIBs because it contains an age statement. My bottle for this tasting is a private barrel selection.
E. H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch Bottled In Bond
Distillery: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky
It wouldn’t do a Bottled in Bond review justice to exclude Col. E. H. Taylor, Jr., the architect of the Act who got his politician buddies to push it through.
1st Glass (Old Grand-Dad):
The color of Old Grand-Dad has an orange tint to a slightly-light amber. The nose didn’t hide the high rye, although there are also nice flavors of sweet corn, butterscotch and cinnamon, with a little orange citrus. The nose isn’t hot. The taste is robust and really balanced for this price range. Spicy rye dominates, and brown sugar, corn and char make this a heavy hitter. Sweetness also comes from a little caramel, and overall Old Grand-Dad is very well balanced between spice, sweetness and earthy flavors. The finish is warm and medium in length and while it starts a little earthy and dark, it lightens up with a welcoming mint refresher.
2nd Glass (Henry McKenna Single Barrel):
The Henry McKenna was deeper amber than the Old Grand-Dad, and the nose told us this was going to be hot, but after getting past that kick, there were great scents of caramel, vanilla, corn and plums. The taste was very different than the first glass. First, it was much hotter on the tongue, while still having more of a buttery feel. Additionally, spicy rye and darker sweetness were replaced with light caramel, candy corn, vanilla and fruit, before moving to cinnamon and pepper spice. It finished evenly with these same flavors, with a medium length.
3rd Glass (E. H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch):
The color of the E. H. Taylor was almost identical to the Henry McKenna, except for a little reddish tone to the amber. After an initial alcohol sting, caramel and vanilla dominate the nose, but there’s a great balance with spice, cocoa, nuts and rye. The taste was very robust – and the deepest of the three – with brown sugar, clove and tobacco. There was still a great caramel flavor too, but it transitioned to more of a black licorice flavor. The finish was longer than the other two, with very nice warmth, and flavors of caramel and clove. The only complaint was that the earthy tones overpowered some of the other flavors.
Old Grand-Dad is the clear price-performer of this group. It is one of the few lower-shelf bourbons that really stand up to the brands that are perceived to be premium, either legitimately or through silly marketing. At under $20.00, Old Grand-Dad absolutely deserves some space on your shelf. Price aside, the Henry McKenna had a lot of great characteristics, but the heat distracted from the other flavors. Try it chilled, with water or on ice to reduce the heat and open up those other flavors. The E. H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch will be your favorite if you like robust bourbons with plenty of earthy flavor to go with sweetness, although the price lowers its score on my scale. You’re not going to go wrong with any of these options.
Scores on The Sipp’n Corn Scale
Old Grand Dad: 3.5
Henry McKenna Single Barrel: 3.0
E. H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch: 3.0
The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Wouldn’t even accept a free drink of it.
2 – Would gladly drink it if someone else was buying.
3 – Glad to include this in my bar.
4 – Excellent bourbon. Worth the price and I’m sure to always have it in my bar.
5 – Wow. I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.