Bottled-in-Bond is my favorite category of whiskey. It used to be something you found mostly on the bottom shelf and, good or bad, it has been enjoying a resurgence which has been driving up the price of these American beauties. Bottled-in-Bond (or Bonded) distilled spirits came out of a consumer protection issue. Back in the day, unscrupulous folks used to stretch their stocks by putting things, oftentimes bad things, in the whiskey. Think things like tobacco spit, turpentine, and other nasties that no amount of alcohol content sanitizes. People were getting sick, or worse, dying by drinking adulterated spirits.
Enter the Federal Government. Without getting political, I'm not a fan of big government, but there are times it has its place. The passage of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 renewed consumer confidence in American distilled spirits. In order to quality as Bottled-in-Bond, a distilled spirit must:
- Be made in the USA;
- Be distilled by a single distiller, at a single distillery, during a single distilling season (either January through June or July through December);
- State on the label the name of the distiller and, if different, who produced it;
- Aged at least four years in a government-bonded warehouse; and
- Bottled at exactly 100°, no more, no less.
So, in a nutshell, this was good legislation.
Today I'm reviewing Wollersheim Distillery's Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. I've reviewed their Bonded Bourbon before, but that was the 2019 Fall Release. This is their Spring 2020 release. I'm tasting them side-by-side, and I'm letting you know upfront these are completely different whiskeys. Yes, the mashbill is the same (75% corn, 15% malted barley, and 10% rye) and the grains were supplied by the same farm. Yes, they've both been aged four years. Yes, they've come from the same distillery. However, when I asked Tom Lenerz, the master distiller, what was different, he informed me they switched barrel suppliers to a Wisconsin-based cooperage and changed the char level from a deep, slow toast and light char to a toasted oak with a #3 level char. The cost of a 750ml bottle remains at $49.99.
It is time to #DrinkCurious and find out just how different these two Bourbons are. But, before I do that, I would like to thank Wollersheim Distillery for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, there was no difference in color between 2019 and 2020. Both were an orange-amber. Both created an ultra-thin rim on the wall, which may have been even thinner on the latter. Unlike the former, this one had thick, slow legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.
Nose: Aromas of cinnamon, sweet corn, and orange peel hung in the air. Beyond that, there was malt and caramel. When I inhaled through my mouth, orange zest and oak ran across my tongue. On the 2019 version, the fragrance was spicy. This was far less so.
Mouth: The texture was creamy and coating, and offered a medium body. As I continued to sip, the creaminess ramped up. On the front, flavors of toasted oak, cocoa, and vanilla started things off. As it continued mid-palate, I tasted caramel-covered popcorn and cashews. Then, on the back, the caramel continued sans the popcorn and was joined by nutmeg and orange citrus. Some of the notes from the 2019 release carried over, while others did not.
Finish: The medium-length finish was comprised of toasted oak, corn, toffee, and pink peppercorn. This was a completely different finish from the predecessor.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I enjoyed the 2019 version and gave it a Bottle rating, but was comparing it to other younger Bourbons. The 2020 version can compete against more mature offerings and hold its own. There were no young notes on this, no sharpness on the profile, and it was overall more mellowed. Between the two, the 2020 release leaves the 2019 counterpart in its dust. The price is the same: $50.00, and I am thrilled to have it in my library. Yeah, this one gets a Bottle rating, too. Get this, you will be impressed. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It