Okay,so by now I guess you get the picture …. I really like a good rye whiskey. And as it so happens, fortunately for me, I’ve got quite a few bottles to enjoy…. and to share! Naturally, having a good selection also gives me an opportunity to do another review of another rye! This time around I’m sampling a Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey, Bottled in Bond, perhaps one of the best value for money bottles of rye available.
Our whiskey for today, the Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey, Bottled in Bond, is a straight rye whiskey without a specific age, so we know that it is at least 4 years old …. remember, to meet the definition of a straight whiskey, it must be at least two years old, but if it is less than four years old, an age must be disclosed on the label. But what does the term “Bottled in Bond” tell us about this whiskey? Well, that requires a quick bit of history!
To understand the origin of “Bottled in Bond”, we need to go back to 1897. Prior to that year, whiskey was frequently adulterated, with producers adding coloring and various non-whiskey flavorings, injecting their whiskies with things like iodine, tobacco and other additives. As a result of this widespread abuse, and a public demand for better quality standards for their whiskies, the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 was passed.
The Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 established that all whiskies labeled as Bottled in Bond must meet the set of legal regulations contained in the United States government’s Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, which state that in order for a spirit to be labeled as Bottled-in-Bond, the liquor must be the product of one distillation season (January to December) and one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 (U.S.) proof (50% alcohol by volume). The bottled product’s label must also clearly identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. Finally, only spirits produced in the United States may be designated as bonded. The act effectively made the federal government the guarantor of a spirit’s authenticity, but is also gave producers a tax incentive for participating. Furthermore, the Act also helped ensure proper accounting and that appropriate taxes were collected. While the regulations apply to all spirits, in practice, most bonded spirits are whiskeys.
The concept of Bottled in Bond labeling was seen as an endorsement of quality by many consumers who had fought against the adulteration of whiskies, yet it is a term that has declined in use over time, likely because other, more stringent quality standards were implemented since 1897. In many cases, products that meet the standards for the Bottled in Bond designation are not labeled as such, yet the term has not completely died out. There are still a good number of Bottled in Bond products currently available, including whiskies from Heaven Hill such as Evan Williams, Henry McKenna, J.T.S. Brown, J.W. Dant, Mellow Corn, Old Fitzgerald and Rittenhouse Rye. Beam Suntory produces BIB whiskies including Jim Beam Bonded, Old Grand-Dad, Laird & Company, Luxco, and David Nicholson 1843. Sazerac Company produces Very Old Barton and Col. E. H. Taylor, and finally, Brown-Forman bottles the Old Forester 1897 as a bonded whiskey.
Heaven Hill Distillery
Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. is a family owned and operated distillery company headquartered in Bardstown, KY that produces and markets the Heaven Hill brand of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey as well as a variety of other distilled spirits. Heaven Hill is the seventh-largest alcohol supplier in the United States, the second-largest holder of bourbon whiskey in the world with an inventory in excess of 675,000 barrels, the only remaining family owned distillery in Kentucky (not counting the Brown-Forman Corporation, which is publicly traded but more than two-thirds family controlled), and the largest independent family owned and operated producer and marketer of distilled spirits in the United States.
Heaven Hill was founded by several investors shortly after the repeal of Prohibition in 1935, including a prominent distiller, Joseph L. Beam, and a member of the Shapira family. As the company developed, the five brothers of the Shapira family bought out the other investors. Joe Beam remained as Master Distiller, along with his youngest son, Harry. Descendants of the Shapira brothers own and run the company to this day.
All of the Master Distillers at Heaven Hill since its founding have been members of the Beam family. The original Master Distiller was Joseph L. Beam, Jim Beam’s first cousin. He was followed by his son, Harry, who was followed by Earl Beam, the son of Jim Beam’s brother, Park. Earl Beam was succeeded by the current Master Distillers, Parker Beam, who has been Master Distiller for over 50 years, and his son, Craig Beam.
As an aside, in 2014, Parker Beam was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Using his legacy to bring attention to ALS and the search for a cure, Parker and Heaven Hill are working to raise funds to help find a cure. Parker’s Heritage Collection® is a series of rare, limited edition American Whiskeys produced by Heaven Hill in tribute to Parker for his more than five decades of crafting exceptional Whiskeys. For each bottle of the “Promise of Hope” edition sold, Heaven Hill pledged to contribute $20 to the Parker Beam Promise of Hope Fund, a fund established through the ALS Association in honor of the legendary 6th Generation Master Distiller. They hoped to generate in excess of $250,000 to aid in research to combat ALS, a disease that affects over 30,000 Americans every day. To date, the Parker Beam Promise of Hope fund has already surpassed the goal having raised over $500,000! If you want to contribute, and can’t find a bottle of the Promise of Hope, you can follow this link to make a donation to help find a cure for ALS.
Review: Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey, Bottled in Bond, 100 Proof, Bottled 2013, 42 23 265 13 18:16
Ok, so now to the review! I picked up this bottle of Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey, Bottled in Bond back in early 2014. Per the company’s website, Rittenhouse Rye is produced in the tradition of the classic Pennsylvania or “Monongahela” rye whiskeys, long considered the preeminent American whiskey style until bourbon supplanted it in the post-Prohibition era. Fortunately, a few companies continued to produce rye whiskies and today we have the chance to enjoy this unique style of whiskey.
Color: A nice copper/bronze
Nose: A sweetish initial nose that quickly shifts gears to reveal its rye profile. There is an almost smokey nature to the nose (High char?) that I find very nice. Hints of cherry, a delicate oak, and a good dose of dried rye grass. After adding water, while the underlying sweetness is still there, there is more focus on the rye spices. The dried grass notes dominate, herbal spices, floral, zesty and quite complex.
Taste: Follows the nose, with a sweet arrival that shows off a honeyed note. Then the rye spices arrive. In comparison, since I just reviewed the Redemption Rye, this whiskey if “bigger” with more vivid flavors and more complexity than the Redemption. I also get quite a lot of lemon juice, cherries and green apples, and still more of the spices! This has a well-structured, oily body. With a bit of water, it maintains the sweetish arrival, the spices are there but there is also a slight “chili” heat, along with the lemon and soft fruits.
Finish: Some tannic notes show up in the finish as the initial sweetness fades rather quickly, while the herbal/grassy spice notes remain. This is well-balanced between the sweetness and spiciness, herbal and floral, with some fresh lemon, before the tannins add a delicate drying, softly bitter bite at the end.
Overall: This is a softly sweet, yet vibrantly spiced rye whiskey. It possesses a full, rye-focused, complex and well-balanced profile with a very beautiful finish. For the price, this is a very good whiskey.
(*Note: as you can see from the picture, it was taken as I finished this bottle. I referred to my initial tasting notes along with re-tasting it for this review and, despite the time-lapse between the two “noted” tastings, the profile and flavors remained very consistent, so I merged my impressions into this single review.)
Region: United States
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Bottler: Continental Distilling Company, Bardstown, KY
Type: Straight Rye Whiskey, Bottled in Bond
Age: At least 4 years
Maturation: New American Oak barrels
Price: $24 (Total Wine)
Availability: Readily available
Sample Source: My own bottle