When I was in college, Early Times Whisky (not a bourbon) was always something of a last resort. I could always count on a plastic pint-sized bottle to be behind the counter for around $5 if I was a little too tight on cash to justify a full bottle of Wild Turkey or Buffalo Trace. It was to whiskey as Hamm’s was to beer for me. Needless to say, when I saw a new label bearing that familiar brand name along with the word “Bourbon” I was intrigued.
Early Times Bottled In Bond is a tribute to the 75th anniversary of the original Early Times bonded recipe, which was quite popular in the 1940s. It eventually grew to be the best selling Bourbon in the United States in the 1950s – Check out Fred Minnick’s book Bourbon for a really interesting account of the company’s legal battle with Old Stagg for those bragging rights. Nevertheless, the Early Times brand took quite the tumble and eventually ditched the “Bourbon” classification in the early 80s when they decided to cut costs by aging some of the whiskey that would become Early Times in used barrels. Aside from the short-lived Early Times 354 Bourbon that was on shelves a few years ago – It sucked and they killed it – the new Bottled In Bond release is the first Early Times Bourbon to be sold in the U.S. since.
- ABV: 50%, 100 Proof
- Age: At least 4 years
- Company/Distillery: Brown-Forman
- Mash Bill: 79% corn, 11% rye, 10% malted barley
- Price: $25 / 1L Bottle
Nose: Spicy, lots of rye and black pepper. Baking spices. Caramel, brown sugar sweetness. Fairly low alcohol presence
Taste: Fairly hot. Lots of rye spiciness with some black pepper and clove. Slightly subtle caramel and vanilla sweetness, with a little bit of fruit on the back end.
Finish: Fairly short, bitter and spicy, with a touch of caramel sweetness at the end
Overall: I was honestly pretty surprised by how much spiciness I got here. After seeing the mash bill and a handful of other reviews before buying a bottle for myself, I expected something more balanced…a little to the sweet side if anything. The spiciness isn’t necessarily a bad thing though…I have a feeling this will be my go-to cocktail bourbon for the next couple of weeks. With so many companies putting out limited-release products at the $50/$100/$200+ levels, it’s nice to see Brown-Foreman offer something with a price tag that appeals to just about anyone. I’m a big fan of BIB bourbons – Heaven Hill, Evan Williams, and Henry McKenna are a few favorites – and Early Times BIB certainly deserves a place on my shelf. While it’s not something I’ll be sipping neat very often, I’d gladly take this in an Old Fashioned any day. If you can try it before you buy it, I’d definitely recommend going that route, but at $25 for a liter I wouldn’t pass it up if you see a bottle on the shelf.