If you fancy yourself a bourbon drinker, you’ve no doubt come across a few bottles bearing the bottled-in-bond label. And if you fancy yourself an aficionado you may even be aware of what that term means. But for most drinkers scouring the shelves, the bonded label can raise confusion when shopping for the next bottle to add to bar carts.
Like much of bourbon’s rules the bottled-in-bond term, often referred to as “BiB” by collectors or simply “bonded,” refers to a list of legal requirements that the spirit’s production must adhere to. In this case, the law is the Bottled-in-Bond Act, which Congress signed into law in 1897. The law lists a set of conditions that bourbon (and other American whiskeys) must follow in order to use the term on the bottle label. It was originally passed to preserve the integrity of aged American spirits.
A few factors determine whether a bourbon qualifies for bottled-in-bond status, but it’s important to remember that whether straight or bonded, both of these styles must adhere to general guidelines in place for bourbon.
As a quick primer, that means the spirit must be 100 percent American-made; the mash bill must include a minimum of 51 percent corn; the spirit should be aged for a minimum of two years in charred, new oak barrels; and produced without the addition of artificial flavors or colors.
Now that we’ve established what they have in common, check out the handy visual guide below to discover the differences between regular ol’ straight bourbon and those labeled “bottled-in-bond.”