By: Scott Ritenbaugh

“Guaranteed Quality”

Just what does bottled in bond mean anyway?

“Bottled in Bond” appears on bourbon labels and quite often as “BIB” on bourbon lists at restaurants and bars. The term dates back to the late 19th century when rectifiers and distillers were locked in an economic war with each other. During that time period, improvements in manufacturing made the production of high-proof, neutral spirits very efficient. The liquor was cheap and could be made in mass quantities quickly. Rectifiers were wholesalers that purchased these cheap spirits, which they colored and flavored then sold on the market as whiskey. These cheap “imitation whiskeys depressed the prices of aged whiskey, and the distillers demanded legislation that would classify their whiskey as the real thing and the rectifiers’ product as fake.


In 1897, President Grover Cleveland signed the Bottled in Bond Act. This law made the government guarantor of distilled whiskey and developed the “Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits. The Standards of Identity include the following to be considered “bonded”:

• All of the whiskey in the bottle had to be made in one distilling season (either January to June or July to December) to guarantee It was all the same age.

• It had to be made at one distillery, with the distillery location printed on the label to guarantee the distillery that sold It actually made it.

• It had to be bottled at 100 proof to prevent any watering down of the product.

• It had to be aged in a federally bonded warehouse for at least 4 years.

The bottles were marked with the government issued Bottled in Bond seal to show the consumer the whiskey had met the provisions set forth in the law. Even though times have changed and the distilling industry with it, a whiskey labeled Bottled in Bond still guarantees a 100 proof product aged at least four years and made by one distillery.

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