Vol. 4, No. 2, Sunday July 8, 2007

by dick bales

I think that all of us would agree that shot glass collecting is still in its relative infancy. On the other hand, people have been collecting stamps for more than 150 years. This means that stamp collectors are way ahead of us when it comes to organizing their collections.

One of the more popular means of collecting stamps is the collecting of topicals, or the organization of a collection around a specific topic. Chess, flowers, and animals are just three of an infinite number of possible categories. Many topical collections have become award-winning stamp exhibits.

 The Name is "Bond".

 Bottled in Bond.

If shot glass collecting were ever to branch out into topical collecting, then collecting “bottled in bond” glasses would, I think, be a great subject.

But what is the significance of this term?

Years ago, whiskey that was sold as “straight whiskey” might have been anything but real unadulterated whiskey. For example, it might have been flavored and colored with iodine and tobacco or vanilla and mint. This became so much of a problem that a group of reputable whiskey distillers, led by Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr., the creator of Old Taylor Bourbon, joined with his friend and then Secretary of the Treasury John G. Carlisle to fight for passage of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897.

“Bottled in bond” or “bonded” whiskey was (and still is) whiskey that was produced according to the guidelines set forth in this act. What were these requirements? The whiskey had to be stored in a federally bonded warehouse. It had to be legally defined straight whiskey and distilled in a single season by a single distillery. It had to be stored in the bonded warehouse for at least four years before bottling, and then it would have to be bottled at one hundred proof. The government would certify that this whiskey would be bottled at this proof; it would also vouch for this aging period. It would do this by sealing the whiskey with the U.S. government’s green strip stamp. In exchange for meeting all these requirements, the distiller would qualify for some tax relief--it would not have to pay taxes on the whiskey until it was bottled and removed from the warehouse for sale.

Because of these governmental guarantees, bottled in bond whiskies became very popular in the early twentieth century. But note that the term “bottled in bond” is not really a guarantee of quality; rather, it is a reference to the regulatory procedures under which it was stored, aged, bottled, and taxed.

As you might guess, there are several pre-prohibition shot glasses that advertise whiskey as being “bottled in bond.” A topical collection of “bond” shot glasses would include these examples:

Alsobrooks Puliker Bottled in Bond

American Supply Co 444 Bottled in Bond Whiskey

Bottled in Bond Courtland Sour Mash

Moose Club Bottled in Bond

Rockport Rye Whiskey Bottled in Bond

Sagamore Spring Whiskey Bottled in Bond



“Bottled in bond” seems to be a term of art. But there are several glasses that advertise whiskey as being either “aged in bond,” “in bond,” or something similar. Is this whiskey identical to “bottled in bond” whiskey, or was the use of words such as “in bond” merely a clever subterfuge to fool people into thinking that the whiskey was bottled in bond when it did not quite meet the governmental standards of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897?

The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 27, Volume 1, Part 5, appears to answer this question (assuming that a version of this statute was around in pre-prohibition America). Section 5.42 includes the following under “Prohibited Practices”:

    “The words ‘bond,’ ‘bonded,’ ‘bottled in bond,’ ‘aged in bond,’ or phrases containing these or synonymous terms, shall not be used on any label or as part of the brand name of domestic distilled spirits unless the distilled spirits are: Composed of the same kind of spirits produced from the same class of materials; produced in the same distilling season by the same distiller at the same distillery; stored for at least four years in wooden containers. . . .”

Thus, it appears that these whiskies are bonded whiskies, even though the magic words, “bottled in bond” are not used.

And finally, there are some glasses that merely use the word “Bond” in the company’s name. These include, for example, “Bond Valley Whiskey” and “R. Bond Whiskey.” Because the word “bond” is used in the label, it would appear that as per the Code of Federal Regulations, these glasses also represent whiskies that are “bottled in bond.”


Strangely, the word “pure” seems to be exempt from such strict scrutiny. Section 5.42 of the Code of Federal Regulations provides that “the word ‘pure’ shall not be stated upon labels unless: It refers to a particular ingredient used in the production of the distilled spirits and is a truthful representation about that ingredient; it is part of the bona fide name of a permittee or retailer for whom the distilled spirits are bottled; or it is part of the bona fide name of the permittee who bottled the distilled spirits.”

This means that if James Bond wanted to let his “license to kill” expire and go into the liquor business, he wouldn’t get rich quick; he would have to let his whiskey age at least four years and otherwise comply with federal law. On the other hand, if the singer Prince decided to change his name again and this time chose the name “Pure,” it appears that he could water down his whiskey with purple rain, sell it under the “Princely Pure” label, and never have to worry about getting busted by the Feds.

It seems clear that a collection of “bottled in bond” shot glasses, perhaps augmented with a few similarly labeled pre-prohibition whiskey bottles and a few green strip stamps, would be an eye-catching exhibit at any bottle show. It would be fun to try to collect the various examples of “bond” glasses; even better, you wouldn’t go broke in the process!

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