Back in the mid 1800s Jack Beam decided he wanted to open his own distillery and make whiskey like they did in the “Early Times”. He ran his distillery until his death and his son passed away at about the same time. His widow ran the distillery for a while but then sold it to someone else. Prohibition closed it down and the Brand passed to Brown-Forman during that time. They have owned the brand since the mid1920s and the brand has always done well with them. During the early 1950s it was the best-selling Bourbon in Kentucky. In the early 1980s Brown-Forman turned Early Times into a “Kentucky Style Whiskey” in the United States by aging some of the whiskey in used cooperage. It had remained a Bourbon in the overseas market of Japan but not in the United States.

A few years ago Brown-Forman tried to bring the Bourbon back with an 80 proof version of Early Times 354. It was OK but not outstanding. It tasted too close to the Kentucky Style Whiskey so there was no real reason to purchase it at the higher price. This Bonded version however gives you a lot of reasons to purchase the Bourbon. Rosemary and I like it so much that we have bunkered several bottles in case Brown-Forman decides to discontinue the Bonded Early Times after a year like they did the 80 proof Early Times 354. I hope not because this is a real winner. An exceptional Bourbon at a decent price. I would love to see a six year old bonded as a super-premium brand as well as the bonded expression they have released this year.

Early Times Bonded Bourbon

Proof: 100

Age: NAS but probably the four years minimum

Nose: Buttered corn and vanilla. A very simple nose but very pleasant.

Taste: Corn and vanilla with just a touch of pepper spice. Very nice mouth feel with no burn but a nice warmth. Tasted with a cranberry the pepper is diminished and the vanilla sweetness comes forward to enhance the cranberry flavor. Tasted with a pecan Vanilla and spice with a corn sweetness. Less pepper and more baking spices.

Finish: Not complex. Just a little pepper spice leading into a nice oak dryness. The cranberry makes the finish more oak forward with very little spice. The pecan makes this very dry and oaky. Very nice finish.

Notes: I really like this Bourbon. It is not complex or pretentious. It is easy to approach and can be enjoyed neat or mixed with a cocktail like an old fashioned. It has simple flavor but strong enough to stand up and shine with bitters. I am really enjoying this today with my pipe. My Kremer’s Black Royal brings out the sweet corn and vanilla and tames the pepper. The Bourbon brings out coffee and chocolate notes in the smoke. A great pairing.

Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach