In a letter of January 1902, Edmond H. Taylor, Jr. admitted that he had some barrels of whiskey for sale that were ten years old and thus were not available to be sold as bonded whiskey. The bonding period for whiskey at that time was eight years. After eight years the whiskey was required to be taken out of bond and the taxes paid on the whiskey in the barrel. This was done to Taylor’s whiskey, but the sale of the barrels fell through and the whiskey was not bottled at that time. Taylor now had to sell this whiskey to a new buyer, but by that time it had two more years of age. It also has two more years of angel’s share meaning some of the taxed whiskey had literally evaporated. Taylor assured the buyer that it would be bottled as if it were bonded whiskey, but since he could not put the bonded tax stamp on the bottle, it will be whiskey of a lesser value.
Taylor was a firm supporter of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. He believed that whiskey needed to be straight whiskey, properly aged in barrels, with nothing added to the whiskey to give it color and or flavor. He would later carry this philosophy about bonded whiskey into the arguments about the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. As soon as the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was passed, the question became “What is whiskey?” This was an important question of the time. Was whiskey exclusively straight whiskey made with nothing added to it, or did whiskey include the rectified products being sold by many companies of the time? Taylor put forward the belief that only whiskey that was bottled-in-bond was whiskey and everything else should be labeled imitation whiskey. This stance was in line with the official ruling by the government chemist, Harvey Washington Wiley, who ruled that only straight whiskey was whiskey per the Pure Food and Drug Act. The legal cases soon followed as rectifiers sued to keep their products labeled as whiskey.
From June 1906, when the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed, till December 27, 1909 when President Taft released his decision on whiskey, Taylor worked tirelessly to make sure that the ruling by Wiley stood. He wrote articles for newspapers, trade magazines and industry newsletters. He testified before President Taft, arguing the cause. In the end, he was only partly successful as the Taft Decision allows rectified whiskey to be called whiskey, but only if it is labeled as a “blended whiskey”. Straight whiskey was defined legally and became an important selling point for whiskey. Bottled-in-Bond whiskey became the quality standard and even companies that never distilled before were buying distilleries in order to sell their brands as bonded whiskey. In the long run, E.H. Taylor, Jr. was justified in his support of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. During Prohibition, bonded whiskey was the only whiskey sold for medicinal use. Bottled-in-Bond whiskey became the national standard for quality.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller