Early Times is a well-known name in American whiskey, residing on, well, if not the bottom shelf then one shelf up from the bottom. But Early Times isn’t bourbon (since some of it is aged in used barrels). Special editions have hit the market over the years — some bourbon, some not — but now there’s this little number, an honest-to-god bottled in bond version of Early Times, four years old and bottled at 100 proof.
Says the distillery (Brown-Forman owns the operation): “Early Times Bottled-in-Bond is crafted with pure water, a mash bill composed of 79% corn, 11% rye, and 10% malted barley, fermented with a proprietary yeast strain and carefully distilled. It is matured for a minimum of four years in new charred oak barrels, resulting in a classic, smooth bourbon, rich in taste and character.”
As bourbon goes, this expression of Early Times isn’t bad at all. The nose is a bit hot, as many a bottled-in-bond bourbon tends to be, with a solid caramel base on the nose, backed by a modest barrel char note and a surprising level of spicy red pepper. Some cloves quickly find their way into the palate, and though there’s a bit of popcorn-heavy youth on the tongue, there’s also big brown butter, cinnamon, and lingering brown sugar notes — all the stuff of classic, if sugar-forward, bourbon — which meld quite nicely with that popcorn underpinning to create a surprisingly capable little whiskey.