Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Heaven Hill
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: NAS (Company website states 4 years)
Mashbill: 78% Corn, 12% Malted Barley, 10% Rye
Color: Bright Copper
MSRP: $15 (2023)
J.T.S. Brown Bottled in Bond Bourbon is named after John Thompson Street (J.T.S.) Brown, Sr. Along with his half brother George Brown, J.T.S opened a wholesale liquor business that would later become the Brown-Forman corporation. The brand began production in 1855 and was produced by J.T.S. Brown’s Son Company before ownership eventually transitioned to Heaven Hill. The reference to J.T.S. Brown’s Son Company can be found on the current bottle as the back label references this being bottled by J.T.S. Brown’s Son Company. In actuality, the bourbon is distilled at Heaven Hill’s Bernheim Distillery and is bottled at the company’s bottling facility in Bardstown.
The sip opens with a simple aroma that most bourbon drinkers will be familiar with: caramel, brown sugar, and light oak. Running through these is a sharp rye spice and ethanol vein, adding slight depth to the nose. At the same time, they detract from the initial upfront scents culminating in an aroma that is lackluster and unimpactful.
An appreciative pop of sweetness is immediately noticeable as brown butter sugar jumps to the forefront. This is joined by a slightly tannic oak note along with a peppery rye spice combo that contrasts nicely with the initial pop of sweetness. A faint, thin vanilla cream note rounds things out. The palate isn’t deep by any means, but it delivers a straightforward grouping of flavors that are very enjoyable.
A quick burst of rye spice and light caramel kick things off. Quickly joining in is a faint dry oak followed by a vanilla note that fades as quickly as they come on. The rye spice lingers briefly before being overtaken by a mellow heat that simmers for a surprisingly long time. It’s a perfectly adequate way to end the sip, however, I would have preferred that the bulk of the flavors present didn’t drop off so quickly before the bourbon's mellow heat took over.
Heaven Hill embraces the bottled in bond concept more so than any other major Kentucky bourbon distillery. This can be seen through their ongoing various special releases such as the Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond limited edition series, to their plethora of ongoing regular bottled in bond releases ranging from corn whiskey (Mellow Corn) to rye whiskey (Rittenhouse) to their six bourbon bottles including T.W. Samuels, J.W. Dant, Evan Williams, Heaven Hill, Henry McKenna, and J.T.S. Brown. Needless to say, it sometimes feels like they're trying to produce a bottled in bond whiskey for everyone.
J.T.S. Brown Bottled in Bond is an interesting bourbon. It comes in the most basic of bottles with a cheap plastic screw top and basic white back label that seems like it was printed on a cheap inkjet printer at the last moment because someone forgot to create one right before this went to market. Add in the brown and red color scheme of the front label and this bottle screams bottom shelf bourbon, which in many stores it actually is. The reality though is that this is anything but what you may think a bottom shelf bourbon tastes like.
The brand, steeped in history, actually delivers a straightforward pour that focuses on simpler bourbon notes to accomplish the task at hand. Its palate is surprisingly sweet and runs in a different direction than what Evan Williams Bottled in Bond delivers. That said, it also does little to stand out among its Heaven Hill peer set, let alone a crowded bourbon market. Instead, it focuses on keeping its head down and trying to be inconspicuous all while delivering a middle of the road average pour.
If there’s one thing Heaven Hill is the master of, it is delivering a range of bourbon at various price points to consumers. While limited edition bottled in bond bourbons can be priced at $200 or more, the company also offers multiple options below $20. In today’s frenzied bourbon market, this pricing gets more and more mind-blowing with each passing month.
Like Evan Williams Bottled in Bond, J.T.S. Brown also comes in at $15. While it doesn’t quite deliver the same overall level of a sip as Evan Williams, J.T.S. Brown comes pretty darn close. For bourbon drinkers both new and old, this bourbon is priced to drink without any guilt of the associated price tag it carries. Plain and simple, this is an excellent value proposition for a bottled in bond bourbon.
A straightforward pour that is priced for everyone to enjoy, J.T.S. Brown Bottled in Bond is a testament to what it means for bourbon to be an everyman’s drink.
Let's get this out of the way upfront, J.T.S. Brown Bottled in Bond is an average bourbon. I’m not going to wax poetic about its brand history or its sip. At the end of the day, this is an average bourbon that is delivered at a price point that is accessible to all.
So often people get mesmerized by the latest hot trend in bourbon or chase after limited edition bottles that it takes away from the focus of what bourbon was always meant to be: a uniquely American spirit that can be appreciated by all. Thanks to J.T.S. Brown’s simple yet enjoyable sip and its low cost, it accomplishes exactly that. Don’t let its cheap looking bottle design fool you, as this is a great intro bourbon for new whiskey drinkers, and one that even seasoned veterans can appreciate. Sometimes being good is good enough, and J.T.S. Brown Bottled in Bond is one of those cases.