We don’t get hyped for many whiskeys these days, but we definitely got excited when we heard Old Overholt was coming out with a bonded rye.
The pre-Prohibition brand has quietly languished in the background as all of America’s other whiskeys seem to have been rebooted here and there, so if the powers that be have finally turned their attention to Old Overholt, it must be to do something great. Turns out, the excitement was warranted.
For those who aren’t totally familiar with the term, bonded or bottled-in-bond whiskey is sort of like the original small batch. All the whiskey in the bottle has to be from barrels filled in the same year, it must be bottled at 100 proof—in other words, there are standards to meet.
But the bigger significance is that, despite all the renewed focus on historical trends, bonded whiskey continues to be one of the best deals in spirits today. Just look at our recent list of the best bourbons under $25, which contained several.
Another significant point? The people who make your cocktails love this stuff, too.
Kentucky-made Old Overholt Bonded is a very clear response to demand from the bartending scene. Chances are that if you’ve ordered a cocktail with rye whiskey in a decent bar in the last few years, the bartender has gone with Old Overholt as a default. There’s a reason: it’s a really well-rounded, flavorful rye that doesn’t hit you over the head too hard with that spicy, grain character rye whiskey is known for.
Old Overholt Bonded is a natural sequel because bartenders really like working with bonded whiskeys. The slightly higher proof and other legal requirements give it more flavor and more punch, and that’s ideal when building a cocktail like an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. The caramel and spice notes are essential to either of those drinks, and with Bonded they’re sort of magnified, all while the alcohol content of the drink is less diluted.
This is a whiskey review, and while we’ve mentioned the hell out of cocktails, you’re probably wondering if you’d enjoy it straight.
It becomes more of a personal taste question: we like sipping rye on the older side, and while Overholt Bonded is a great whiskey, it’s a bit young at just over 4 years. A cube definitely makes it pleasant, but buying Old Overholt Bonded is somewhat akin to buying a Rolls Royce for the driving experience—that’s not really what it’s meant for. Another 6 years from now, we may see an Old Overholt 10 bottle that will change this, but for now, the 4-year stuff has its place.
That said, later in the night, after you’re bored of stirring and your guests have begun helping themselves, it does seem awfully pleasant.
Old Overholt Bonded retails for just shy of $25, and should be available everywhere now.