Sacred Bond

Maker: Heaven Hill, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA

Distilled at Christian Brothers, Parlier, California, USA

Style: American (100% by law), Bottled in Bond grape brandy.

Age: 4 y/o

ABV: 50%

Purchased for $25.

Appearance: Dark copper.

Nose: Vanilla ice cream, alcohol.

Palate: Full bodied. Vanilla chews, caramel, burn.

Finish: Oxidized “dusty bourbon”, pure vanilla extract, anise candy.

Mixed: Good in an Old Fashioned, and with Coke. Very good with Benedictine. Would probably be very good in eggnogg.

Parting words: The Christian Brothers (La Salle, not to be confused with the Irish Christian Brothers, of Brother Rice fame) is a Roman Catholic educational organization, made up of lay men. A group of them established a community in Northern California in 1882, and decided to make table and sacramental wine as a way to raise funds for their schools. In 1940, they branched out into brandy, eventually becoming one of the leading American brandy producers. In 1986 the wine and brandy business was sold to a forerunner of Diageo and in 1989 the table wine part of the business was ended. In 1999 the brandy business was sold to Heaven Hill, and they’ve continued to produce, bottle, and market it ever since.

Unlike bourbon and straight rye, brandy can contain additives without disclosing them on the label, and this brandy clearly has them. There is no way that this is a natural color for a brandy of this age, and its sweetness and prominent vanilla flavors and aromas are most likely down to additives as well. Still, there’s a solid, fruity backbone to the whole thing that the high proof helps bring out.

As a mixing brandy, Sacred Bond performs very well. It’s even not too bad as a sipper, although I would reach for a commercial VSOP Cognac as a “weeknight” sipper over this. Still, I like to judge spirits based and what they are, not what they’re not, so I can’t judge this very harshly. It’s not trying to be fine French brandy, it’s trying to be an upgrade to the standard CB VS for mixing purposes. It succeeds at that, so I’m going to give it a recommendation. If you’re fond of brandy cocktails, give Sacred Bond a try.

5 thoughts on “Sacred Bond

  1. Hello Josh. I always love your reviews, thanks for plugging along. I was bummed to hear that BIB brandies can contain additives. Then I went looking for the regulations and found an old post by Sku where he talks about BIB brandies and claims otherwise: “Unlike the term “straight,” which is only defined with regard to whiskey, the term “bottled in bond” applies to any distilled spirit, so you know that any bottled in bond brandy has no additives, is at least four years old and was distilled in a single season by a single distiller.” http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2016/10/brandy-law-what-is-straight-applejack.html

    I hope he’s right as I like Laird’s BIB and would like to pick up some Sacred Bond, but I’m not a fan of additives.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out Thomas, and for the link to Sku’s blog! Unlike Sku, I am not an attoney, but in my reading of the BiB regulations, I don’t see any mention of additives. Bourbon and straight rye are not allowed to have additives anyway, so it’s not an issue with them. Brandy is legally allowed to contain additives, though, so I think BiB brandy can contain them. If not, something hinky is going on since I can definitely taste the additives and the color is much too dark for a 4 y/o spirit.

      All that said, I will drop Sku a message to see if he wants to comment on this.

    2. Whatever the regs say, I’m pretty confident that Laird’s BiB does not contain additives of any sort, tho.

  2. It also never occurred to me that Laird’s did. I have no idea what the regs say: I had a hard time making heads or tails of them. You very well could be right. It’ll be interesting to hear from Sku.

  3. Josh asked that I weigh in here so here is my take. My interpretation is that the BIB regs do not allow additives in BIB spirits. Under the regs, sprits can only be labeled BIB if they are “Unaltered from their original condition or character by the addition or subtraction of any substance other than by filtration, chill proofing, or other physical treatments (which do not involve the addition of any substance which will remain in the finished product or result in a change in class or type).” 27 CFR 5.88(a)(4).
    The question under this provision would be what is the spirit’s “original condition or character.” Given that the intent of BIB is to ensure purity in spirits, it would be contrary to that intent to argue that additives are consistent with the original condition or character. That being said, I have not seen any interpretive guidance from the TTB on this issue.

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