Leiper's Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey Review [In Depth]

Leiper's Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey

Alex author
Founder, writer
leiper's fork bottled in bond tennessee whiskey header

Leiper's Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey Details

Distillery: Leiper’s Fork

Type & Region: Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA

Alcohol: 50%

Composition: 70% corn, 15% rye, 15% malted barley

Aged: 4-5 years

Color: 1.5/2.0 on the color scale (auburn, polished mahogany)

Price: $80

From the company website:

Milk chocolate, roasted coffee, ripe plum, dark cherry and honey nose. A complex palate of caramel, red berries and baking spices. Complexity increases as it rests in the glass. A whiskey that is every bit as satisfying to the nose as to sip.
vens and liberates your senses.

Leiper's Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey overview

There are other distilleries in Tennessee besides Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel, and Uncle Nearest. Those three may be the biggest names in Tennessee, but in fact, there are a lot of them. Leiper’s Fork is one of a growing number of craft distilleries trying to make their mark on the whiskey world.
Founded by Lee and Lynlee Kennedy in Franklin, Tennessee, they filled their first barrels in 2016. Now, they distill about 25,000 gallons of whiskey per year, which is enough volume to fill give or take 500 barrels per year. Not all of it will go into barrels, as they also sell new make, but I suspect that most of it is barreled. To that point, they distill bourbon, Tennessee whiskey (still bourbon), and rye.
This review covers Leiper’s Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey, which is either a 4 or 5 years old depending on the label (4 years) or website (5 years). Leiper’s Fork makes an interesting delineation between the Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey, but I’ll get to that a bit later.
For background – bottled in bond is an important term in American whiskey with a lot of meaning, and was initially created as a way to guarantee a certain level of quality and safety in a time (I’d say in the mid 1800’s) when whiskey was often being tampered with to make it seem better than it was.
Here’s most of what it entails
  • Distilled in one season in one year (so the barrels in a blend were barreled within a few months of each other. This means that you cannot blend barrels from different years or seasons, so you don’t get blends of 4 year and 8 year bourbon)
  • Same master distiller
  • Bottled at 100 proof
  • At least 4 years old
  • Aged in a government bonded warehouse
  • No additives or funny business
Now back to my earlier comment about Tennessee Whiskey. I’m going to make a somewhat controversial statement (that really shouldn’t be controversial) – Tennessee Whiskey is still bourbon, just a subset of it. Not all bourbon is Tennessee Whiskey, but all Tennessee Whiskey is bourbon. If you have an open mind, check out my writeup on why Tennessee Whiskey is bourbon.
Leiper’s Fork having a Bottled in Bond Bourbon and a Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey is a strange approach, but it’s completely fine with me. I know some people will fight this statement tooth and nail, but this is still bourbon. Their bottled in bond bourbon (wheated bourbon) could also be called Tennessee Whiskey.
From what I can tell, there are 2 main differences between the Bottled in Bond Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. The first is that the bourbon has wheat in the mashbill while the Tennessee Whiskey has rye, although that doesn’t make a difference for its name. As long as it’s at least 51% corn, it doesn’t really matter.
The second is that the Tennessee Whiskey is charcoal filtered through sugar maple (it’s a type of maple tree, not a maple tree coated in sugar) while the bourbon is not. And yes, Jack Daniels is also charcoal filtered through sugar maple…but Evan Williams is also filtered through charcoal. It might not be sugar maple, but it’s filtered through some sort of charcoal too. Either way, I care more about whether it’s a good drink.
Let’s find out if Leiper’s Fork can bring something fresh and new in this Leiper’s Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey review.
Thank you to Leiper’s Fork for this bottle. All opinions are still my own.
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Leiper's Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey smell

On my first few sniffs I get brown sugar, dark orange peel, dark oak, cinnamon, earthy caraway seed, baked red apple, dark cherry, fresh honey, and a little soggy oak. Leiper’s Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey smells pretty good, with pleasant darkness, fruitiness, and oakiness. At the same time though, it feels closed off, even with a lot of air time in the bottle and 20 minutes of rest in the glass.
The scents are generally pleasing nonetheless, but nothing that’s quite that interesting or compelling. It’s getting there, but it’s not all the way there yet.
After swirling and rest, I get darker honey, some dates, baked red apple, dark oak, cinnamon, caraway seed, vanilla, roasted grains, roasted coffee, and a little bit of sogginess. This continues to smell pretty good, although it all still feels shy and closed-off. It’s not quite flat, but it doesn’t jump out of the glass either and show some life. The sogginess also doesn’t help, although it’s not prominent enough to be a major problem.
Leiper’s Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey has some good scents, especially the dark sweetness, but as dark as it looks it still doesn’t feel all that mature. It’s not a well rounded or balanced Tennessee whiskey / bourbon just yet.
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Leiper's Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey taste and aftertaste

The flavors start with caramel, roasted oak, dried red apples, cinnamon, caraway seed, vanilla, and some roasted grains and soggy oak. At least from my first impressions, Leiper’s Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey tastes…ok at best. It’s not great and it’s not terrible, but it definitely tastes worse than it smells.
There’s some decent sweetness but it’s quickly overtaken by a lot of woodiness and earthiness that feel unbalanced. It isn’t the type of mature, roasted, and deep wood that comes from something like Hardin’s Creek Jacob’s Well.
After 5 years, the oak has made itself very comfortable in the bourbon, but everything else has yet to fully move-in. There’s no pop, life, or depth to the flavors.
With vigorous “chewing”, I taste caramel, a lot of wood, caraway seed, dried red apple, vanilla, cinnamon, roasted grains, maple syrup, and a little sogginess. “Chewing” pulls out even more woodiness, which is not great for the balance. It’s not overpoweringly woody and dry, but it makes the experience too oaky and earthy for me. Again, wood itself is not a problem, but it doesn’t not feel right in this context.
Some fruitiness and dark sweetness sneak back in towards the middle and end, but woodiness and earthiness always lead the show. Leiper’s Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey is decent, but the flavors are all over the palace, hard to pin down, and hard to fully enjoy. I can see a lot of people not enjoying this.
The finish leaves caramel, dark oak, caraway seed, cinnamon, and roasted grains with some orange and baked red apple in the back.
It’s not an unpleasant experience per se, but I’m not enjoying it much either.
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I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too. Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Leiper's Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey Rating

Mid Shelf
Leiper’s Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey is decent but far from what I think the distillery aimed to create, especially as a 4-5 year old product with so much attention to detail put into it.
As much as the darkness and woodiness are part of the experience, it doesn’t feel like it was done right. The sweetness and fruitiness could be enjoyable, but it all gets yanked back to the oak, earthiness, and occasional sogginess taking over and throwing off the experience. It’s really jarring to experience.
Assuming that this whiskey didn’t go bad on the way to me, I think Leiper’s Fork needs to revisit this whiskey and have an honest conversation about whether this is the type of whiskey that they want to sell and represent their hard work and brand. Maybe I’m in the minority of not being a fan of this whiskey, but I trust my senses and that I’m not being overly harsh on this assessment
This is likely one of the shortest conclusions that I’ve ever written for this blog, and it’s because I just don’t feel like writing about it anymore. I can’t rail on it because it’s not absolutely terrible, but I also don’t have much praise to offer either. It’s just…not for me…and I don’t want to think about it anymore.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)