Thursday, November 19, 2009
The Retro Bourbon You Really Must Try: Old Grand-Dad Bonded.
There are several expressions of Old Grand-Dad, but my favorite is Bonded Old Grand-Dad. As a bond, it must by law be 100° proof (50% ABV) and the product of a single distillery during a single distilling season. There can be no mixing of younger and older barrels. It must also be at least four years old.
Old Grand-Dad is a bourbon, but it contains about twice as much rye as most bourbons do. The rest of its unique taste must come from its yeast. It's very flavorful, spicy and earthy like a rye, sweet and satisfying like a bourbon.
Many bourbons today are eight years and older, so wood notes overshadow the grain and yeast. Old Grand-Dad seems to have those three flavor elements more equally apportioned.
Old Grand-Dad is a genuinely old brand too, one of the oldest still on the market. It was created by Raymond Hayden in the late 19th century and dedicated to his grandfather, Basil, a follower of Lord Baltimore who brought the family to Kentucky from England by way of Maryland.
Basil Hayden Bourbon, which is one of those trendy new brands, is Old Grand-Dad bourbon aged eight years and diluted to 80° proof (40% ABV).
Old Grand-Dad itself also comes in 86° proof and 114° proof expressions. Unlike Basil Hayden, none of the Old Grand-Dad expressions bear an age statement, so they are at least four years old and probably less than six. Although bonded bourbons today are a shadow of their former selves, Bonded Old Grand-Dad has long been the most popular bottled-in-bond bourbon. It is a product of Beam Global.
Old Grand-Dad is, I imagine, what many bourbons tasted like back before blended scotches and Canadians spoiled the American palate for real swallow hard and make a face whiskey. It's the other end of the flavor spectrum from something like Weller 12-year-old, which I also favor. It's often overlooked but is an essential part of any whiskey fan's education.
It's also a great value at about $20 for a 750 ml.