Monday, March 11, 2013

Beam Cuts Old Grand-Dad Proof Without Protest

Compared to the recent hubbub about cutting the proof of Maker's Mark, which was subsequently rescinded, drinkers have largely been silent about the cut from 86° proof (43% ABV) to 80° proof (40% ABV) for the lowest-proof expression of Old Grand-Dad bourbon.

Although the change took place more than six months ago, it has only recently appeared on the radar, thanks to folks on the straightbourbon.com discussion board.

Old Grand-Dad's bottled-in-bond (100° proof/50% ABV) and 114° proof (57% ABV) expressions remain unchanged. In fact, the culprit in the proof cut, according to Beam, is the bond.

Asked to comment, Beam provided the following statement: "This was an adjustment that happened mid-year 2012 to address certain factors particular to the Old Grand Dad brand, including maintaining a competitive retail price amidst higher input costs, while continuing to meet surging demand among bartenders and consumers in Old Grand Dad Bonded – which is 100 proof and one of very few bonded products out there. It should also be noted that Old Grand Dad’s signature high-rye mash bill – which has certainly set the brand apart from most other Kentucky Straight Bourbons in the last few decades – has not changed (and will not change)."

Incidentally, 80° proof  is effectively the floor for straight spirits such as whiskey. Producers are permitted to bottle whiskey at lower alcohol levels, but are required to label it 'diluted whiskey.' That tends to be off-putting to consumers, even though virtually all whiskey sold is, in fact, diluted for bottling.

Old Grand-Dad is a brand established in the late 19th century. After Prohibition, it returned as part of National Distillers. It became a Beam brand when the two companies merged in 1987. Of the many bourbons Beam acquired in that transaction, the original recipe was retained for only one; Old Grand-Dad. The rest (Old Crow, Old Taylor, etc.) became Beam juice.

The Old Grand-Dad recipe was retained because its mash bill contains about twice as much rye as Jim Beam and other standard bourbons, and a consequently smaller proportion of corn. It was also, at the time, commanding a premium price, so the higher cost of preserving its integrity was deemed acceptable. The Old Grand-Dad recipe is also used for Basil Hayden bourbon, which Beam recently announced saw sales surge in 2012.

When bourbon sales collapsed in the 1970s and '80s, brands whose names start with 'Old' took the biggest hit. It remains conventional wisdom among producers that legacy brands, especially the 'Olds,' deserve only minimal support, as they are only bought by long-time fans and aren't capable of attracting significant numbers of new consumers.

That may or may not be true, but if you're a bourbon enthusiast and haven't tried Old Grand-Dad yet, you should -- while you still can.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gary says:

It is interesting that there were not riots involving torches and pitchforks over the change. Do you think that was because Beam didn't make a big deal about it (compared to Makers who e-mail ambassadors, issued press releases, etc)? Or is it a function of the demographic that OGD 86 was hitting?

Chuck Cowdery said...

Maker's Mark is a much bigger brand with a much higher profile. There is no Old Grand-Dad club like the Maker's Mark Ambassadors. Grand-Dad drinkers also tend to be older. Also, to the extent that Old Grand-Dad enthusiasts exist, they tend to buy the Bond, 114, or Basil Hayden (same juice).

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of the Bonded. Recently picked up the 114, but haven't cracked it yet. I've only been a bourbon drinker a few years.

if you're a bourbon enthusiast and haven't tried Old Grand-Dad yet, you should -- while you still can.

So, reading between the lines here, is now the time to begin hoarding my precious OGD Bonded, before it gets sacrificed for Basil Hayden use?

-Brian

Anonymous said...

And along with the proof cut....the price of Grandad (any proof) has really gone up in my neck of the woods. At least $5/$7 if I recall correctly. No longer the good deal it was.

Jeffitaph said...

In my opinion the Bonded expression is the best, so this doesn't affect me at all. As my dad would say, "I have a massive disinterest".

BMc said...

I'm convinced that they replaced the OGD yeast with the regular Beam yeast at some point in the past couple of years. I recently had a bottle from 2001 next to one from 2011 and the two had almost nothing in common. I also tried one from 2006, and that was similar to the 2001 and nothing like the 2011.

Anonymous said...

So is there any difference between BH and OGD other than the bottle and price? My local store has a few 114 bottles, guess I should pick one up.

Alex said...

I believe BH is around 8 years old, and I believe OGD is younger. It's just like Knob Creek is the same juice as Jim Beam, but they're completely different because Knob Creek is more than twice as old.

Anonymous said...

> two had almost nothing in common.

Can't this be attributed to how bonded whiskey works? Since they can only work with whiskey held in bond for that year, it limits their options in terms of blending for flavor and consistency. Or is that assumption off base?

-Brian

BMc said...

I don't know, Brian, how much things change with bonded whiskies. I just bought an OGD114 and it, too, has these different notes, so I don't think it's a variability issue. Still, I hadn't even thought about that. Maybe it was a temporary thing.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Distillers like to tell us nothing changes but we know that's not true. There could be any number of reasons for any changes you might detect between bottles made at different times, even though the producers work very hard at consistency.

Anonymous said...

IF You're Upset.....

Barton 1792 Distillery Provides Excellent Bourbon With High Rye

Very Old Barton (Abbreviated "VOB")

Available......

80 Proof Aged 4 Years
86, 90, 100 Proof Aged 6 Years

Distilled, Aged, Bottled Bardstown

Chuck Cowdery said...

VOB is great, one of my favorites, but it is not so far as I know 30+ percent rye like OGD.

Anonymous said...

WOW......OGD = 30% Rye !

VOB = 75 / 15 / 10

OGD Grow Hair On Your Chest

The Bitter Fig said...

Probably doesn't help the 'Olds' that their labels are so old, and that the brands are so neglected. I bet if Woodfords juice was in OGD bottles and vice versa, sales would match somewhat. Presentation is huge. I think the Basil Hayden's bottle is pretty stupid looking, but it clearly looks fancy and quality, not like rotgut your unemployed uncle used to drink. People are going to stick with a brand because they like the whisky. But looks are huge for how we make the choice to try one in the first place.

///

Don't forget Four Roses for high-rye. Granted, you probably need to go for single barrel to get only the 60/35/5 mashbill, but yellow label and small batch probably average out to about 27% rye (the low-rye mashbill being 75/20/5).

Anonymous said...

> aren't capable of attracting significant numbers of new consumers.

Last comment on this. I'm not sure that they aren't *able*, rather than aren't *willing*. They don't even need to change anything about the brand - the garish orange label, the "Old" in the name. If nothing else, this is the kind of product that could make for a Pabst Blue Ribbon-esque rival, if put into the hands of a semi-competent marketing firm. It would be a total slam dunk. A good product with existing, retro, hipster-friendly packaging and style? Seems too easy.

-Brian

TimD said...

I can't tell you how many giggles I get from various people about my OGD love... Especially among Scotch drinkers. Good - laugh away, and leave more for me.

I think a big part of the lack of uproar is because there are still a 100 & 114 versions available. I've never been a consumer of the 86 (bought a bottle or two ever), but the BiB & 114 are among my most purchased whiskeys.

I'll likely go on the hunt for a few more handles of the 86, just for nostalgia - but it's not nearly as good as the BiB or 114. It, honestly, does taste like bottom shelf whiskey - whereas the others transcend their price points.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Exactly. I think I bought the 86 once and said, 'never again.' So why buy it now just because it's going away.

Ryan Connolly said...

Hi Chuck,

I've heard that the 114 and BH are more similar that the rest of the OGD lineup (same entry proof). I know you said that this was due to a jump in demand for the BIB, but there has also been a recent, silly increase in demand for (now NAS) BH (which I think I read on your blog). Do you think this is a factor as well? Having said that, without an age statement, do we think that BH will just become a $40 bottling of 80 proof OGD?

Thanks for the continuing high-quality coverage.
Ryan

(whiskeyobsessive.blogspot.com)

Chuck Cowdery said...

Yes, the success of BH is putting pressure on the same whiskey stocks, but I have no reason to believe 114 and BH have a different barrel entry proof than OGD 80 and BIB.

Anonymous said...

Since producers already must have only whisky from a particular "distilling season" (whatever that is) to be a BIB product, I wonder why producers do not try to distinguish their BIB in offerings by making yearly vintages. That way we could compare the virtues of say a 2006 OGD BIB with a 2007 VOB BIB, just like people do with wine. It seems like vintages are popular with the yearly Evan Williams single barrels yet not possible with many others where whiskies do not have an age statement (Buffalo Trace) or only an at least so many years old statement like Knob Creek ( i.e. at least 9). Perhaps vintages could put more life into this somewhat neglecetd category?

Joseph Smith said...

I too take some heat from my whiskey drinking friends who prefer other brands. Those tend to have advertising budgets much higher than my favorite, Old Grandad. They can laugh but my taste favors this one. Sadly, a bottle has gone from $9 to $13 in the last few years. I am trying to find something I like that costs less. It hasn't happened yet.

Anonymous said...

Late to the party, but OGD at 86 made the best Manhattan. At 80, the balance is gone.

Peter Bonenfant said...

I just read all these comments. I'm not impressed, in fact I'm disappointed. I've been drinking OGD for over 40 years and it has always been 86 proof. I've had 100 proof and over the years the 114. What pissed me off was the 86 was reduced to 80 and the people at a large spirit outlet told me the reason for the reduction was due to taxes (we all know that is pure BS). keep in mind I purchase 10 to 12 bottles per year (1.75 liters). I was able to purchase their last 86 proof bottle and told them I would be no longer be buying OGD and would advise my brother-in-law and two friends to do likewise.
We are all at a stage in life where we can afford to pay for what we want. And we don't want 80 proof.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Try Old Forester.

Mary said...

I've been drinking 86 for near 40 years. I am very diappointed with the change. 100 & 114 don't make good cocktails. In my years of drinking, the only bourbon I found equal to ogd was I W Harper, but has disappeared. I guest I will to go hunting for something else.

rob said...

Evan Williams black, still 86 proof.