Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Retro Bourbon You Really Must Try: Old Grand-Dad Bonded.

With its bright orange label, there is no chance you will mistake Old Grand-Dad for one of those new, trendy bourbon brands. Old Grand-Dad Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is proudly retro, from its package to the taste of the whiskey inside.

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.


spooneb said...

Thrilled to see some love for my go-to cocktail bourbon. I've been singing its praises for years!

hubbit said...

Hells yes.

OGD BIB is one of the best bang-for-the-buck bourbons you'll find anywhere. And although I've said plenty of negative things about JB white, the truth is that Beam still uses liquid yeast and still uses a fairly low distillation/barreling proof. It's not just the retro label but the retro-quality juice inside that makes this what it is.

Anonymous said...

In my humble opinion, Old Grand Dad is the best bourbon out there...and I have tried all of them from Old Charter all the way up to Booker's and just about everything in between. Old Grand Dad has that unmistakeable aftertaste of intense vanilla that most others lack--I just love it!

Unknown said...

My Dad was a chemists for National Distillers for 36 years. He always told us he was a chemist. But actually he was part of the Quality Control Team. They had to give the OK on train cars loaded with Grain, Inspect the beer stage, be present when barrels were dumped, Many of these inspections depended on the "Smell Test" but they did develop moister content profiles on grain and were part if taste testing with a note pad regularly.
Old Grand-Dad BID is his favorite, but he's been looking for OG 114. His buddy Owen, VP of Sales back in the day, gave him a wallet with the OG 114 Logo stamped on it and he just found it in his drawer the other day.
He's turning 95 in a few weeks and I picked up a bottle of OG 114 in Louisville this week. The man at Schreck's Baxter Liquor Store told me that you can only get it in Kentucky now. (we settled in Cincinnati in 1970)
Pop's going to be pretty excited