Hey, it’s America’s birthday today and since no one has named a bourbon after Bernie Sanders yet, here I am with a review of Old Grand-Dad 114 (so called because it is bottled at 57% abv). You may remember that I recently reviewed the 80 proof version of Old Grand-Dad and pronounced it both an unremarkable whiskey and a remarkable value. Well, this high-octane version might be an even better value: I got my bottle for $25 and it’s the rare market where you’d be asked to pay very much more. Quick: name all the single malt Scotches you can buy at 57% abv for $25! By the way, it’s not just the strength that is higher in the 114 proof version: the gent on the label also has a more elevated expression and is presented in the form of a classical bust; on the 80 proof label he looks altogether cheerier (and more alive) and seems like he’s been knocking back a few. So, you know before you pour that this is more serious stuff.
The $25 price also puts it not very far below that asked for one of Beam’s premium “small batch” bourbons, Basil Hayden’s (whose namesake is indeed the old grand dad referred to in the Old Grand-Dad brand name, and the aforementioned gent whose face is on every bottle). This is also interesting because Basil Hayden’s is made from the same high-rye mashbill as the Old Grand-Dad line (about 27% rye, I believe). Does older whiskey go into the premium brand? Given that Basil Hayden’s is the one premium bourbon for which no age is specified on the Beam Suntory website, it’s hard to say this with any confidence. Considering they’re willing to say that Booker’s is aged six to eight years it would appear that Basil Hayden’s might be a bit younger than that. If so, is it the case that they put the pick of the casks into Basil Hayden’s? Or is it the case that you’re mostly paying for the classy packaging when you pay more for Basil Hayden’s (which is also at 40% abv like the entry-level Old Grand-Dad)?
Old Grand-Dad, 114 Proof (57%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Caramel, caramel-corn and some nice fruity notes (a bit of plum, a bit of cherry, a touch of apricot). Quite a bit of cinnamon too and on the second sniff a big hit of rye (dill, pine, cold tea). As it sits there’s a (dry) leafy note as well. Gets mellower and fruitier as it goes. A splash of water emphasizes the spicy notes and brings out some dusty wood.
Palate: Leads with the sweet stuff and then the rye notes and the cinnamon come swinging in; they bring quite a bit of oak with them, but it’s not overly tannic or sharp. Very drinkable at full strength with a nice texture. Unlike the nose it doesn’t soften on the palate as it airs—in fact, gets spicier as it goes with some pepper joining the party. Let’s see what water does. Well, it does the opposite of what it did on the nose: it mellows it out a bit—not for long though; it gets spicy again soon enough.
Finish: Long. Spicy and mildly oaky. Not much change here with water.
Comments:Maybe they should re-name the 80 proof version “Old Grand-Son”? This is basically that whisky but with everything turned up. What’s the point of Basil Hayden’s again? And, oh, I might have added bit too much water but tonight I preferred it neat.
Rating: 86 points.