Owned and distilled by the Jim Beam company, Old Grand-Dad is named after famed distiller Basil Hayden. The whisky is produced at a few different proofs, including a 100-proof Bottled in Bond variant. I tasted a plastic 50ml miniature containing 40% ABV whiskey, which would normally be an inauspicious start. Luckily, I was quite impressed with the 40% (although below I note the wateriness), and am looking forward to trying the 50%. This is, according to the website, a “high rye” mashbill, although no other information is available. Shocker.
Some perusing on the ‘net has revealed that this 40% ABV version is a cut from the previous 43% bottling strength, a move that went largely unnoticed by the whisky drinking public. This is as opposed to the recent Maker’s Mark debacle, which was such a PR nightmare that Maker’s rescinded the change. I would say that this one is distinctly watery, and thus the slightly higher price tag on the 100-proof bottled-in-bond product is a worthwhile investment. (See my review of the 114-proof bottling here.)
Nose: Light corn syrup, candied apple, maraschino cherries, substantial nose tickle. Lively and bright aroma, not unpleasant. Maybe a hint of clove or cinnamon.
Palate: A bit watery. On the rough side, with a lot of young, unripe alcohol. Resolves into pine sap, cherry pie filling, and fresh corn. Light, and not overly wooded.
Finish: A hint of wood, an echo of the fruits from the aroma and a suggestion of marshmallow and soft caramels. Not bitter, not bad.
With Water: Water increases the suggestion of baking spices on the nose, brings out too much raw alcohol on the palate, and makes the finish ragged. I’d skip the water.
Overall: It’s not the most amazing bourbon in the world, but it’s light, refreshing, young, and vibrant. There are some interesting flavors and aromas, and except for its watery texture and low proof, it’s probably quite decent in a cocktail, and not altogether objectionable straight up. I think it’s interesting that despite being young, being filled into a plastic bottle and sitting in my cabinet for six months to a year, this whiskey has not suffered in the slightest. I’m willing to take that as evidence that bad 50ml experiences (of which I’ve had quite a few) come from bad batches, not bad bottles. C’mon whisky industry, wake up and realize that people use these things to sample your products, not just to dump together a manhattan on an airplane! Also, good on you, Old Grand-Dad. This is a respectable pour of cheap bourbon, and it makes me very interested in trying the higher-proof versions. If you’re looking for inexpensive bourbon, this is a good place to start, although I’d seek out the 100-proof Bottled In Bond (50% ABV) one.