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 and a 40% ABV bottom-shelfer. Having enjoyed the 40% ABV version despite its anemic wateriness, I thought I might enjoy the full-strength version. Old Grand-Dad 114 is named, appropriately, for its 114 proof (57% ABV). This is not quite cask-strength, as they must water the whiskey down to hit a consistent 57% ABV, but it’s close.
Old Grand-Dad bourbons are purportedly from a “high rye” mash bill, despite a total lack of definitive information on the subject.
Oddly, I found that Old Grand-Dad (both 40% and 57%) to be distinctly different from their namesake bourbon (created by Jim Beam in 1992 to honor the legendary distiller), Basil Hayden, which is… I’m sorry… bad.
Nose: Alcohol burn (of course), tobacco, scorched toasted nuts (acrid). Heavily oaky. Caramel and burned sugar. Closed-off (hard to detect anything but alcohol).
Palate: Medium bodied. Intense tongue burn (as expected), followed by signature Jim Beam corn-forward mash. There are also elements of cherry pie filling, caramel, powdered cinnamon, and dark chocolate-covered cherries. This otherwise pleasant-sounding combination is marred by overbearing charcoal and astringent, cardboard-like oakiness.
Finish: Medium-short. Corn (think Corn Nuts), charcoal (but oddly without the usual charcoal bitterness), cinnamon, and more tobacco. Fades without changing much.
With Water: Several drops of water (yes, please!) have little obvious effect on the aroma. The palate, however, is far easier to handle and contains sweeter notes of toffee and vanilla. If you’re tasting this I suggest smelling it, adding a very little water, tasting it, and then adjusting with more water to your preference.
Overall: This is very basic, corn-forward, Jim Beam-esque, full-strength whiskey. This is the kind of thing you use when you want a cocktail or recipe to taste like “bourbon” but without caring much about the nuance. The kind of thing you order so that you can shoot it and feel like a frontiersman at a dingy saloon in Deadwood. The kind of thing you use in a cocktail when it’s been “that kind of day” and the only thing you care about in your Old Fashioned is the alcohol percentage. (For what it’s worth, it makes a perfectly passable Old Fashioned, with a robust bourbon flavor and appropriate strength.) At $26 it’s good for all of those things, and those things only.