Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Old Grand-Dad Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (43% ABV)

With my hand upon the wheel, a squeal of the Goodyears, a whiff of burnt rubber, I am now cruising my suburban neighborhood.  I am driving alone.

The music is spilling out the driver's side window, and I just took that turn a little too fast.  Got some Public Enemy thumping as the soundtrack to my life in the burbs, while moms are pulling their kids back from the street.  They clamp dishpan hands over their young ones ears and glare.  A dad pauses with his lawn rake, but not too long, just long enough for an almost imperceptible nod that only I recognize.  He knows.  He sees a brother on the outside of this bourgeois clink.

The music lifts my spirits, taking me from this maze of identical white houses, to a place where I am not 40 something years old.  I got no age, just a bad attitude, and a big black SUV.  I ain't the police.  Okay, maybe the whiskey police.  Yeah, dats better.  Uh-huh.  I break all dem rules.  Even grammatical and spelling ones.



As I listen to Chuck D tell it like it is (see above video - otherwise this post will not make any sense), I remember an interesting anecdote about his cohort in the band, Flavor Flav (the guy in the video who tells Chuck D "you gotta tell 'em just like dat" with a massive clock swinging from his neck).

In 1986, Chuck D's music career got its first big break in part by coming to the attention of Def Jam Records producer, Rick Rubin.  Rubin liked Chuck's politically charged, socially conscious, music and wanted to sign him to his record label (remember records?).  Chuck D insisted that Flavor Flav be signed too, as part of the same act.  Rubin was confused and didn't understand where Chuck D was coming from.  Flav wasn't the lead singer, composer or even playing an instrument.  Of course, the real problem was that Rubin didn't understand what a hype man was.  Flavor Flav was a great hype man and Chuck D knew it.

You see, a hype man is a guy who works the crowd, gets them pumped at live performances by way of his irrepressible enthusiasm.  That enthusiasm is not necessarily singing, but verbally interjecting at just the right moment and often using call and response chants.  Rubin wanted Chuck D, and if Flavor Flav had to be part of the package, then so be it.

Flavor Flav in fine form as the best 'hype man' out there.
This got me thinking that I am like Flavor Flav.  I am a hype man of great whiskey, and Old Grand-Dad Whiskey is in dire need of one, and I am happy to play the part.



















Old Grand-Dad Whiskey is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that has been around for a very long time.  The advertising campaign for this whiskey seems to have died well before the arrival of the Beatles.

The orange label is cheap looking and the bottle cover is not a wood and cork cap, but rather a cheap plastic twist-off.  The label looks out of style, last in vogue maybe in the late 1940's.

I can well imagine Henry Fonda taking a slug of Old Grand-Dad as he sets at the bar in the must-see, 1943 classic film, The Ox-Bow Incident.  Anyway, that's purely my imagination and not based in fact.

Speaking of facts, let me tell you about this bourbon I picked up in Bangor, Maine, at a grocery store for the grand sum of $16.99.

This bourbon dates back to 1882.   It was created by Raymond B. Hayden, in honor of his grandfather (Basil Hayden Sr.), and named it in memory of him, a pioneer bourbon distiller, whose likeness appears on the label.   Grand-Dad liked to distill his bourbon with a higher percentage rye mash bill and his grandson preserves this preference in this bourbon.

Today, Beam Global owns the brand and does not promote it hardly at all from what I can tell.  The brand does not have its own website, nor does it get featured at whisky festivals much.  Beam Global seem to pour a lot more marketing dollars into other products in their portfolio like: Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Knob Creek and Basil Hayden's to name but a few.

Enter me.  I am here to hype this bourbon!

Nose (undiluted)
Soft, corn, flowers, rainy evening air, some steak spice too.

Palate (undiluted)
Oranges, dry apricot, saddle leather and gentle spice of the rich/prickly rye that dominates very nicely. Old fashioned barley candy comes to mind.

Finish (undiluted)
Slight pepper, Kosher salt, and spiced rye, yeah that rye!  Taste of country stream water where you can see the fish.  Very clean finish with a hint of oak and thyme.

Value for Money!
Hell yeah!  I paid $16.99!  This is incredible value!  This bourbon really has no flaws.  At 43% ABV, it is sufficiently flavorful.

I am also astounded at the very dry flavor profile delivered for such a cheap price.  At this price point, many whiskies are horribly sweet.

I derive far more enjoyment and pleasure drinking this bourbon than I did with Blanton's single barrel (triple the price) that was the subject of my last review (click here).

Highly drinkable neat.  No need for ice or using as mix.  To mix this bourbon is to waste it.

One last point I have to make about the low price.  It's nice to know that there are a few great bargains to be had and this is one of them.  One caveat.  A reader has pointed out to me that Beam Global may reduce the ABV from 43% to 40%.  This may really take a lot of the wind out of the sails of the flavor profile.  We will wait and have to see if this comes to pass.

General Impressions
Besides being ridiculously reasonably priced, it is simply great bourbon.  Wanna learn what the big deal is about bourbon?  Old Grand-Dad is a great place to start.

This is a dry bourbon.  It doesn't taste young or overly sweet,  even though the ingredient whiskies probably are quite youthful.  Who cares?  The taste is great.  Nice clean finish too.

The flavor profile has some nuances that cannot be regarded as simple.  There's something going on here that requires another sip.

Drinking this bourbon, I can't help but think of my grandfather who grew up during the Great Depression.  He would have been very pleased with this bourbon because it is a solid, flavorful drink, yet reasonably priced.  I could see him sipping this with his "White Owl" cigars.

Don't miss out on this bourbon.  Give it a go.  You will not regret the decision.

Now go out and buy a bottle right now!  Do it!  I hope this hype gets you standing up, grabbing your wallet and headed to the nearest purveyor of fine spirits!

C'mon!  Do it!

Just like dat!

C'mon!  Do it! 

Just like dat!

C'mon!  Do it!

Just like dat!

C'mon! Do it!

Just like Dat!

(music and voice fade as I reach for the wife's grocery list and brake for the mall parking lot . . )

Cheers!


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2013. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission except for the following photo credits: (1) photo of steering vehicle taken by Jason Debly holder of all copyright; (2) "Harder than You Think" video by Public Enemy who hold all copyright; (3)  Photo of Flavor Flav credit: Wenn; (4) Old Grand-Dad print ad from the 1940's with no copyright as it is now in public domain; (5) image still from The Ox-Bow Incident copyright held by 20 Century Fox; (6) bottle of Old Grand-Dad Bourbon taken by Jason Debly; (7) Bottle of Old Grand-Dad bourbon taken by Jason Debly.  All images used are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description.

28 comments:

  1. Jason,

    A wonderfull endorsement for an underdog whiskey. I've never tried Old Grand-Dad. I've seen it in the past, and probably came close to purchasing it in one of my "cheap bourbon moods", but probably chickened out and opted for something I knew better (Jim Beam Black, Evan Williams, etc). Cheers!

    P.S: Nice watch! Looks like my Skagen.

    -Yochanan

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    1. I was really hesitant to buy this bourbon thinking it would be poison, and was so incredibly relieved upon tasting it. Really great for the price.

      As for the watch, it is a Seiko Diver's Automatic Orange Monster 200 metre 21 jewel watch that cost me the grand cost of $170 from Singapore. I ordered it on Ebay from a reputable Ebay watch vendor. The crystal is "hardlex" that is Seiko's own in house crystal that is very scratch resistant.

      I am a watch nut also and researched diver's watches and this is also the best value for money diver's watch on the market.

      Cheers!

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  2. I cannot understand how you can get whatever liquor you like in New Brunswick? Is this another Irving Family plot?

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    1. Heh, heh! I go to Maine and New Hampshire on a regular basis where the choices are far broader due to the sale of liquor being handled by the private sector, instead of government run stores.

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    2. I know what you mean I was in Clearwater Fla recently I went to a wine liquor store the choice was overwhelming.

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    3. Ahh wine, don't even get me started. I remember being in a wine shop in Stowe, Vermont that was totally devoted to Bordeaux exclusively. Can you imagine? Only Bordeaux, my bout of indecision was unbearable!

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    4. Maine has private retailers, but a contract with one distributor which handles all distribution within the state, all pricing, all selection. If the contracted monopoly doesn't carry a brand, no one anywhere in the state can sell it. I'd call it a semi-control state.

      Just barely to the west, the state runs the New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlets, same as north of the border. They're just fairly committed to relatively low taxes and a strong selection. The problem isn't government control per se, but what they do with it.

      Meanwhile, state-control or monopoly liquor states tend (sometimes?) to have good websites. Maine and New Hampshire both have great online listings and search engines. In my new home of Ohio, there is one, it's just less user-friendly, but you can find out what stores across the state carry what whiskies.

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    5. Bitter Fig, thanks for your explanation as to how liquor is brought to market in Maine and New Hampshire.

      I was under the mistaken impression that in those states, the merchant bought inventory directly from agents of the liquor companies (ie. Diageo, etc).

      In New Brunswick, Canada, the government is the only vendor of liquor through its stores. The problem is they set the price, and only they can sell it. There is no privatization of liquor or in other words, I cant open my own scotch and other spirits store and compete.

      Competition tends to breed better selection and price for the consumer.

      Elsewhere in Canada, some provincial governments have allowed the private sector to take over selling of spirits, so long as they purchase all inventory from the government. This has proven good for the public in terms of selection, price and boutique stores. Alberta has taken this approach. Government gets their tax revenue through wholesale sales to the merchants, merchants mark it up and consumer buys.

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    6. It's all pretty tangled. First, Beer, Wine, and Spirits all have the potential to be regulated separately. Just quick googling shows private beer and wine stores which boast of better selection than the state-run outlets.

      Then there's the three-tier system, where each step - Production, Wholesale Distribution, Retail, can only sell or buy from the next-closest layer. Even in fairly loose states, you wouldn't be buying directly from Diageo, I don't think. There would be an importer/distributor who would be a third party company in the middle. This distributor won't be the same in all states, since some states grant monopoly licenses or run the wholesaling directly...

      Another outcropping of this is that some states (Maine, since I know my old home so well) are fairly permissive on retailing, but lock the wholesalers up tight, so you'll see liquor in grocery stores and gas stations and wherever. It doesn't "feel" that controled, but everyone buys off the same list, at the same price, and has the same sales at the same time (at least for spirits).

      As to prices, it too is probably quite complex. Liquor sales are a low-margin, high-volume business for retailers. I presume that it's a lot like grocery stores, where those which are larger and can drive down costs with economies of scale. I can see new entrants pretty easily driving up selection, but driving down prices is probably a lot harder. That's mostly supposition, but I know I'd have a devil of a time competing with Wal*Mart or Kroger or such on prices in food.

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  3. I'm glad you enjoyed one of the best bottom shelf bourbon around Jason (OGD has also a BIB 100 proof and a 114proof version, not that I have acquired any yet.) On another note, if you like it so much stock up. While Beam was reverting Maker's back to 45%, they have quietly lowered OGD to 40% without much fanfare! Just a note! Sip on!

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    1. OGD 114 is one of my favorite everyday Bourbons, along with Elijah Craig 12 yr and Old Weller Antique 107. I get all in the $20-25 range, and for that price they can't be beat.

      I have recently acquired (but not opened) a couple bottles for under $20 that are only available in Kentucky that are supposed to be very good, Very old Barton 100 pf ($13) and Ancient Ancient Age 10 yr ($18). (Note that the AAA 10 yr is not the same as the 10 star, which is widely available and 6 yrs old.)

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    2. Scott, that's the beauty of bourbon, so many great whiskies at very affordable prices. Let's hope bourbon never goes the way of single malts with the cachet, snob appeal, and higher prices.

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  4. Never thought Old GRand Dad wud be tht gud!! Thanks for the enlightening review. Now, here's the dilemma: Evan Williams 43% for $16 (1.75 L) or Old Grand Dad 43% for $20 (1.75 L). Let me know how OGD stands up to EW.

    Thanks.

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    1. I have not tried Evan Williams, but it is on the list. Will get it at some point this summer. It is so cheap that I cannot imagine it being very good, yet Old Grand-Dad worked out, so who knows?

      As you know, Evan Williams is even cheaper. I must review it!

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    2. Jason, I think the Evan Williams house style (be it a $10 Black Label, $15 Bottled-in-Bond or a $22 Single Barrel version) could fall right in your wheelhouse, stylistically. Each one is very finely aimed at providing elegance, balance, complexity and drink-ability at the three price points. Worth the money for a visit, each. JK

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    3. Yes, indeed, it probably is a bourbon I will enjoy. I just shake my head at the prices. Crazy good.

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  5. Jason, Nice to see this. Old Grand-Dad is an old fave around here. I've not had the 86p version (and am not likely to, seeing as the product has been recently replaced by a reduced strength release, 80p). But the 100p Bottled-in-Bond version is a cabinet staple in my house, both a mixer's delight and a sturdy rye-forward sipper too. It's solid. If you like the 86p enough, either stock up a few soon, or check out the products on either side of the strength spectrum. JK

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    1. I have almost universal praise online for the 100 proof version. Yet another one for me to seek out.

      It's too bad the 43% ABV is discontinued. It really has some nice charm.

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  6. Jason, Another fine and fun review. I will have to try some of the OGD 86 or 100 proof. I find the 114 proof too strong and it covers the flavor.

    I've noticed that, unlike some fad liquors such as vodka and tequila, bourbon drinkers seem to appreciate traditional tastes and are not as caught up in the hype of high price means better booze. We have our favorites, of course, but enjoy finding a good value. At least this is an impression I've formed. Have you noticed something similar? Just curious.

    Jeff The Bear

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    1. Jeff, I would agree with the idea that bourbon drinkers are not as susceptible to the marketing ploy that a higher price means better quality. And because of that conviction they probably keep bourbon prices where they should be: affordable

      Compared to scotch, Japanese and other whiskies, bourbon is resoundingly affordable and delivers fantastic value. Besides Old Grand-Dad, there is Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey 101, Jim Beam Black and a host of others that can be had for less than $25 bucks. Part of the low prices also reflects less taxation on domestic spirits than imported spirits (ie. Scotch) by the government, but oh well, it is still a benefit to the consumer where everything else just seems to be going up and up!

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  7. I am a big fan of Old Grand Dad. The 100 proof BIB is one of my regular pours. Nice article. Neat looking watch too. What kind is that?

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  8. I hear great things about the 100 proof expression. Will try to lay my hands on a bottle at some point.

    The watch is a true diver's watch. Specifically, a Seiko Diver's Automatic Orange Monster 200 metre 21 jewel watch (model SKX781) that cost me the grand cost of $170 from Singapore.

    I ordered it on Ebay from a reputable Ebay watch vendor. The crystal is "hardlex" that is Seiko's own in-house crystal that is very scratch resistant. In fact, it has not scratched at all and I wear it constantly.

    The watch normally retails only in Japan and that part of the world. I like the heavy, surgical steel bracelet too.

    With kids it is very useful as I dont have to take it off, when swimming, giving baths, etc.

    Check out Ebay and you may be able to snag one. An invaluable source for this watch and others is: http://forums.watchuseek.com/forum.php

    Cheers!

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  9. Jason, Love your blog. You MUST find OGD 114 proof! Even better than the 100 proof and only about $22 here in Texas at least. It is astounding stuff.

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    1. Yeah I hear it is great. Will do my best!

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  10. Jason,
    Your review is right on the mark. Finally got a bottle of the OGD 86 proof which has been discontinued. I let it sit in the glass for half an hour to let the initial alcohol blast dissipate but sipped it neat. Wow! Several layers of flavor: citrus, rye spiciness, some oak, sweet oil that holds the other flavors and more. (I haven't had barley candy for over half a century and the memory is, shall we say, dim.)The distiller somehow managed to let the flavors combine to good effect without obliterating the individual tastes.

    I put Old Grand Dad in the same value category as Teachers Highland Cream scotch and George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee whiskey: superb taste and complexity far beyond what the price might indicate. Absolute bargains!

    OGD also makes a nice contrast to my other favorite bourbon, Wild Turkey 101. Different taste and mash bill but both are so good. Periodic switching between the two should keep the taste buds happy.

    Now to head back to the store for the other bottle of 86 proof and to try the bonded, 100 proof version.

    Jeff The Bear

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    1. Hi Jeff,

      You pick out a lot of the flavors in OGD that I should have mentioned.

      I have a friend in Florida who will try to bring be back a bottle of the higher proof version. Hopefully, she can find it.

      Cheers!

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  11. It sticks to ginger ale when mixing so well too! No alcohol tinge either. I really get Old fashion Rock Candy, Burst of Juicy Citrus and Warm Pepper with Pastry. 100 proof has no alcohol tinge just like 86. I've never had 114 but I would try to get that 114. I read somewhere it only comes out at hoilday season in the USA. I could be wrong.

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  12. Skip the 80/86 proof stuff and get the 100 proof bonded variety. It's a MUCH better whiskey at the higher proof point.

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