By Father John Rayls
In continuing my exploration of “bottom shelf” whiskeys, I stumbled upon another winner: Old Grand Dad 114 from Beam Suntory. This is not a refined whiskey with a soft, smooth, delicate style, but is instead a very direct and to the point bourbon that takes the “punch to the throat” approach. It drinks a little hot and raises the bar on spiciness with its high rye mashbill (27%). Many musical groups (Lynyrd Skynyrd for instance) make reference to the Old Grand-Dad brand, and even movies and books (including James Bond and Bad Santa) single it out for recognition.
Basil Hayden, Sr was a well known distiller in the late 1700s, and passed his recipe to his son and grandson. His grandson, Raymond Hayden, named his bourbon after his grand-dad, Basil Hayden, Old Grand-Dad. The company that became Jim Beam acquired ownership in 1987, and now variants include the standard 80 proof (lowered from 86), 100 proof and 114 proof (barrel strength). You might still find some 86 proof, but it’s no longer being produced.
The Old Grand-Dad 114 covered here is a NAS (no age statement) bourbon, but ad a Kentucky Straight Bourbon which makes it at least two years old.
The color of Old Grand-Dad 114 is a light brown with dark orange tints. The bottle is substantial with a heavy cork and adorned with a likeness of Basil Hayden on every label. The legs are very thin, but very visible.
The aroma is very yeasty with strong notes of caramel which brings up images of biscuits and honey. The nose is neither aggressive or subtle, and, surprisingly, there isn’t any burn on the nose, so the scent is very pleasant and inviting.
As hinted at above, the taste experience is definitely on the aggressive side. It drinks hot, but remains a joy to consume and it’s a full mouth experience. This begins with a very slight coating of the mouth as every part of the mouth is activated at the same time. This might be a little overwhelming if you’re not expecting it. The mouth is immediately filled with sweet caramels, but that quickly gives way to a subtle peppery/spicey experience. The finish is long and very enjoyable. The spiciness continues to grow and form in the mouth into a large crescendo of flavor and spice and only reluctantly recedes.
I love finding the gems in the under $40 category, but I’m finding cutting into the under $30 and even under $20 categories produces some very surprising results. Old Grand-Dad 114, for example, is a bottle I picked up for just under $20.