We all know that a whiskey shouldn’t be judged by its bottle. If we did, Willett Pot Still would garner more praise than Wild Turkey Master’s Keep bottles. Yet we are fallible creatures. My potential error was never giving Old Grand Dad a shot due to the name and bottle design(s). Every time I noticed any of the three Old Grand Dad expressions, I felt like I was looking at something out of a rundown convenience store. You know, a bottle that makes you feel dirty before even popping it open.
Despite these reservations, Old Grand Dad has a loyal following. The 114 and Bottled-in-Bond expression are both frequently called great value bourbons. Of course, things tend to cost more in my neck of the woods in Florida, so I had to pay over $30 before tax for my bottle of 114. This meant passing up a handle of Wild Turkey 101, which costs a couple bucks less. Let’s see if trying something new was worth it.
Nose: Light, soft and mildly dry. Vanilla, nut, wood and orange peel. Lemon-citrus and fairly standard Beam nuttiness abound. Vaguely tea-like floral notes with a touch of cinnamon. The proof is tangible.
Palate: Simultaneously light and hot. Some graininess on the texture, indicating youth. Drying caramel, mellow cream of corn, cinnamon-dusted almonds and a fairly generic rye spice. A spattering of toffee.
Finish: Moderate length, but more from alcohol than actual flavor. Corn, citrus, mild lemongrass and nutty wood. Ethanol only becomes more apparent over time.
To say Old Grand Dad 114 did anything to challenge my expectations would be generous. This is an example of a gamble that neither pays off nor robs you. It’s just there. What mainly holds this bourbon back is the proof to flavor ratio. I’m normally a fiend for high-proof whiskey since they often provide more flavor, but this feels so weak in the flavor department. That said, the high proof and rye contents mean this has potential to stand up in a cocktail. The only issue is that I can’t imagine choosing this over other, more appealing options. I think the peak Old Grand Dad expression deserves a bit more. Maybe if it was aged a bit longer with a statement to boot (8 years to distinguish it from Baker’s and Knob Creek) it would fare better? Not a bad dram by any stretch of the imagination, just not one that I’ll ever actively reach for.