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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Old Grand-Dad 114

Old Grand-Dad 114 is the ending note for the Old Grand-Dad line-up, which includes a low 80-proof version, as well as Bottled-in-Bond expression, and terminates with a high-proof 114. Many pass by this overlooked brand that looks like something your grandfather may have enjoyed in his day, and instead grab a bottle of the approachable - yet similar, low-proof Basil Hayden.

A True Frontier Hero

The Old Grand-Dad brand bears tribute to Basil Hayden, Sr. - a descendant of a wealthy Maryland family that had left England in the 1660s to seek religious freedom in the New World. There they settled alongside Chesapeake Bay, where Basil and his family provided supplies for the burgeoning colonial army during the American Revolution.

In 1785, 25 families - nearly a hundred followers in all - led by Basil Hayden, Sr., left Maryland, traversing the Cumberland Gap to settle near Bardstown, Kentucky. In addition to being an accomplished frontiersman, he was also well-known as a whiskey distiller, bringing his traditional "high-rye" style bourbon to the frontier,

In the mid-1880s, his grandson Raymond Hayden established a distillery in Nelson County (home to Bardstown) and labeled his bourbon "Old Grand-Dad" in honor of his grandfather. Bourbon ran in the Hayden family; Raymond's mother - Polly - was a member of the J.W. Dant family (now a revitalized distillery on the edge of Bardstown).

The brand was folded into the Wathen family in 1899, whose properties ultimately became the American Medicinal Spirits Company - the forerunner of National Distillers Group, which was added to Fortune Brands in the 1980s only to re-emerge as Beam Inc. before being merged into Beam-Suntory nearly a decade ago. Today, the Old Grand-Dad bottles proudly bear a sketch of Basil Sr.

When Beam Industries introduced their “small batch collection," among the four in 1992 was “Basil Hayden’s”, which the company says uses a mash similar to that originally utilized by Hayden in 1788. Basil Hayden's Bourbon is the lowest proof (at 80) and lightest bodied of Beam's "Small Batch Collection" produced by Beam Suntory. The others are Booker's at 120 plus proof, Knob Creek at 100 or 120 proof and Baker's Bourbon at 107 proof.

The Tasting

The mash bill is the same as some of Beam’s other high-rye bourbons, including Bookers and Basil Hayden – 63% corn, 27% rye, and 10% malted barley. This compares to the typical Jim Beam profile (shared by the Jim Beam and Knob Creek brands) of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley.

Eye: Deep copper.

Nose: Brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. The nose is very inviting.

Palate: Vanilla and caramel with baking spice, followed by banana and tropical notes. Definitely more spice and bananas than traditional Jim Beam with a lovely, warm mouthfeel

Finish: Medium-long with cinnamon red hot candies, vanilla, bananas, and dry oak.

Overall: Priced in the upper-$20s to mid-$30s, this is a true bargain. While traditional Basil Hayden's low-proof makes it very approachable for those newer to bourbon, its low-proof also makes it less versatile and can leave me lacking if enjoyed with ice.

Basil Hayden's attractive packaging certainly helps in sales to a younger crowd. However, if you're looking for bourbon-alpha and looking for "bang for the buck'', the higher proof expressions - such as Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond and Old Grand-Dad 114 - win out handily in the flavors brought forth.

The high-rye mash bill offsets the traditional sweetness of many of the Beam products. This is definitely a bourbon that Basil Sr. would be proud to pour and might even be like the one that your grandfather enjoyed back in his day.

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