“The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort.” – Confucius
Here at Malt we have at times been inculpated with charges of magniloquence; I’m sure I’ve earned my fair share of such indictments. At the heart of what we do is simple: we inform. We aim to better educate you, dear reader, whether you seek in any capacity to take our recommendations and varied opinions seriously or not. I think a hope persists that you’ll at least leave here knowing more than you did when you began any of our reviews.
Because it is our goal to inform, generally, those attempts can at times be scattershot, resulting in tangential anecdotes rife with personal affectations. Like tenured professors, we may at times fall victim to entertaining ourselves rather than educating you, the folks who deserve all of the credit for making our every passing pontification mean anything at all. If you, as I do, subscribe to the notion that it’s the audience that gives art meaning, then some would argue that we miss the mark in not remaining steadfast to prosaic profiles of quotidian expressions.
Those in that school of thought have my understanding, and so I’d like to extend an olive branch. Despite dalliances with unicorn bottles, the likes of which have made even our editor-in-chief envious, I relish the opportunity to speak plainly about the easy-to-buy, everyday options that the vast majority of us bourbon enthusiasts have experience with.
Today is one such occasion, as I’ll be throwing most of my Romantic impulses to the wind in favor of taking a Parnassian tack. In eschewing whimsy and opting for relative austerity I hope we can take part in the most sacred tradition that exists in the human experience of imbibing… that is to say: I hope we can share. Today I’d like to share a love of readily available and affordably priced bourbon.
Without getting into the headier considerations of what constitutes academic language, I’ll cast aside anything that might (even speciously) look the part and level with you: as much as I love the written word, I love Old Grand-Dad 114. It is good as hell. Not only is it good as hell, I’m willing to bet you know several liquor stores in your immediate vicinity that stock it and sell it for roughly three sawbucks.
While standard Old Grand-Dad often goes overlooked, “OGD” Bonded and “OGD” 114 are both generally well regarded by those who love bourbon. Bearing the face of Basil Hayden (whose eponymous expression is equally beloved among a different segment of the consumer base) the so-called “old grand-dad” the name makes reference to, it’s those two expressions that are frequently named among the best values in all of American whiskey. When considering the best bourbons under $30, you’d be hard pressed to find two better answers under a single product line.
I recently posed a question to my Twitter followers: you walk into a liquor store and see 1 liter of Old Grand-Dad Bonded and a 750ml bottle of Old Grand-Dad 114 both priced at $30, which do you buy? It was a dilemma I found myself faced with when considering what would make for a better “bottom shelf” review. The results of that informal poll – despite both receiving effusive praise from correspondents – overwhelmingly favored OGD 114, which brings us here today.
I have to admit those results made me smile because, though the bottled in bond version is perfectly fine, OGD 114 is by far my personal preference. Akin to comfort food, or for some the comfort they get from plainspoken whiskey reviewers, I’ve always found OGD 114 to be a reliable option when financial concerns were at the front of my mind. Additionally, because it has virtues beyond its ease on the wallet, I love that I can take comfort in something paradoxically both cheap and relatively rich.
Without further ado, let’s dispense with the relevant specs: Old Grand-Dad 114 clocks in at 114 proof (57% ABV) and is non-age stated. As you’ll note if you didn’t fall asleep in class during my rambling above, this expression carries an SRP of $30. Finally, the mash bill (which is considered “high rye”) consists of 63% corn, 27% rye, and 10% malted barley.
Old Grand-Dad 114 – Review
Color: An Arnold Palmer balance of amber and honey.
On the nose: Fresh flowers in a citrus dew greet the nose at first before Cracker Jack peanuts, wet bark, and caramel emerge. After swirling there’s an aroma of fresh mint sprigs with a little soapiness that’s a little reminiscent of aloe. Finally, I detect the faintest smell of bacon fat and anise seed on the back end. All in all, it’s a nose that’s very evocative of a classic high-rye mash bill and one that smacks of the standard Jim Beam peanut-forward note.
In the mouth: A steely note streaks down the middle of the tongue as the peanuts and juicy orange notes from the nose take center stage. It gets a little sweeter on repeat sips as there’s some custard that finds its way on the back end while brown sugar intensifies on the front and tip of the tongue. That said, the triumvirate of mineral water, citrus, and Cracker Jacks are never displaced as the star of the show… which is a delight if that’s your jam, as it is mine. The sip concludes, after some time, with a touch of fresh leather (think of a brand-new baseball glove) to go with the return of the floral notes from the nose, the arrival of soft oak, and a bit of mint tea. The mouthfeel is stout but not particularly noteworthy, as opposed to the finish, which is marked by peanuts, mint tea, and just enough heat to keep me coming back for repeat sips.
Taylor previously covered this 114 proof expression and the Old Grand-Dad history however, as you doubtlessly know, everyone’s palate is different. While his aversion to a high rye mash bill is common and may be more in line with your own tastes, I typically feel that the nuttiness of the Beam portfolio is right up my alley. Because of that, I find myself practicing Confucian filial piety and returning to Old Grand-Dad 114 again and again for the fact that it delivers in spades with respect to “value” considering its proof, classic profile, and price.
I do think the nose slightly exceeds the palate, which isn’t as balanced as products higher up in the Jim Beam portfolio, but Old Grand-Dad 114 succeeds in nearly all of its other aims. For the price I don’t think anyone will be disappointed after buying a bottle. As a result, I’m inclined to award this an additional point for the pocket-friendly pricing.