Tag Archives: Old Grand Dad

Stocking the Whiskey Bar

The holidays are a time to get together with friends and family. Whether you are celebrating the joyous occasion with those close to you or enduring the extended family for the obligatory once a year visit, you probably should have some whiskey on hand. Like butter and bacon, whiskey tends to make everything better. 🙂 Even when it’s not holiday time, if you’re a fan of the water of life you might want to have a well chosen selection at home for personal perusal or entertaining. If you’re a one brand one bottle kind of person then that’s fine. I’m not judging you but if you and/or your guests only drink one thing all the time with no exception then this article probably won’t interest you.

I’m assuming that you probably already have a bottle or two if you’re reading a whiskey blog so let’s move beyond the “if I only have one/two bottle(s)” question and talk about stocking a home whiskey bar for yourself and guests. Before we start I want to clarify that we’re talking about a whiskey bar, not a whiskey collection. A collection, whether by design or accident is a different beast entirely. Oh, and if you think you can’t collect by accident let me tell you from personal experience that it can happen very easily. I’m in the process of rectifying that transgression in my own supply so let me know if you want to stop by and “help” with that. 😉

“How many bottles should I plan on getting for a base stock in my home whiskey bar?”

It depends. If you’re just looking for bourbon or scotch then probably three well chosen bottles will get you started. If you want a nice cross section of multiple styles then I would say five to eight. It really is up to you. However, I will caution you that once you get north of 10 bottles and start heading towards 20 you starting getting into collection territory. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that but it’s a slippery slope. 😉

“How much should I plan to spend?”

You can spend as much or as little as you want. I’ll try to give you a few examples at various prices for each category. That way you can decide how much you want to spend based on personal preference and financial situation. Please note that the prices listed are for a standard U.S. 750ml bottle.

“Where do I begin?”

With scotch and bourbon a good framework would be to get a mixer, a classic, and a gem. Now when I say “mixer” I’m really referring to a table whiskey. You should use the same rule of thumb for mixed drinks and cocktails as you do for cooking with wine. That means that even your table whiskey should be something you wouldn’t mind drinking by itself. There are plenty of inexpensive and tasty whiskeys out there so you shouldn’t have to buy rot gut just to use as a mixer. Here are some examples.

Scotch – Johnnie Walker Black, Chivas Regal 12 Year Old, and Glenlivet 12 Year Old can all be had for around $30.

Bourbon – Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond ($20), Buffalo Trace ($20), and Elijah Craig 12 Year Old ($22)

Your “classic” whiskey should be something that typifies the category. That $1,000 bottle of Macallan 30 Year Old may taste like heaven but when I say classic I’m thinking of a reasonably priced dram that is pleasant and displays many of the standard characteristics of scotch or bourbon. Again, here are a few examples.

Scotch – Highland Park 12 Year Old ($40), Compass Box Great King Street Blend ($40), and Cragganmore 12 Year Old ($50)

Bourbon – Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Old ($40), Old Forester Birthday Bourbon ($40), and Blanton’s ($50)

Now let’s talk about that gem. Up until now you’ve probably dropped between $100 to $150 on four bottles of whiskey (2 bourbon, 2 scotch). The gem category is where you can be as reserved or crazy as you want. The notion behind these bottles is to have something exceptional. Think of it as a special whiskey or two. You can lay these on your snobby or aficionado friends to get the approving nod or you can use them to show somehow something really good tastes. Alternatively, you can think of these bottles as a little more aggressive or obscure in taste. If Glenfiddich is your middle of the road then maybe one of these bottles can be a super peaty Ardbeg. You can drop $50 on one of these or $500. It’s up to you. Below are a few suggestions but let your interests guide your decisions.

Scotch – Lagavuling 16 Year Old ($80), Macallan 18 Year Old ($130), Dewar’s Signature ($180)

Bourbon – Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit ($55), George T. Stagg ($75), Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Old ($120)

Now you may have noticed that I’ve listed both blends and single malts for scotch under each category. This is intentional. Both are very tasty and should be considered equally. I really think that you should consider getting at least one blend and at least one single malt. One is not inferior to the other regardless of what you hear from scotch snobs.

Others
Scotch and bourbon are great but there’s a wider and ever expanding world of whiskey out there waiting to be sampled. Personally, I would recommend a good rye that you can drink and mix as a staple. Rittenhouse Bottled-In-Bond ($20) or Sazerac Rye ($27) are great examples. If you’ve only ever used bourbon in your cocktails then get ready for a treat. A good rye cocktail is hard to beat.

I also think you should have a bottle of something a little different. It will allow you and your guests to expand your whiskey horizons and give you something interesting to compare and contrast. A nice bottle of Yamazaki 12 Year Old Japanese Whisky ($40), Redbreast 12 Year Old Irish Pot Still Whiskey ($50), or Amrut Fusion Indian Whisky ($60) would all be nice additions.

“What about other spirits to have on hand?”

Believe it or not, I don’t only drink whiskey. I often enjoy other fine brown spirits. Around the holidays I especially enjoy a nice brandy after a big meal. Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac ($35), Germain-Robin Shareholder’s Reserve ($75), or Kelt XO Cognac ($150) are all nice examples.

If a nice aged rum is more your speed then maybe a bottle of Cruzan Single Barrel ($28), Appleton Extra Jamaican Rum ($35), or Bacardi Reserva Limitada Rum Anejo ($100) would give you something nice to sip with guests.

“Is there anything else I need?”

It’s probably a good idea to have a few other basic ingredients on hand for cocktails. Below is a suggested list but you can add or subtract as you see fit. Remember, this list is focused on whiskey cocktails. If you’re doing a White Russian or a Sex on the Beach then that’s something entirely different.

  • Simple Syrup (make your own)
  • Sodas (Coca-cola, diet cola, ginger ale, club soda, tonic water, etc.)
  • Bitters (Angostura, Peychaud, etc.)
  • Fruit – Juice and whole fruit (Lemons, oranges, maraschino cherries, etc.)
  • Vermouth – Sweet and Dry
  • Liqueurs

I would recommend that you actually look at the kind of cocktails you plan to make and back into a list of additional ingredients instead of blinding buying stuff that the guy on the internet said you had to have. Having a huge selection of cocktail accoutrement looks cool but if you never use it then it’s a waste.

“Wait a minute. What about vodka and tequila?”

Like your mom said about little Scotty Powell down the street…”You don’t need friends like that.” In all seriousness, we were talking about stocking a nice selection of whiskeys. I could go on and on with my belligerent opinions of the vodka and tequila culture that’s exploded in the last 15 to 20 years but that’s not the point of this article. Look, if you need to have vodka and tequila, and a good host probably should, then you don’t need to fret over the bottles as much as you might think. Probably about 99% of vodka and tequila consumption in the U.S. occurs with some type of mixer. As long as you’re not buying the stuff off the bottom shelf in the plastic jugs you’ll probably be okay with the majority of brands when making a vodka tonic, vodka and cranberry, or margarita. Personally, I buy Kirkland Signature brand vodka and anejo tequila at Costco. Both are very good quality and ridiculously well priced. If you’re worried that your snobby friends will scoff because you have Costco brand or Stolichnaya vodka instead of Grey Goose or Ciroc then pick up a nice decanter to keep it in. It will class up your bar a little and then if they ask what it is you can tell them whatever the hell you want.;)

If you’re in a quandary the next time you go to the liquor store to stock up then I hope this helps. As always, these are merely my opinions on the subject. Let your taste and wallet be your guide. If you have any questions or need additional suggestions please send me an email. Enjoy the holidays and share some good whiskey with good company.

Drink wisely my friends,

Richard

Basil Hayden’s

Basil Hayden’ Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
40% ABV/80 Proof
$30 to $40
Widely Available

What the Distillery Says:
Basil Hayden’s is unequalled in that it utilizes twice as much rye in it as the other bourbons in the Collection. Enriched by a hint of peppermint, it impresses with notes of pepper balanced by slight citrus overtones, and a spicy, warming finish. Aged eight years at a relatively mild 80 proof, Basil Hayden’s has a broad appeal and is equally enjoyable alone or in cocktails such as a Juicy Basil and Basil Bubbly.

Age: 8 years
Proof: 80
Color: Golden amber
Aroma: Spice, tea, hint of peppermint
Taste: Spicy, peppery, honey, light-bodied, gentle bite
Finish: Dry, clean, brief

What Richard Says:
Nose: Herbal, floral, and that signature Old Grand Dad black tea note.
Palate: Vanilla, and that OGD rye spice note but in this it is lighter and cleaner.
Finish: Very dry. I’m talking really dry. Dry like like you want some water or a soda afterward.
Comments: Basil Hayden’s seems to be pretty popular with those new to bourbon. It’s light and easy to drink. This was my wife’s first “favorite bourbon” when I first got her into whiskey. I’m not saying it’s a woman’s bourbon anything like that. However, I do think that it’s not worth twice the money to get this over OGD Bottled In Bond. They put another year or two on the age and watered it down to 40% ABV. It’s still Old Grand Dad, just with a heftier price tag.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Matt has not had a chance to review this whiskey yet.

Old Grand Dad

Old Grand-Dad Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
43% ABV/86 Proof
$13 to $15
Widely Available

What the Distillery Says:
Old Grand-Dad was a distiller named Basil Hayden who made his name by distilling a bourbon whiskey made with a higher percentage of rye. Basil Hayden passed along the art of distilling to his son and then, in turn, to his grandson. It was the third generation distiller, Colonel R.B. Hayden, who honored his grandfather by naming his justly famed
whiskey “Old Grand-Dad.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Caramel, wildflowers, corn, and black tea.
Palate: Sweet and mellow at first, then you run into a distinct rye spiciness.
Finish: Heavy on the spicy rye.
Comments: Old Grand Dad isn’t your typical bottom shelf old bourbon brand. It’s quite a bit better than Old Crow, Rebel Yell, and all those other “old redneck” bourbons you might sneer at when picking up the latest “master distiller’s” whatever. If you want to know what “rye spiciness” is in a bourbon when you see it written then pick up a bottle of this and you’ll find out. In cocktail, on the rocks, or straight up…I’ll take an Old Grand Dad whenever it’s offered.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Matt has not had a chance to review this whiskey yet.

June Review Schedule: Old Grand Dad

I recall a few years ago how surprised I was to find out that Jim Beam only makes two bourbons. Yes they sell quite a few bottlings but unlike Buffalo Trace and Four Roses they only use two recipes for there regular line of products. Like many distillers they have been experimenting in recent years but aside from rare one time experiments bottled for travel retail like Jim Beam Signature, they only use two recipes for all their bourbon products. Most of their products use the standard Jim Beam recipe. It shows up in Jim Beam White Label, Jim Beam 7 Year old, Jim Beam Black, Knob Creek, Knob Creek Reserve, Bookers, and Bakers. The less known “other” recipe is the Old Grand Dad recipe. All the different bottlings from the Jim Beam recipe vary only in barrel, age, bottling strength, and location. As it goes in the barrel they are all the same. Old Grand Dad is a little different.

The Old Grand Dad brand was purchased by Jim Beam in 1987. Prior to that it was owned by National Distillers Group, their predecessor the American Medicinal Spirits Company, the Wathen family, and all the way back to 1840 when the original owners, the Hayden family, first started commercially distilling. The brand was started by Raymond Hayden and named after his grandfather. The grandfather’s name was Basil Hayden. You may have noticed that I didn’t include Basil Hayden in the roll call of Jim Beam recipe brands above. That’s because it’s the only Small Batch Collection bourbon not made from the the Jim Beam recipe. It’s Old Grand Dad through and through. It’s just aged 8 years and watered down to 80 proof.

I thought it would be fun to focus on this “lesser” side of the Jim Beam bourbon empire. The Old Grand Dad recipe shows up in Old Grand Dad, Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond, Old Grand Dad 114, and of course Basil Hayden. We will be focusing our reviews on these four bourbons for the month of June. I personally find Old Grand Dad’s iterations a little smoother and easier to drink than Jim Beam. I hope you venture out and give them a try.

We’ve also still got some various samples rolling in to the Whisk(e)y Apostle Fortress of Solitude so look for our thoughts on Big Bottom Whiskey and Balblair too. And! We may even see Matt getting back in the saddle this month.

Drink wisely my friends,

Richard

Barriers for New Whiskey Drinkers Part 1 (Richard)

As you might imagine, I think about whiskey quite a lot. Matt and I write a blog on the stuff that we try to update with new content as regularly as we can. But that’s more of a product of our obsession rather than a driver. The idea behind Whisk(e)y Apostle was to help get the word out. “Proselytizing the way of malt.” When we started formulating the idea for the site a couple of years ago there really wasn’t too much out there on the subject. Most distilleries didn’t exactly have the greatest websites and in terms of blogs and related websites there was really only John Hansell, Sam over at Dr. Whisky, the ruminations of various Malt Maniacs, and one or two others.

Oh how times have changed. Every distillery seems to be revamping their websites multiple times a year and it seems like everyone and their brother is talking about whiskey. This isn’t a bad thing at all. The more we talk about it, the more people learn about it. The more they learn, the more they buy and ultimately the more stuff comes out on the market.

So with that in mind I decided to take a step back and think about what is still inhibiting people from drinking whiskey…aside from those poor misguided souls who still think that they just don’t like it. Here’s my top four.

Price
Whiskey isn’t exactly cheap once you move off the bottom two shelves and let’s face it, there’s a lot down there that might make you never want to try whiskey again. Bourbon and Irish are still relatively affordable up against the increasing prices of Scotch but their prices are soaring too. However, you can still value good values in all these categories if you know what to look for. Scotch has some great blends like Black Bottle and value single malts like Glenfiddich and Glenlivet shouldn’t be sneezed at. You can even move down the connoisseur route if you’re selective. Macallan may get all the love but Edrington’s Highland Park Distillery puts out great single malt at noticeably lower prices than Macallan in the same age ranges. Bourbon and Irish are rife with old labels at good prices offering solid value. Weller, Old Grand Dad, and Evan Williams are just some of the Bourbon names to look out for. Powers, Paddy’s, and a number of other Irish tipples are worth a shot. Also, Rye is still an under marketed value gem (but don’t tell anyone). Don’t let the prices scare you. Buy smarted, not harder.

It should also be noted that you might also look at price per drink. If you spend $20 on a bottle of wine you my only get four or five glasses out of it. That’s $4 or $5 per drink. If you assume a standard pour of around 30 ml or so then that gets you 25 drinks for the price of a $45 bottle of Scotch. That’s less than $2 a drink. I’m assuming you’re drinking the glass of wine and the glass of Scotch at about the same pace and not slamming back shooter like a frat boy. It’s just something else to think about.

Variety
It really is a great time to buy whiskey. There are so many choices that it seems like you could spend your whole life trying to taste them all. However, that same variety that makes me giddy when I walk in the liquor store may seem daunting to the uninitiated. Bourbon, Rye, Irish, Single Malt, Blends, Blended Malts, Japanese, Indian, Australian, American Craft, Welsh, English, Swedish….you see where I’m going with this. Don’t be afraid. Take it slow. It’s no different than beer or wine. Try a few at a local drinking establishment and then try others similar to what you liked. It’s as simple as that.

Tradition
Do you know how you’re supposed to drink whiskey? Neat? With a splash of water? On the rocks? With cola? Out of a tulip shaped glass? Out of a tumbler? The real answer is to drink it however the hell you want. Why would you let someone else tell you what to do with something you bought? You don’t have to drink every glass of single malt scotch neat out of a tulip shaped nosing glass while wearing a kilt in front of a roaring fire used to cook haggis. You can. You might try it sometime because you might like it but that doesn’t mean you have too. Don’t worry so much about what you’re supposed to do and spend more time doing what you enjoy.

Advice
This one is tricky. How do you talk about advice as a barrier for new drinkers without giving advice? You really can’t but I feel that I have to. If you ask questions about whiskey to bloggers, writers, aficionados, bartenders, shop owners, etc. you will get plenty of opinions. You just need to remember that at the bottom of the glass that’s all they are, opinions. It is all relayed with good intentions but the only way you will know what you like is to get out there and try stuff. Then you can decide for yourself. If over time you find the recommendations of one blogger or writer similar to what you like then you can give that person more weight than others but that’s up to you. We do reviews on Whisk(e)y Apostle because we enjoy doing them and some people might find them helpful. Personally, I think our event postings and editorial posts are a more important part of what Matt and I do. After all, we may think Redbreast walks on water but if you can’t stand Irish whiskey then you’re not going to agree. You have to make up your own mind.

That’s all I’ve got so say on the subject…for now (have blog, will pontificate). Matt’s take on the topic should be along soon.

Drink wisely my friends,

Richard