Friday, June 3, 2022

Starward Octave Barrels Single Malt Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


We don’t hear that much about whisky from Australia. The continent is known for excellent wine, and the Aussies seem to be adventurous folk.

Nestled in Melbourne is a distillery called Starward. I’m not a stranger to this distillery, and most of what I’ve experienced has been lovely. It was founded in 2007 by David Vitale, and the distillery is recognized for aging whiskey in red wine casks.

“Our Starward whiskies are a journey into a distinctively Australian spirit and the possibilities for New World whisky. Each whisky has the Starward stamp from our wine barrel maturation, yet each whisky differs and offers something new. From single malt to double grain, American or French oak influences or approachability and complexity. There's a whisky for every drinker.” – Starward

Starward hasn’t introduced a new whisky to the United States since 2019 – until now. Its latest expression is called Octave Barrels. If that piques your curiosity, read on. The whisky itself is Starward’s signature single malt. After distillation, that’s then aged in American oak barrels, which are only 100L, and formerly held its “The Octavius” Shiraz wine from Yalumba. Yalumba is the oldest family-owned winery in Australia, going back six generations. Starward first acquired these barrels in 2013.

Octave Barrels carries no age statement but is said to be about three years old. It is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and packaged at 48% ABV (96°). Unlike most whisky bottles you see in the United States, this one is 700ml versus the standard 750ml. Don’t let that get in your way because 50ml is basically one shot. A bottle will set you back about $79.99.

Before I get to my review, I’d like to thank Starward for providing a sample of Octave Barrels in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this single malt whiskey looked like cinnamon sticks' color. A massive rim generated long, slow tears that fell back to the pool.

Nose: A whiff of seasoned oak was joined by raisin, cherry, plum, and caramel. When I drew that air past my lips, I tasted Bullseye candy and red wine. Those two sound weird, but they worked for whatever reason.

Palate: The texture was creamy and full-bodied. Blueberry, strawberry, and raisin coated the front of my palate, while caramel, marshmallow, and nutmeg took on the middle. The back offered flavors of seasoned oak, cherry, and cinnamon.

Finish: Bullseye candy returned and dominated the long, pleasing finish. It was toned with cherry and cinnamon spice.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The smaller cooperage was not an issue with this whisky. Perhaps it was due to it being vintage rather than new. The seasoned oak was different, I loved the fruity flavors (especially the blueberry), and those Bullseye candies have always been my favorite. Starward Octave Barrels hit all the nails on the head, and I can safely say this is one of the top whiskies I’ve tried in 2022. It steals my Bottle rating. Find it. Buy it. Enjoy it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Distill America XIV Roundup with My Whiskey Den


Distill America was founded fourteen years ago by a small group of spirits enthusiasts in Madison known as the Madison Malt Society. They often traveled to Chicago for whiskey events, but growing expenses put a damper on their enjoyment and took from the excitement of attending year after year. Aside from travel costs, they contended with pricey entry fees, both for the distillers and attendees. They were struck with the notion of creating an event locally that someone could easily attend every year, whether they were an exhibitor or a fan of distilled spirits. The goal was to attract bartenders, retailers, and the general public to learn about what is out there and available to enjoy.

There's no gimmick. You come, meet people in the industry, learn, and sip amazing distilled spirits. You'll find no Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Tequila, or anything else that's not 100% Made In The USA at Distill America. That's the schtick.

Distill America features educational seminars, and Distill America XIV featured Nicole Austin, the master distiller at George Dickel. It was also the first time the event was outdoors. Usually, you couldn't do that in Wisconsin in February, but in 2022, due to uncertainty about COVID-19, it was held at Madison's East Side Club in May. The weather was gorgeous, and I'm not sure it could have been better.

One of the things I loved about the venue was how relaxed it was. When it was held indoors at The Edgewater, things got... cozy... with shoulder-to-shoulder people. That wasn't the best if you get claustrophobic. But, outside, there was plenty of room to spread around, and the grass was your dump bucket! 

Even the food was easier to obtain. The quality of the food has always been excellent, but, again, with tight quarters, it was often difficult to get to it. This year, Hy-Vee provided the food, and there were no troubles grabbing a plate or two.

As always, I looked for new gems and visited old friends. This year, it was Blue Ash Farm from Argyle, Wisconsin. They were pouring their Honey Bourbon, which is Bourbon infused with wildflower honey from Pecatonica River Valley. 

After the show, Patrick Belongia of My Whiskey Den interviewed a few of us, including me, Fred Swanson of Dancing Goat Distillery (and one of Distill America's founders), and Dave and Adina Ewaldz, who celebrated their wedding anniversary at the event.  You can view the entire show on My Whiskey Den's YouTube page.  Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Tamdhu Batch Strength 004 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Back in 1896, a group of assemblers gathered to discuss opening the most technologically-advanced distillery in the world to make the “finest” whisky. They hired Charles C. Doig, the most respected distillery architect and engineer around, and by 1897, the first newmake rolled off the still of the new Tamdhu Distillery and aged in sherry casks from Jerez, Spain.


Tamdhu quickly caught the attention of others, and Highland Distillers acquired it. Mothballing occurred three times:  1911-1912, 1928-1947, and finally, 2010-2013. However, it never changed hands until 2010, when the Edrington Group (the owners of Highland) sold the dormant distillery to Ian Macleod Distillers.


This Speyside distillery in Knocknado was upgraded a few times, with perhaps the most significant in 1949 when it introduced Saladin boxes used to auto-turn the barley during the malting process. Tamdhu remains one of the few distilleries to have a malting floor on-premises.


Most of what Tamdhu produces winds up in blends such as J&B, Famous Grouse, and Cutty Sark. But, it does have single malts. Batch Strength is an annual special release, and I’ve acquired Batch 004 from 2019. Aged in American and European oak Oloroso sherry casks, it carries no age statement. It is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and weighs in at a hefty 57.8% ABV (115.6°). The suggested retail is about $90.00.


A friend presented me with a sample of this Scotch and requested a review. That can only happen if I do the #DrinkCurious thing. Let’s do it!


Appearance: If you poured dark, raw honey into a Glencairn glass, that’s about as close a description of the color as I can offer. A microthin rim released weighty tears that crashed back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: A bouquet of raisin, apricot, vanilla, almond, and honey tickled my nostrils. It was dreamy, and the only thing that stopped me was my desire to taste it. When I made an effort to draw the air into my mouth, the sherry notes were thick.


Palate:  A very oily, full-bodied texture greeted my tongue. The front of my palate found raisin, plum, and cherry, while the middle discovered orange peel, brown sugar, and chocolate. The back had flavors of black pepper, almond, and dry oak.


Finish:  The extended, spicy ending consisted of dry oak and black pepper that carried past the berry, brown sugar, raisin, and chocolate. As I was pondering these, it struck me that it was reminiscent of Dr. Pepper.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This is one of those, “Are you kidding me?” Scotches. I would drink this all day long. Tamdhu Batch Strength 004 is delicious, and it isn’t priced obnoxiously, especially for a cask-strength Single Malt. Is there something to complain about? Yeah, I’ve yet to see one on a store shelf. But, if you do, buy a Bottle, confident that you’re going to get your money’s worth and more. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Monday, May 30, 2022

Kentucky Best Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

As I was perusing my local Trader Joe's store, I stumbled upon what I assumed was another house brand of whiskey:  Kentucky Best Straight Bourbon.  It was only $12.99, and while I've had very decent luck with Trader Joe's Scotches, I've not done so well with their American selections. But, again, that low-low price was attractive, and I do have that #RespectTheBottomShelf philosophy. With some added prodding from Mrs. Whiskeyfellow, I took a bottle home.

Come to find out, Kentucky Best Straight Bourbon is not a store brand. It is produced and bottled by Lux Row Distillers. Lux Row does their own distilling, and they've regularly done a marvelous job at sourcing - usually from Heaven Hill (although now that Lux Row is the consumer-facing brand for MGP, that should also change). Well, that brought something else into consideration. I enjoy several of Heaven Hill's dirt-cheap Bourbons (JW Dant, Heaven Hill, Evan Williams, JTS Brown). At this point, I'm pretty excited about what I've got in my hands.

Kentucky Best Straight Bourbon is four years old and bottled at 80°.  That's not generally the target proof for me, but I have found some gems at that level. The question, of course, is, does it make the grade? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious. Here we go...

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Kentucky Best presents as a pale amber. That's not overly surprising considering the low proof. It generated a skinny rim and fat droplets that pretty much stuck to the walls before eventually falling into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Kentucky Best gives the impression of a younger Bourbon. Corn and cinnamon are prevalent. Beneath those two is oak, and underneath that, what can best be described as freshly baked bread. When I inhaled through my mouth, it was sweet cornbread.

Palate:  The watery mouthfeel led to an initial taste of dry roasted almonds, at mid-palate, that transformed into oak. But, on the back, it was very sweet with vanilla and honey.  

Finish:  The palate culminated in a bizarre peppery finish.  The pepper snuck up, then slowly built from mild to intense, and just as it became enjoyable, it completely vanished.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Kentucky Best is a strange animal. It starts off very dry, then moves to sweet, then to spicy. It has some nice flavors, but they seem slightly jumbled, confusing the palate. Then, there was that finish. The whole thing left me wanting.

But, let's get real here. This is a $13.00 Bourbon. Finding gems at this level is spotty, and I believe Kentucky Best would make a good mixer. It doesn't, however, stand well on its own when poured neat. This would be far more interesting at a higher proof point - even 86° could have a significant impact. Despite that low price, this one's taking a Bust rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Friday, May 27, 2022

JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


I'm Mr. #RespectTheBottomShelf.  Oh, you may know me as Whiskeyfellow, but before that, I was a fan of that sneered at, overlooked area of the liquor store. Not because I was cheap; instead, there are some real gems there. Generally, I like to keep this stuff a secret because, quite frankly, I'm concerned the distilleries will pick up on it and start ratcheting up the price. An example? Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond. That was an $18.00 whiskey. For the last couple of years, that's been a $100+ whiskey. Or Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond.  It was a $12.00 Bourbon. They ended production, tacked on an extra year, revived it, and now you can pay $50.00 (and it isn't any better).

Here we are, and I'm reviewing another Heaven Hill Distillery product:  JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond. This one is a $15.00 Bourbon; it isn't the easiest to find - not because folks scoop it up like it is allocated, but because it has a more limited distribution. Similar in nature to the original Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond, Heaven Hill doesn't even list JW Dant on its website, likely due to that limited distribution.

It begins with the typical Heaven Hill bourbon mash of 78% corn, 12% malted barley, and 10% rye. JW Dant carries no age statement. But, since it is Bottled-in-Bond, we know that it must legally be at least four years old. My suspicion is it is right about that age. And, because it is Bonded, we also know it is 100°, we know it is from one distiller (Heaven Hill) during one distilling season (January to June or July to December) from a single distillery.

Is JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond worth the #RespectTheBottomShelf designation? You know what happens next... it is time to #DrinkCurious and find out.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, JW Dant was the color of caramel. It made a fat rim on the wall; it eventually yielded slow, heavy legs that fell back into the pool.

Nose:  The nose was pretty straightforward with corn, vanilla, and oak, but it was accompanied by banana nut bread. When I drew the vapor into my open mouth, it was a vanilla bomb.

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be light-to-medium, but there was an oily quality to it. The front of my palate tasted corn, brown sugar, and caramel. As it worked its way across my tongue, vanilla, nuts, and cinnamon took over the middle. The back started with big oak, clove, and pear hidden beneath those.

Finish:  Medium-long in length, the finish featured black pepper, oak, nuts, marshmallow, and apple.  It was a bit strange for it to go from big spice to sweet. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond is a reasonably simple Bourbon. For the money, there's good value. You get notes you can actually identify because they're not muted, you get a sufficiently complex finish, and while it isn't the best of Heaven Hill's Bottled-in-Bond bottom shelf program, that shouldn't turn you off. Much of what's in that program is lovely. This one earns a Bottle rating from me. Cheers! 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Whiskey Del Bac "Classic" American Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes

When you think Arizona, you may think tequila. What doesn’t come to mind, at least to me, is whiskey. So when a friend approached me with a bottle from Whiskey Del Bac and asked me to review it, I couldn’t think of a single whiskey I’d even tried from the state.


Whiskey Del Bac is distilled at Hamilton Distillery in Tucscon. Stephen Paul founded the distillery in 2006.


“[W]hile drinking Scotch and barbecuing with mesquite scraps from our custom furniture company, Arroyo Design, we had a thought. Why couldn’t we malt barley over mesquite instead of peat, as they do in Scotland, for a single-malt whiskey with a flavor distinctive to the American Southwest?” – Whiskey Del Bac


He started with a 5-gallon copper pot still. In 2011, he and his daughter Amanda acquired a 40-gallon copper pot still, and in 2014, a 500-gallon copper pot still was installed.


It is not uncommon for Tucson to experience 40-degree temperature variances from morning to evening. That allows for significant interactions between liquid and wood, quickening the aging process. Add to that 15-gallon barrels (versus 53-gallon), and it sends aging into hyperdrive.  


The distillery distills three core whiskeys:  Classic, Dorado (mesquite-smoked), and Old Pueblo (unaged). Today I’m sipping on Classic.


Classic begins simply enough: 100% malted barley is distilled on-site and aged 12-14 months in medium charred, medium toasted oak. It carries no age statement, and here’s where things get confusing. Legally, for a whiskey to be sold in the United States, it is a minimum of four years old if it bears no age statement. But both the front and back mention nothing.

The label suggests 45% ABV (90°). However, when I visit Whiskey Del Bac’s website, its Classic is bottled at 92°. I performed a web search and found some old references at 84° and then recently the 92°.

I assume they’ve slowly increased the alcohol content over the years. I did reach out to Whiskey Del Bac but hadn’t heard back from them when the review was published (and, if they respond, I will provide an addendum).


The Classic is non-chill filtered, and everything from mashing to distilling to aging and bottling is performed in-house. There are three sizes available:  100ml for $12.00, 200ml for $21.00, and 750ml for $56.00. 


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Single Malt presented as a definitive amber. A wide, heavy rim released long, wavy legs that crawled back to the pool.


Nose: The first aroma was herbal, which made me immediately wonder how this would fare. It was tamed by orange peel, fresh-cut apple, cinnamon, and charred oak. When I inhaled through my mouth, that apple carried through.


Palate:  A soft, oily texture greeted my tongue. The front tasted cocoa and vanilla cream, and the middle featured caramel and apple pie filling. The back consisted of oak and mesquite, albeit faint.


Finish:  On the finish, the mesquite became more pronounced. Once it subsided, cocoa, oak, and dark chocolate took over. In all, the duration was medium-to-long.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Whiskey Del Bac Classic is a prime example of why I #DrinkCurious. It is utterly atypical of whiskey aged in a smaller cooperage. My bias crept in from the nose onward. I expected sawdust on the nose and sharp oak on the palate. Neither happened. Instead, I sipped a lovely, youthful whiskey that can compete with several other American Single Malts. There have been talks of moving to 53-gallon barrels, and I can’t wait to taste what comes out of those should it happen. I’m good with a Bottle rating in its current form. Cheers!   


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.




Monday, May 23, 2022

Westland Distillery American Single Malt Collection Reviews & Tastings Notes

Nestled somewhere in the realm of Seattle lies the Westland Distillery. One of the cool things about Westland is how transparent the distillery is about its whiskeys and, well, everything. Go to the website, and you can geek out over the distillery, cooperage, grains, water source, and anything else you can think of.


Westland is in the process of applying to be a Certified B-Corp company. There aren’t a lot of businesses, let alone distilleries, that are Certified B-Corp. If you think that means it is green-friendly, you’d be partially correct. B-Corp goes far beyond that. The other half is its social policies. Everything must be transparent and set up to do good globally, from accounting to labor, from recycling to low emissions, charitable giving, etc.


Westland does everything in-house. About 90% of its barley is harvested in Washington. It mashes, ferments distills, ages, and bottles American Single Malt whiskeys.


“American Single Malt Whiskey is, by its very nature and existence, innovative. That said, we don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. We remain committed to expressing our provenance, but recognize the opportunity to contribute new ideas to the landscape of single malt whiskey.” – Westland Distillery


Today I’m exploring four Single Malts:  its flagship American Single Malt Whiskey, American Oak, Redhook Brewlab Cask Exchange, and Garryana 6 from its Outpost Range. I appreciate Westland for providing me samples of each in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Now, let’s #DrinkCurious and get to it.


American Single Malt Whiskey


The first player at the plate is Westland’s flagship American Single Malt. It is distilled from six different malted barley strains (Washington Select Pale Ale, Munich, Extra Special, Pale Chocolate, Brown, and Baird’s Heavily Peated) and then aged for at least 40 months in the following woods:

  • Cooper's Reserve New American Oak
  • Cooper's Reserve Used American Oak
  • First Fill Ex-Bourbon
  • First Fill Ex-Oloroso Hogsheads and Butts
  • Second Fill Ex-Oloroso Hogsheads and Butts

Westland then bottles it at 46% ABV (92°), with a 750ml retailing at $60.00.


Appearance: The brassy-gold liquid offered a medium rim with thick, sticky tears in my Glencairn glass.


Nose: Aromas of peach, strawberry, orange peel, biscuits, and a kiss of peat filled my nostrils. I found strawberries when I took the air in through my lips.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was silky and full-bodied. Vanilla, nougat, and apple were on the front of my palate, with malted barley on the middle. The back gave up light peat and oak.


Finish:  With a medium-long duration, clove and a drop of smoke embraced the light peat and oak.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  In a word, this whiskey is superb. While reasonably uncomplicated, it also didn’t need to be. The cost edges on the high side, but that’s direct from the distillery, and you may be able to acquire it for less. Regardless, it earns my Bottle rating.




American Oak Single Malt


The second player on deck is called American Oak. Until recently, it was the flagship single malt for Westland. It is discontinued, so what you find on the shelf is the end of the run. It, too, was priced at $60.00 for a 750ml package.


What’s the difference between the two?  American Oak is distilled from the same mash, sans Baird’s Heavily Peated Malt, and only first-fill ex-Bourbon and new, charred American oak barrels were used. It is also slightly younger, aging for three years.


Appearance:  The same brassy-gold color filled my Glencairn glass while forming a medium rim, which released slow, husky legs.


Nose: A bouquet of apricot, peach, apple, lemon, and toasted oak filled the air. As I inhaled through my mouth, a wave of vanilla rolled through.  


Palate:  An oily texture with a medium body led to caramel, vanilla, and orange zest on the front of my palate. Dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and almond were next, with charred oak, clove, and black pepper on the back.


Finish:  Flavors of charred oak, black pepper, clove, and coffee remained for a very long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  American Oak is good but nowhere near its replacement. On its own, it would be on the higher end of average for an American Single Malt. However, compared to the newer flagship, there isn’t a contest. Considering both are similarly priced, I’d give American Oak a Bar rating.




Redhook Brewlab Cask Exchange

The third one at the plate is a Washington-state-only release called Redhook Brewlab Cask Exchange. The distillate is the same as American Oak. It aged 39 months in new American oak barrels, then transferred for 48 months to former Bourbon barrels that subsequently held Redhook Brewlab’s Stratosphere Barley Wine with Strata hops. The total aging time is 87 months. The yield from the four casks was 900 50% ABV (100°) 750ml bottles, which sell for $99.99.  


Appearance: Redhook Brewlab showed off a raw honey color in my Glencairn glass. A medium rim released medium-wide legs.


Nose:  A blast of banana bread, vanilla custard, cherry, strawberry, and green apple slammed my olfactory sense. The air in my mouth grabbed vanilla.


Palate: A light-bodied and creamy sensation generated apple, pear, vanilla, and honey on the front of my palate. Date and apricot were next, followed by gingerbread and biscuits.


Finish:  Tangerine, vanilla, white pepper, and smoked oak rounded things out with a medium-length finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I am not a beer drinker. I’ve never cared for it. For me, there was significant beerness to this whiskey. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t my thing. I can appreciate the work and age that went into this American Single Malt, and it should come at a premium price. My rating is a Bar.  




Outpost Range: Garryana 6 


Batting cleanup is Outpost Range: Garryana 6. The Outpost Range is Westland’s experimental line, intending to go where whiskey has not gone before. In the case of Garryana, it utilizes 25% of its cooperage made from Garry oak, which is native to the Pacific Northwest region. The mash is the same as the American Oak; the woods used are:

  • Second Fill Ex-Pedro Ximénez Butt (65%)
  • Virgin Quercus garryana (25%)
  • First Fill Ex-Calvados (5%)
  • First Fill Ex-American Grape Brandy (2%)
  • First Fill Ex-Washington Apple Brandy (3%)

This is the sixth edition of Garryana offered. Packaged at 50% ABV (100°), it will set you back $175.00, and there were only 5922 700ml bottles produced. The whiskey ranges from 41 to 75 months, depending on the cask.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Garryana presented as amber, with a thicker rim and slow, sticky droplets.


Nose: I smelled sherry, raisin, dark chocolate, cherry juice, and pineapple. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, I found raisin.


Palate:  An oily texture introduced the front of my palate to apple, apricot, and pear, while the middle suggested Mexican mole sauce (I have never used that descriptor before, but that’s what it tasted like). On the back were brown sugar, molasses, and ancho chiles.


Finish: Long and warming, the finish consisted of raisin, cherry, nuts, oak, and ancho chiles. It had a meaty quality to it, similar to burnt ends.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If I thought the flagship Single Malt was superb, then Garryana would be spectacular. That mole sauce took this whiskey over, above, and beyond the others. There was absolutely nothing to dislike, and while I swallow hard when we get into $175.00 whiskeys, in my opinion, Garryana 6 is worth every penny. A Bottle rating for sure, cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Friday, May 20, 2022

Old Grand-Dad 114 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


I will go out on a limb and state that anyone who knows even a smidge about American whiskey has heard of Jim Beam. What takes a bit more knowledge is it makes so much more than Jim Beam Bourbon. One of those brands is called Basil Hayden’s.


Who was Basil Hayden? He was a prominent distiller who used an atypically high rye content in his Bourbon. He had a son, Basil Hayden, Jr., who had a son, Raymond Hayden.  Raymond opened a distillery in 1840 called Old Grand-Dad, named for his grandfather, Basil Sr. The distillery was one of a handful allowed to produce medicinal whiskey during Prohibition.


Now, Old Grand-Dad wasn’t originally part of the Beam brand. That didn’t happen until 1987, when National Distillers, one of several owners, sold the brand to Fortune Brands, which later became Beam, Inc. (and later, Beam-Suntory).


Shortly after that, Beam started the Basil Hayden’s brand, named for the same Basil Hayden, Sr.


Old Grand-Dad 114 is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon distilled from a mash of 63% corn, 27% rye, and 10% malted barley. It carries no age statement, meaning it is at least four years old, yet rumored to be between five and six years old. The “114” comes from this Bourbon’s proof (114°), and prices vary from the low $20s to just under $30.00 for a 750ml package. While the rumor mill suggests nearly every year that this year is the last for Old Grand-Dad 114, it is also easy to find at retail, which is how I acquired my bottle. And, between you and me, I find the talk to be just that.


Just a little bit of trivia: When I’m in a naughty mood, I like to ask folks to look at the back of their bottle and see the Lot Number. I then congratulate them on their find. Old Grand-Dad 114 is always Lot No. 1. You’ll also hear (or read) people refer to this whiskey as OGD114.


Let’s #DrinkCurious


Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Old Grand-Dad 114 presented as orange amber. It formed a medium rim that released wide, slow tears.


Nose: Aromas of corn, toasted oak, caramel, berry, and cinnamon tickled my olfactory sense. When I drew that vapor into my mouth, I discovered vanilla that doused my hard palate.


Palate: A warm, full-bodied mouthfeel introduced my palate to corn, honey, vanilla, and plum. The middle featured nutmeg, that typical Jim Beam peanut, and rye spice. I found toasted oak, cinnamon, and fresh leather on the back.


Finish:  That leather stuck around, accompanied by tobacco leaf, charred oak, vanilla, cinnamon, and white pepper, giving this Bourbon a medium-length finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Old Grand-Dad 114 was one of the first high-proof Bourbons I was introduced to many moons ago. It unmistakably drinks at its stated proof. When you consider the price, this is a heck of a bargain. It won’t blow your doors off, but it is tasty sipped neat. For the record (and nearly the same price), I prefer Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond, but either is something you should have in your whiskey library. A Bottle rating for sure, cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.