In my early review days, I wanted to compare anything and everything that seemed similar. One of the comparisons I did was a side-by-side review of two Bottled-in-Bond bottlings: Old Forester’s 1897 BiB versus Old Grand Dad BiB. In terms of proof and age, I would say they’re very close (certainly not over 5 years old). But due to the fact that the OGD mashbill contains 50% more rye than the Old Forester (18% vs. 27%), these bourbons were going to probably have some decent separation in the realm of taste.
Also, the Old Forester bottle may cost you more than twice the amount of money that the Old Grand Dad does depending on the market you’re in. For instance, I bought my Old Forester for $40 and the OGD BiB for $20. At this lower price point, you typically have a lot of competition, so every dollar matters. But does this Old Forester bottle have twice the character of the OGD? There’s only one way to find out. I sampled these semi-blind, neat and in a Glencairn.
Blind Glass 1
Nose: The nose on this one is somewhat dry and spicy with lots cinnamon and seasoned oak. There are some baked good aromas like and apple and raisin strudel, but otherwise the nose is mostly a tannic experience with sweetness taking the backseat.
Palate: The spice on the nose is still evident on the palate. I get a little bit of rye spice with a hit of black pepper flakes. There’s some sweetness, but mostly it still evolves into a dry tannic affair with tobacco leaf. The sweetness is toned down and is more like the sweetened apricots that you’d find in trail mix than anything else.
Finish: The finish continues just like the palate. There’s a dry, tannic oak note that dominates with some dry leather mixed in. The sugars are torched, providing very little in the way of sweetness. I’ve had 15 year bourbons with less dry oak than whatever this glass turns out to be. But both bottles being reviewed are generally thought to be 4 to 5 years old, so it’s puzzling to experience this now.
Blind Glass 2
Nose: The nose on this one seems to be richer with more caramel and rye spice sweetness. I do detect some light vanilla scents, but they are mostly covered up with a nice oak scent as well as faint roasted peanut. Although I’d classify the whole nose on this one as “classic bourbon,” I can’t help but continue to recognize the large amount of rye notes poking around behind the scenes.
Palate: I’m detecting a nice amount of fruit scents on the tongue with grenadine and cinnamon spiced orchard fruits. The rye spice pings are still present and there is some mild, but well controlled heat in the form of black pepper and red pepper flakes, but generally it just adds depth. The rye spice does come out and add a nice earthy tone to it all, making this far more rewarding than Glass 1.
Finish: The finish on this starts out with more heat than the palate led on. Caramel drizzled rolls and some drying, slightly astringent oak is present. But with some additional fruit notes like orange marmalade keeping the finish sweet and balanced, this does not come off as lacking in flavor or intensity.
Glass 1: Old Forester 1897 BiB
Glass 2: Old Grand Dad BiB
Winner: Old Grand Dad BiB!
This was a very interesting side by side comparison not because the less expensive bottle thoroughly won, but just how different these two were overall. The Old Grand Dad was easy to figure out because of the typical Beam profile it exhibited. But the highlight was how much fruit the rye brought out of the typical Beam distillate. To go off on a tangent for a little bit, it’s hard to understand why Beam hasn’t created a new label for their high-rye mashbill that’s aged longer and possibly bottled at different proofs.
Both OGD BiB and OGD 114 have a great base, but the lack of age leaves them somewhat rough around the edges. As for the Old Forester, one of the consistent problems I find with their distillate is that the spice and oak seem to amplify off of each other and make a dram that dries out your mouth while also reducing sweetness.
There may be fans of a drier and spicier bourbon, but even breakingbourbon.com has observed that this drying oak presence begins to spoil an otherwise great dram the higher the proof gets. Old Forester products use a little bit higher rye content than most Kentucky distillers, but it is my opinion that the temperature controlled warehouses have some hand in amplifying more of a dryness that I otherwise have no clue as to why it occurs.
Still, the win goes to the Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond. It may not have the most alluring bottle, but for the price you’ll find it at and the flavor it provides, this is definitely one you shouldn’t skip out on.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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