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Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets 2015, Round 1: Evan Williams vs. Old Grand-Dad (80 proof)

Posted on by Eric Burke

Round 1b of the 2015 Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets features Number 2 seed Evan Williams versus Number 3 seed Old Grand-Dad (80 proof). 

Evan Williams is a product of Heaven Hill Brands. You’ve probably seen it. It’s available almost everywhere. It’s the third-best selling American Whiskey. It also tends to look more than a little like the first best-selling American Whiskey: Jack Daniels so you will be forgiven if you didn’t notice it hiding down on the lower shelves. But unlike Jack Daniels, this is one bottle worth paying attention to. Though uninteresting, it is tasty and can be had for south of $15 per liter here in Minnesota.

Old Grand-Dad is produced by BeamSuntory. Though it’s part of Jim Beam, it has a higher rye content in it’s mashbill than the standard Beam recipe because of it’s heritage as part of the former National Distillers group of labels. There are 4 labels produced using this juice. Old Grand-Dad 114 proof, Old Grand-Dad Bonded, Old Grand-Dad 80 proof and Basil Hayden. Basil Hayden is also 80 proof. I’ve had the other three. I’ve liked them all. I’ve never had OGD 80 proof and have been looking forward to this round so that I could try it.

These were tasted blind in the following order.

Old Grand-Dad (80 proof)

Purchase Info: Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN. $13.99 750 mL

Stated Age: NAS (Assumed 4+ years)

ABV: 40%

Produced by: Jim Beam

Nose: Dried Grain/silage, cinnamon gum, oak and a hint of leather.

Mouth: Sweeter than I expected from the nose, but very hot as well. The cinnamon gum is there from the nose as well as the silage.

Finish: Hot and sweet with lingering oak and more silage.

Thoughts: Hot as this is, don’t try adding water. Water destroys this one. To be honest, I’m shocked by how little I like this one considering how much I like its higher proof brothers.

Evan Williams

Purchase Info: MGM Wine & Spirits, Burnsville, MN $12.47 for a 1L

Stated Age: NAS (Assumed 4+ years)

ABV: 43%

Produced by: Heaven Hill

Nose: Caramel corn, dusty old wood, baking spices. 

Mouth: Sweet and soft. Baking spices, molasses and oak tannins. 

Finish: There is a little heat, but it fades quickly. Lingering oak. Beyond that there isn’t much here.

Thoughts: In the past, I’ve described this as a “card-playing bourbon.” Tasty, but not very interesting. I stand by that here. Also, adding water seems to have little effect on this one.

Winner: Of the two, the Old Grand-Dad was certainly more interesting. There isn’t much going on with Evan Williams. That said, OGD does have a very unappealing silage flavor that is hard to get past. For a “tasting” in a Glencairn, I’d rather have interesting Old Grand-Dad, but as I will be merely “drinking” these from this point on, I have to give the win to Evan Williams.


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