Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2019: Round 1: Four Roses vs. Bulleit and Jim Beam Bonded vs. Old Grand-Dad Bonded

In light of recent allegations made by the daughter of Tom Bulleit of his homophobia and mental and physical abuse toward her, I have made the decision that can no longer endorse products bearing the Bulleit name. If I had known of these allegations previous to this article, I would have not included their bourbon in the competition.

Round 1 of the 2019 Bottom Shelf Brackets continues with Division 2 Number 4 seed Four Roses “Beige Label” Bourbon versus Number 5 seed Bulleit Bourbon. 

This is an interesting battle. For the longest time it was an open secret that Four Roses produced whiskey made up all or most of the bourbon in a bottle of Bulleit. But about five or six years ago, that all changed. Four Roses cancelled their contract to supply Diageo with bourbon and Bulleit began the slow transition to filling their bottles with bourbon from other manufacturers. So now that enough time has passed for Bulleit to have gotten most of the Four Roses juice through their pipeline, how does the entry-level Four Roses product compare to Bulleit now that these two companies have gone their separate ways.

These were tasted blind in the following order. Tasting notes are from before the reveal.

Bulleit Bourbon

Purchase Info: $18.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 45% ABV.

Nose: Oak, Toffee, Vanilla, cinnamon red hots.

Mouth: Spicy cinnamon, sweet vanilla, creme brûlée and a little oak

Finish: Medium length. Lingering cinnamon, oak and chocolate.

Four Roses Bourbon

Purchase Info: $21.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Viking Liquor Barrel, Prior Lake, MN

Details: 40% ABV.

Nose: Cinnamon, oak, black tea and a little mint.

Mouth: Thin mouthfeel. Cinnamon, black pepper and a hint of vanilla.

Finish: Very gentle. Lingering vanilla, mint, black pepper and Juicyfruit gum.

Pre-reveal Thoughts: This one is tough. The bourbons are of a very similar quality level so there isn’t a hands-down winner on the quality front. They both taste good. And honestly, I think one could be forgiven for choosing either of these as you personal winner. For me though, in this head to head matchup? I think Whiskey 1 edges its way to the winner’s circle.

Post Reveal Thoughts: Higher proof can often lend itself to higher complexity and a nicer mouthfeel. It does so in this case as the higher proof Bulleit Bourbon wins the chance to meetup with Wild Turkey 101 in Round 2.

And once again, in order to finish this competition sometime before summer, we are doing two in each post. So moving on to our second 4v5 matchup, we have Division 1 Number 4 seed Jim Beam Bonded versus Number 5 seed (and corporate cousin) Old Grand-Dad Bonded. 

This is also a super interesting matchup. It features the Bottled in Bond version of both of Jim Beam’s main bourbon recipes. Jim Beam and Old Grand-Dad are both BeamSuntory brands. Both are produced by Jim Beam at one of their two big distilleries in either Clermont or Boston, Kentucky. Old Grand-Dad is often touted as using Beam’s “High Rye” recipe. How much higher is it than the standard Beam recipe? Well the good folks over at have a handy, and sortable, table of all the known, assumed, and estimated bourbon mash bills. According to that Old Grand-Dad clocks in at 63% corn, 27% rye and 10% malted barley compared to Jim Beam’s 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley. So let’s see who wins head-to-head, shall we?

These were tasted blind in the following order. Tasting notes are from before the reveal.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded

Purchase Info: $23.99 for a 1 liter bottle, Blue Max, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV. DSP-KY-230.

Nose: Mint, toasted grains, caramel, oak, green tea.

Mouth: Mint, spicy cinnamon, oak and green tea.

Finish: On the longer side of medium and warm. Lingering mint, green tea and oak.

Jim Beam Bonded

Purchase Info: $21.49 for a 1 liter bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV. DSP-KY-230.

Nose: Vanilla, cinnamon, corn, almond, and toffee.

Mouth: Oak, a generic “fruitiness,” cinnamon candies and caramel.

Finish: Medium length and warm. Lingering mint, corn, cinnamon candies and a hint of peanut.

Pre-reveal Thoughts: Whiskey 2 is a lot sweeter than whiskey 1. So this basically comes down to if you like your bourbon on the sweet and spicy side or the dry and spicy side of the equation. That’ll be a personal preference issue. For me, I choose whiskey 1 to advance. My wife went back and forth before agreeing with me.

Post Reveal Thoughts: This was much closer than I expected it to be. Going into the matchup, I expected that Old Grand-Dad would win this one hands down with no contest. It turns out that Old Grand-Dad did win, but it really close. And now they will face Fighting Cock in Round 2. accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support, visit And if you are an iOS user, look for Bourbon Guy in Apple News. Thanks!