Bourbon Dusty Shootout: Early Times vs. Old Grand Dad

by Oliver Klimek on March 21, 2014

I was lucky enough to get hold of my first “dusty” bourbons recently: A miniature of Early Times, probably from the late 1960s, and a full bottle of Old Grand Dad from the early 1970s. A perfect setup for a head to head tasting, if you ask me.

early_timesEarly Times Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 43%

Colour: Dark amber
Nose: Quite massive with leather, wood polish, orange zest, burnt sugar, cinnamon and cardamom.
Palate: Dark caramel, toffee, orange zest, mixed mild spices.
Finish: Medium long, sweet and slightly fruity.
Overall: The nose is the strong point of this bourbon. After an inital alcohol bite on the palate it is rather mild and has a medium complexity.

Rating: 85/100

old_grand_dadOld Grand Dad Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 43%

Colour: Dark amber, just a tad brighter than the Early Times
Nose: Lighter and with more citrus, caramel, vanilla, cinnamom, hints of nutmeg.
Palate: Orange and lemon zest, vanilla, creme brulee, cocoa, cinnamon and white pepper, hints of mint and eucalyptus.
Finish: Long and dry with a fruity sweetness.
Overall: Quite a lot of subtleties in here but it would be wrong to call it “delicate” or even “subdued”. It’s really just the complexity that demands attention.

Rating: 87/100

Both are very good bourbons in their own right but there are noticeable differences. The Early Times packs quite a punch on the nose and the early palate, while the Old Grand Dad has a more refined character overall. As a high rye bourbon you would expect the Old Grand Dad to be more robust, but the typical rye flavours act more as subtle hints than as loud announcements.

Note: Since 1983 a part of Early Times is aged in used barrels, so it does not qualify for the bourbon definition anymore.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

tanstaafl2 March 21, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Just as a point of clarification the current Early Times is aged in a combination of new and used barrels since 1983 (the percentage I have seen quoted is about 20% used barrels). That of course still prevents it from being labeled as Bourbon. In 2010 Brown-Forman, the maker of Early Times, did release a new version called Early Times 354 (354 is the DSP number for the distillery) which does meet the requirements for Bourbon.


Oliver Klimek March 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Thanks for the hint. I changed the note.


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