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 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.
Old 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.
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.