by Scott Hill
”Should I Stay or Should I Go” is a 1980’s punk rock hit by the British band, The Clash. If you are not familiar with it, the song and video can be heard and seen here. Although released in 1980 with reasonable success internationally, the song didn’t reach #1 hit status in its home country until its re-release a decade after its original release. Much attention was given to the song’s lyrics and whether the band was signifying a potential breakup, something that would in fact transpire beginning the year following its release. Accordingly to band members, the song wasn’t actually about a potential breakup. Instead, “It was just a good rockin’ song.”
If there was one song to describe Old Grand-Dad 114, it would be “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” OGD114 was originally released in…1980. It too didn’t have immediate success, but later found a cult following as high-proof bourbons became more in fashion. And OGD is “good rockin’” bourbon (my quote, but work with me here).
The song’s significance to the bourbon actually comes in terms of Jim Beam’s indecision related to the fate of OGD114. Over the past 3 or 4 years, rumors have circulated that OGD114 would be discontinued. Would it stay or would it go?
In October, 2016, rumors seemingly became fact. OGD114 would be discontinued at the end of the 2016 calendar year. Those in the know reported direct information from Beam itself. Subreddits on bourbon believed it to be fact. Liquor stores believed it to be fact. I believed it to be fact – and stocked up in preparation.
But alas, it wasn’t true. Even those of us who stocked up rejoiced. OGD114 would stay, at least for the time being.
So what is all the fuss about? First, OGD114 is a widely available, nearly always on the shelf, product. Second, it comes in at 114 proof – not barrel proof but nearly there (I’ve seen photos of older releases of OGD114 that referred to it as “barrel proof,” so I presume there may have been some production change that caused a higher barrel proof, but the product was maintained at 114 proof nonetheless). Third, it retails for $20-$30 (I’m still seeing it as low as $19 even with all this fuss). Fourth, this review:
Nose: Sweet brown sugar and rye spice; vanilla, caramel and some dark fruit. The aromas come out of the glass and grab you and pull you in. You will probably know from the nose whether this one is for you or not.
Palate: Very rich; peanuts and dark fruit; some vanilla and caramel wood notes; rye spice. The high proof doesn’t hide. Neither does the flavor. Nothing subtle here.
Finish: Long and hot, like a cinnamon hot; more peanut and wood notes.
Overall: This pour is incredibly unique. Some might say it is a bit rugged and unbalanced, which I find to be a bit of its charm at $20. It is shamelessly high proof – warm from start to finish – which might not be for everyone. It is jam packed with flavor. The Beam “funk” shines brightly on this one from start to finish with heavy peanut notes. It is spicy, which richens the heat and the flavor. The high heat, the beam funk and the spiciness are not for everyone. But for many (like me), it is deliciously unique pour.
I would be remiss not to add one additional commentary. The chorus of the song goes as follows:
Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
No clearer message could be said about OGD114. Many believe OGD114 will still be discontinued, but merely temporarily, to be later rereleased and rebranded as Basil Hayden 114 (or some close iteration of that). Basil Hayden also is produced by Jim Beam. In fact, “Old Grand Dad” himself (the guy in the picture) is Basil Hayden. Both are made of the same mash. Basil Hayden is an 80 proof offering (like a lower proof OGD marketed today). Like all the OGD products, Basil Hayden is a non-age stated bourbon, and many believe Basil Hayden to simply be a slightly older blend of OGD juice. But Basil Hayden sells for 2-3 times the price of OGD products. For Beam, it would make sense (I hope they aren’t reading) to discontinue a lower price product, slap a new fancy label and metal band, and sell essentially the same product for a premium. How much of a premium? If I were to guess, you would be looking at something in the price point of Baker’s ($45) or old Booker’s prices ($50-$60).
So, “If I go, there will be trouble.” No one wants to lose OGD114. It is well loved, and a great nearly barrel proof bourbon for an extremely great price. Some would argue that there may be no better value in bourbon today. But, “if I stay it will be double.” Will OGD114 stick around long term, as Basil Hayden 114 branded bourbon, at a price that will be double of what we pay today? Maybe the song is telling us something.