Old Grand Dad is very old brand founded in 1882. In the beginning, the barrel was the primary package for selling the whiskey, but in the 1890s the brand began to be bottled and Basil Hayden’s image was on the label. Basil Hayden always had a big smile on his face as he raises a jigger of whiskey, as if offering a drink to the consumer. Even before bottling, the firm of Barber, Ferriell & Co., used an image in print advertising of a man, presumably Basil Hayden, straddling a barrel, with a whiskey thief in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other, looking like he is having a very good time.

Basil Hayden’s image was that of a very happy man with his shot of whiskey. That begins to change in the later part of the 20th century. Hayden develops a more serious look on his face and lost the shot of whiskey. That alone would explain the labels with the dour look on his face, but it also reflected the change in attitude. The designers at National Distillers must have determined that there was something undesirable about Hayden looking like he is having a good time drinking his whiskey. Maybe they thought it was being socially un-responsible. The fact is that as Bourbon sales declined in the 70s and 80s, Basil Hayden became more dour looking – almost grumpy looking. 

Jim Beam acquired the brand in the 1980s and at first they did not change the image. When they introduced the small batch collection and the Basil Hayden brand, He became a bit less grumpy looking. They use an image of what is obviously a bust of Basil Hayden’s head. They did not give him back his glass of whiskey, but they did at least put a smile back on his face. We can hope that in the future, they will give Basil back his drink of whiskey and make him a very happy person once again.

Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach