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Every Single Bottle Of Old Forester Whisky, Ranked

Old Forester is one of the oldest whisky houses in America (yes, they spell whisky without the “e”). The brand has been on the shelves for over 150 consecutive years. It’s also the first brand of whisky to be sold on the open market in sealed bottles (prior to this innovation, whisky was often just sold out of barrels at grocery stores).

All of this is to say, Old Forester has been putting out a lot of great whisky for a mighty long while now. So we’re ranking all their standard and limited release bottles — 14 expressions, judged on taste alone.

Your ability to find these bottles or their price doesn’t play into this ranking at all. Moreover, this is based largely on tasting 2021 versions of these bottles over the past six-ish months — so if you have a bottle that’s been cellared for 20 years, we can’t speak to that (although… fun!).

Sound good? Let’s dive in and discover the best bottles of Old Forester out there!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of 2021

14. Old Forester 86 Proof Bourbon Whisky

Brown-Forman

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $24

The Whisky:

Old Forester’s 86 Proof is a very straightforward whisky. The mash bill is mid-range rye with 18 percent next to 72 percent corn and a final ten percent malted barley (the same bill for all their bourbon). The juice is aged in a fairly heavily charred oak barrel for an undisclosed amount of time (the youngest barrel is likely older than four years). The whisky is then blended and proofed down to a very manageable 86 proof.

Tasting Notes:

This has a big nose of vanilla-cherry tobacco with a hint of fresh mint lurking in the background next to a touch of floral honey. The taste has a grilled corn-on-the-cob vibe with a hint of pepper and butter next to small doses of citrus and soft oak. The end is surprisingly long and leaves you with a spicy warmth and a touch more of that sweet corn and butter.

Bottom Line:

This is a perfectly suitable entry-point whisky. It’s great for mixing but needs a fair bit of ice to work as a sipper. And that’s why we’re starting this ranking with it. Old Forestes knows this is a mixing bourbon, so let’s treat it like that.

13. Old Forester Rye Whisky

Old Forester rye
Brown-Forman

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $26

The Whisky:

Old Forester’s rye is comprised of 65 percent rye, 20 percent malted barley, and 15 percent corn. That gives the rye a very “Kentucky Rye” feel with that sweet corn shining through. The juice spends an undisclosed amount of time aging before it’s vatted, proofed down with that soft Kentucky limestone water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with a soft wildflower nature next to hints of crafty root beer that’s a bit sweet but served with a lemon wedge. The taste leans into the spice of that root beer as holiday spices with a lot of cinnamon kicks up on the palate with a slight touch of stewed apple, black pepper, and maybe a hint of dried dill. The mid-palate brings back that citrus before going all-in on the brown spices and black pepper with a warm end that’s accented by dry cedar.

Bottom Line:

This is a perfectly suitable rye that shines in a Manhattan. The spice isn’t overpowering and the sweet balances everything out. Still, this is a mixer far more than a sipper.

12. Old Forester 100 Proof

Brown-Forman

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $28

The Whisky:

This line of bourbon is a stone-cold classic. Their 100-proof expression is made in the same way as their 86 proof. The key difference is after these barrels are blended, they’re barely touched with water, keeping the proof very hearty.

Tasting Notes:

Oak and caramel draw you in on the nose with a nice dose of cherry candy and a hint of coffee bitterness. The palate wallows in vanilla as a spicy apple pie with a vanilla-flecked, buttery crust drives the taste. The oak, apple, and spice really power the dram home with a medium-length fade and plenty of bourbon warmth.

Bottom Line:

This is very close to the 86 proof above with a little more refinement and barrel in the mix. For me, that makes it a more refined mixer that you want to use in cocktails and less in highballs. Leave the Coke behind and break out the vermouth!

12. Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength

Old Forester Single Barrel
Brown-Forman

ABV: 65%

Average Price: $80

The Whisky:

This is classic Old Forester from a single barrel that’s not cut with any water. When you find these, they’ll generally be a pick from a retailer or bar program. That means they’ll vary slightly, depending on what the person picking the barrel was looking for. Still, there’s a consistency of “Old Forester” running through them all.

Tasting Note:

Based on a single barrel I tasted at Louisville retailer, there’s a clear sense of dark fruit, especially cherry, that becomes stewed with dark winter spices on the nose with a good dose of dry tobacco in an old cedar box that’s wrapped up in old leather. A hint of old dry roses sneaks in on the palate as those spices and syrupy cherry and berries intensify and attach to the chewy tobacco. The mid-palate sweetens with an almost rose-water marzipan vibe as the cherry tobacco dried out pretty significantly, leaving you with a sense of pitchy pine sap and your grandparent’s old tobacco pipe that’s still hot to touch.

Bottom Line:

The end on this is pretty damn warm and that slightly overpowered the finish for me. If you are looking for single barrels from Old Forester, I’d recommend going for a lower proof — more on that later.

11. Old Forester 1870 Original Batch Whisky

Old Forester Bourbon
Brown-Forman

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $49

The Whisky:

This is where we get into the “year” whiskies from Old Forester. This one celebrates the distillery’s founding in 1870. Back in the day, Geroge Brown would pull barrels from his three distilleries to create a consistent blend to bottle. Today, the good folks at Brown-Forman pull three barrels from three of their warehouses. Each barrel will have a different day of distillation, a different entry proof before aging, and different ages. Those barrels are married and then proofed down.

Tasting Note:

This opens with a rush of fresh wildflowers next to bold citrus notes, especially grapefruit and orange oils with a dash of lemon zest in the mix. The taste takes that lemon and layers it into a very vanilla and butter-forward shortbread with a dusting of raw sugar that leads towards an eggnog spice mix. That spiciness drives the finish as a hint of cherry and lemon mingle on the warm and fairly long end.

Bottom Line:

This is where we’re getting into the “Well, that’s really nice” territory. I dig this as a sipper on the rocks but it really shines in a whisky sour thanks to those bold citrus notes.

10. Old Forester Statesman

Brown Forman

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $60

The Whisky:

Yes, this is technically a gimmick whisky. The expression was released as a tie-in to Kingsman: The Golden Circle. But that doesn’t really matter –this is an exceptional bottle of whisky. The barrels are all hand-selected from the hottest corners of the warehouse and small-batched to create a deep character and bold presence.

Tasting Notes:

Moist, dark chocolate cake with cloves and oak mix with a flourish of vanilla on the nose. The taste holds onto the spice and amps it into Christmas spice territory with a focus on woody cinnamon next to worn leather and buttery toffee. A dry floral note arrives late with a burst of orange that leans creamy (almost like a sherbert) comingling with all that vanilla and toffee.

Bottom Line:

This continues to be a solid on the rocks bourbon. Though I did try this in an old fashioned recently and it was excellent, thanks to all that spice and orange.

9. Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Whisky

Old Forester Bourbon
Brown-Forman

ABV: 57.5%

Average Price: $62

The Whisky:

Getting back to the years on the bottles, this expression “celebrates” the Volstead Act of 1920, which pretty much banned alcohol in the U.S. What this is really celebrating is that Old Forester was one of only six distilleries that was able to keep making and selling whisky (for medicinal purposes) during Prohibition. And that era’s production is what this blend mimics.

Tasting Note:

That classic choco-cherry note that a lot of Old Forester has comes through on the top of this nose with maple syrup-soaked cedar next to a faint touch of caramel apple. The palate is slightly nutty, bordering on Pecan Sandies, with a continuation of that maple syrup leading towards light pepperiness that’s almost like cumin as the cedar comes back into play. The mid-palate sweetens pretty dramatically with a Caro Syrup feel to it as the spice hits on a wintery vibe and the taste ends with a finish of (almost smoked) dark chocolate powder on the very backend.

Bottom Line:

This is just interesting. It’s a huge outlier for the brand and really hits a lot of great tasting notes. It builds, it makes sense, and it tastes pretty damn good, especially when you really let it bloom with some water or a rock.

8. Old Forester 1910 Old Fine Whisky

Old Forester Bourbon
Brown-Forman

ABV: 46.5%

Average Price: $60

The Whisky:

Back in 1910, there was a fire at Old Forester which stopped bottling. Whiskies that were ready had to be re-barreled while everything was rebuilt. This created a great bourbon that’s being replicated in the modern day. To do this, Old Forester is re-barreling bourbon for a second maturation before blending, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Note:

Stone fruit really drives the nose with hints of apricot and maybe plum next to sweet and soft cedar and black tea-infused dates. Those dates become a rich and spicy sticky toffee pudding with a thick brandy butter topping next to a hint of oatmeal raisin cookies. The sweetness of the mid-palate gives way to a dark chocolate feel with a flake of salt, a hint of masa, and plenty of wintry spice leading back to that dark stone fruit with tobacco dryness at the very end.

Bottom Line:

This is a pretty refined sipper at a great price point. Pour this over a rock or two and you’ll be set.

7. Old Forester Single Barrel 100 Proof

Old Forester Single Barrel
Brown-Forman

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $100

The Whisky:

This is the same vibe as the single barrel above. The key difference is that these barrel picks are proofed down to 100 proof before bottling.

Tasting Note:

I tried this from a retailer in Louisville as well and it had a subtle nose of cherry blossom next to a woody maple syrup that almost felt like it had some of the bark in there next to a nice dose of winter spice. The taste complimented the nose with light florals and plummy fruit next to a touch of cherry syrup-soaked cedar planks and a bushel of dark spices. The mid-palate had a slight dark chocolate-covered espresso bean feel to it that led to a finish that was slightly bitter and full of dark fruit and warm spice.

Bottom Line:

Again, this will vary depending on which barrel pick you come across. That being said, this was miles above the barrel strength version for me. It’s refined, accessible, and very deeply flavored with clear “Old Forester” tastes.

6. Old Forester Single Barrel Rye

Old Forester Single Barrel Rye
Brown-Forman

ABV: 61.5% (varies)

Average Price: $300

The Whisky:

This new release from Old Forester is their signature rye in a single barrel format. It’s bottled without any filtration or cutting with water.

Tasting Note:

The lemon really shines on the nose to the point that it turns into a pudding with hints of burnt sugar and salted caramel backing it up. The palate takes a bunch of cinnamon sticks and soaks them in apple, cherry, and plum juice then dries them out while hazelnut builds to an almost Nutella level and that dried dill just sneaks in. The mid-palate really leans into the cinnamon and hazelnut until bold cinnamon attaches to a dry cedar box for very dry and peppery tobacco that’s just touched with mint.

Bottom Line:

This is a pretty damn fine rye. It also goes down almost shockingly easy for a cask-strength whisky. The spice is tempered well by the fruit and sweetness, making this a solid sipper on the rocks or in an amazing Sazerac.

5. Old Forester 150th Anniversary Batch Proof

Brown-Forman

ABV: 62.8%

Average Price: $360

The Whisky:

This special release from Old Forester celebrates 150 years of whisky making by the brand with “150” at the core of the line. Master Taster Jackie Zykan created three batches of this limited release from 150 barrels that were specifically selected by Master Distiller Chris Morris. Once these bottles are gone, there won’t be a whisky like this from Old Forester again.

Tasting Notes:

Based on Batch no. 1, you’ll be greeted with a mingling of menthol and anise with rich and buttery caramel next to a hint of holiday spices and a touch of sweet fruit. The palate embraces the holiday spice and adds in a peppery edge while the sweetness leans towards pancake syrup with a hint of dark chocolate and old wood beams lurking in the background. The finish marries the dark chocolate to the almost chili pepper spice on the medium-length finish as flourishes of orange oils, wet leather, and salted caramel kettle corn linger on your nicely warmed senses.

Bottom Line:

These were pretty solid whiskies all around but didn’t quite hit the amazing highs of the next whiskies on the list. Still, you can drink this on the rocks all day and never be bored.

4. Old Forester 2021 Birthday Bourbon

Old Forester 2021 Birthday
Brown-Forman

ABV: 52%

Average Price: $1,499

The Whisky:

Every year, Old Forester releases their most anticipated whisky, Birthday Bourbon. This year’s release was a 12-year-old blend created from 119 barrels of the good stuff.

Tasting Note:

Berries really drive this nose with raspberries in cream next to blackberry compote, Luxardo cherries, and a touch of cranberry bread with walnuts, plenty of spice, and a moist, buttery, vanilla-laden cake vibe. The palate holds onto the syrupy cherry notes but veers more towards vanilla cream with woody spices, buttery toffee, marzipan, and a touch of green pepper pretty far in the background. The mid-palate has an old cigar box feel to it that dries everything out from the cherry to the vanilla, creating a sort of thin pecan cookie vibe with dry spice, tobacco, and berries in the mix.

Bottom Line:

I know this is the most sought-after expression from Old Forester. But this year’s drop wasn’t their best. And even then, this is still a top-four bourbon from the brand, without a single doubt. Good luck on your hunt for this one.

3. Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond

Brown-Forman

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $56

The Whisky:

Old Forester 1897 Bottled-in-Bond is the brand’s throwback bottle that celebrates the 1897 act that brought the world bottled-in-bond whisky. The juice in the bottle is a mid-rye bourbon mash that’s aged, proofed, and bottled in accordance with the bonded laws and regulations.

Tasting Notes:

This drips with caramel on the nose — the kind that’s a bit tacky and chewy — alongside a touch of orange blossom and maybe a vanilla latte. That vanilla and bitter espresso bean note carry on through the palate as a bowl of red and stone fruits soak in a bowl of brandy with plenty of cinnamon sticks and allspice berries thrown in too. The finish marries all those notes while leaning heavily into the caramel sweetness as it fades away at a good clip.

Bottom Line:

This is both a great whisky and a great bottled-in-bond. It just hits every note so well that you’re left really searching to try and find any faults (there aren’t many). It’s also a great cocktail bourbon that kills in a Manhattan, Sazerac, or boulevardier.

2. Old Forester President’s Choice Bourbon

Old Forester Presidents Select
Brown-Forman

ABV: 52% (varies)

Average Price: $179, sweepstakes only

The Whisky:

No, this isn’t a bottle made for the U.S. president. The juice in this expression is a single barrel, hand-picked by Brown-Forman President Campbell Brown (a direct descendant of George Brown who started the company) with the help of Master Taster Jackie Zykan.

Tasting Note:

Based on last year’s release, this whisky opens with a salted caramel apple nose that edges towards apple saltwater taffy with a creamy layer of spicy dark chocolate and a touch of orange blossoms. The palate takes the wintry spices and attaches them to the creaminess, creating an egg nog feel to the taste that leans into dark fruits and a hint of toasted coconut cream pie. The end holds onto the spice but focuses more on anise (and maybe fennel) while the caramel and spice attach to sticky tobacco with a warming end.

Bottom Line:

The next release is going to be sent out in early January but you can enter to win the chance to buy one right now. These are extremely limited and worth the effort to try and at least win one. You won’t be disappointed when you crack it open.

1. Old Forester The 117 Series: High Angels’ Share

Old Forester 117
Brown-Forman

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $516

The Whisky:

Old Forester’s Master Taster Jackie Zykan released this new line from the iconic brand last spring. The whisky is a blend of barrels that all lost a lot of juice to evaporation (or the angel’s). Those barrels were then vatted and just proofed to 110 before bottling in half-bottles.

Tasting Notes:

A dark and deep spice layer draws you in with that classic Old Foresters vibe of tart red berries, coconut cream pie, and plenty of wet brown sugar on the nose. The palate leans into the dessert vibes as the berries turn into a sweet blueberries pie with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg next to dry cedar and anise. The finish really takes its time as the thick juice coats your mouth, leaving you with hints of spicy absinthe, cherry tobacco, and dark roasted coffee beans.

Bottom Line:

This was a highwater mark for both the year in whisky and the brand in general. While these half-bottles are going to be harder to find, they’re stellar whiskies that really drive home the beauty of the brand’s warehouses full of whisky.

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