After reviewing some not so good spirits, I am desperate to get back to the good stuff. That’s why I’m going with what I think is a fairly safe pick with this Old Forester 1870 review. Old Forester is one of the most popular and celebrated bourbons, and it’s also one of the staple Kentucky bourbons that dates back to 1870…. hence the name of this release.
In this Old Forester 1870 review, we’re going to cover some of the history of Old Forester, the purpose of the 1870 release, and the tasting notes as well. So, is Old Forester 1870 good? Is it worth the price? Let’s find out.
Old Forester History
In 1870, George Gavin Brown crafted the first batches of Old Forester on Louisville’s Whiskey Row. Brown had named his whiskey after his first boss, Dr. William Forrester. Brown was the first to blend or ‘batch’ his whiskey. He sourced whiskey from three separate distilleries- Mattingly, Mellwood, and Atherton. The original Old Forester Bourbon (named Old Forrester, with two ‘R’s’ back then) is the first bourbon to be exclusively sold in sealed bottles.
Old Forester is also one of the only distilleries to remain open before, during, and after prohibition. During Prohibition they made their money producing whiskey for the sake of medicine. During the second world war, they produced alcohol for gun powder.
Many spirits producers struggled or closed down during prohibition and WWII, But Old Forester was able to find a way to be useful, outside of just getting people drunk. They were able to help through medicine and the war efforts. I’d say that’s a pretty cool history.
In 1890, George Brown entered a partnership with his friend and accountant, George Forman. Together, they founded Brown-Forman. Today, Brown-Forman is one of the largest spirits companies in the world, owning brands such as Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, and many others.
Old Forester 1870 Overview
- Spirit: Straight Bourbon
- Owned By: Brown-Forman
- Distilled By: Brown-Forman Distillery
- Aged: 4+ years
- ABV: 45%, 90 proof
- Mashbill: 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% malted barley
- Price: $40-45
Old Forester 1870 was released in 2014 and is labeled as ‘Original Batch’. It’s made in the image of the original Old Forester that was first produced in 1870.
Now, Old Forester was originally sourced from three distilleries. However, Brown-Forman is one of the largest distillers of bourbon in the world, so there’s no need to source anything. Instead, they select barrels from three different warehouses, produced on different days with different proof’s upon entry, and different ages.
These three different batches of whiskey are then blended together to create a bourbon that’s meant to emulate the same Old Forester that was produced back in 1870. Old Forester 1870 is bottled at 90 proof just as it was back then, too.
Old Forester 1870 is a NAS (No Age Statement) bourbon, meaning every drop of whiskey has spent at least 4 years in new-charred oak barrels. Each of the three batches has a different age, so I imagine the whiskey inside is somewhere between 4-5 years.
Old Forester 1870 Tasting Notes
I previously reviewed Old Forester 86 Proof and was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty solid for $20-$25, but nothing special. I’m hoping 1870 doesn’t disappoint at the $40 price point. Let’s find out.
Nose: Oak, vanilla, pine, and sweet cherry with a little bit of spice mixed in. I’m also getting a touch of toffee and cola.
Palate: Vanilla and cherry with a good bit of oak up front. There’s some floral notes, a bit of cinnamon and cola. Average mouthfeel. Certainly not thin by any means, but not thick and dense either.
Finish: Medium to long in length, cinnamon and oak are the predominate flavors here.
The first thing that stuck out to me on the nose was the pine and oak. After that, I picked up on a lot of the sweetness. A nice vanilla and a maraschino cherry. Sweet and light. Cola just kept popping in my mind every time I nosed the bourbon as well. A pleasant nose, but not wowing.
On the palate, the pine faded into the background as a simple floral note. Oak might’ve been the strongest flavor I got with that cherry and vanilla behind it. Cinnamon, perhaps some allspice, kicked in and carried the palate on to the finish. Again, pleasant but not wowing.
This is a decent sipping whiskey that will also work great in cocktails. There’s nothing off-putting, and just about everything about Old Forester 1870 is average to above average. It lacks a depth and richness to it that would make it great.
I’m a little torn here because Old Forester 1870 is on the cusp for me. At the $40 mark, I think this is a very good bourbon. The best? no, but a good purchase. When you start approaching $45+, I start thinking about all the bourbons and whiskeys that are better for $50.
Other Old Forester Expressions
Old Forester has a lot of different whiskeys outside of their 1870 and standard 86 proof selections. We’re just going to briefly cover a couple of them because things may get confusing as they have a 1897, 1910, and 1920 expression.
Old Forester 1897
The U.S Bottled in Bond Act of 1897. Any whiskey that wanted to be labeled as Bottled In Bond, a stamp of approval for quality, had to adhere to a set of rules. A bourbon must be produced at a single distillery, in a single distilling season, under a single master distiller, be aged 4 years in a federally inspected warehouse, and be bottled at 100 proof.
Old Forester 1897 is their Bottled in Bond expression.
Old Forester 1910
Old Forester 1910 is a double oak or double barrel bourbon. Old Forester is credited with creating the first double oak bourbon and it was a huge accident.
A fire shut down production of the Old Forester distillery – the Mattingly Distillery back then – in 1910. The whiskey was transferred to new, charred oak barrels. They, and consumers, loved the final product, so double oaked bourbon was born.
Old Forester 1920
To those familiar with American history, you may recognize the year 1920 as the year of the Volstead Act. In other words, the year prohibition began.
Old Forester was one of six Kentucky distillers to be granted a permit to distill whiskey for medicinal purposes. Their ‘medicinal’ whiskey had to be bottled at 100 proof during this time. OF claims that a barrel entry proof of 100 would’ve caused the whiskey to come out at 115 proof.
So, Old Forester 1920 is a 115 proof bourbon that is labeled as ‘Prohibition Style’ bourbon.
Old Forester 1870 Summary
The three bourbons mentioned above along with Old Forester 1870 make up their Whiskey Row Series. 1870 is the first and cheapest expression, so it may be a good starting point if you’re looking at trying them all.
Old Forester has a compelling story and a respectable one at that, but at the end of the day it comes down to what’s inside the bottle. And for OF, they seem to have that down. Their bourbon is widely appreciated and enjoyed.
In regards to their 1870 expression, I think it is leagues above their standard 86 proof bourbon. Now, is it worth $45? That’s a toss up. It’s a good bourbon, and there are a lot of whiskeys for $45 that are worse and a good amount that are better. Regardless, I have and will continue to enjoy my bottle.
Below are frequently asked questions regarding OF 1870, many of these are answered in the article above.
How Much Does Old Forester 1870 Cost?
A 750ml bottle of Old Forester 1870 MSPR’s for around $45. At major retailers, you may find it closer to $40.
How is Old Forester 1870 Different?
It is a blend of three separate batches of bourbon. Each batch is aged in a different warehouse, has a different age statement, different barrel entry proof, and was produced on different days.
What is the Alcohol Content of Old Forester 1870?
The 1870 expression is bottled at 90 proof, or 45% ABV.