Old Forester Review

Old Forester 86 Proof Review

Meet Luke

Luke is a Level I Certified Whiskey Specialist with a passion for exploring and unearthing the best whiskeys around. Luke has a preference for Rye whiskeys but has tasted over 250 different whiskeys to date varying from bourbons to scotches. He continues to expand upon his whiskey knowledge by tasting dozens of bottles monthly and reviewing them here on Barrel and Brew as he pursues his Masters of Whiskey certification.

With brands such as Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve, it’s no wonder why Old Forester isn’t the most popular bourbon produced by Brown-Forman, but they are the oldest. We’re going to peak inside some of the history of Old Forester to see how they’ve managed to stay around for so long. Along with that, we’ll discuss the price point, taste, and best ways to drink it.

If you’re interested in learning more, just keep on reading. As a note, we are discussing Old Forester 86 Proof unless stated otherwise.

Old Forester Review

Old Forester History

George Garvin Brown originally started his career as a pharmaceutical salesman in Kentucky during the 1860’s. After a couple years, in 1870, he created Old Forester Bourbon, which they market as the first ever bottled bourbon. One of the reasons for the creation of Old Forester was for medicinal uses. Brown had named his whiskey after Dr. William Forrester (spelled with 2 f’s) who worked with Brown in the field of medicine.

There are a couple things to note about whiskey and the alcohol business in general. Most companies struggled or shut down during prohibition, and many distilleries and brands were bought and sold time and time again. Not Old Forester.

It is the only bourbon that has been continually sold by the same company before, during, and after prohibition. They managed to stay open and in business during the prohibition because they produced a lot of whiskey to be used as medicine which was still common practice. 20 years later they even began producing alcohol for gun powder during the war efforts.

While present day whiskey is used for the sake of drinking whiskey, it wasn’t always that way. Old Forester managed to stay alive, and even thrive, during a time much of the spirits world struggled because they managed to make themselves useful in a plethora of ways.

Old Forester 86 Proof Taste

I absolutely love the unique history of Old Forester and find it quite impressive. However, I’m not going to drink or recommend a whiskey based on its past. So, let’s take a look at some more pertinent information. What does Old Forester taste like? Is Old Forester a good bourbon?

Old Forester 86 Tasting Notes

Nose: Smoky oak, vanilla and citrus. Heavier ethanol smell than expected for 86 proof.

Palate: Has a pretty quick bite to it, but mellows out into oak and vanilla. light fruits and brown sugar make an appearance as well. Fairly thin.

Finish: Light and dry finish. Hint of cinnamon spice, citrus, and licorice.

Old Forester 86 Taste Summary

Overall, I was a little disappointed in Old Forester. The aroma and array of flavors let me know that it wasn’t a very simple bourbon, that it had some complexity. It got my hopes up just enough to let me down.

The initial spice was something I had not expected and kind of shocked me. However, you get used to it after a sip or two. My real disappointment came with the mouthfeel. I found the bourbon to be very light and taste a little cheap. Now, it isn’t an expensive bottle, so it’s not too bad. Based on the complexity, I was really hoping for a more rich flavor and mouthfeel.

However, this isn’t to say Old Forester is bad because it’s not. For it’s price, it’s decent. Letting the whiskey sit on rocks for a minute or two certainly helps. It mellows that initial bite and helps bring about the different flavors. It’s just a tad thin for my liking.

Old Forester Price

Obviously, taste isn’t the only thing we consider when buying or drinking whiskey. A big factor in our decisions is price. As I mentioned, I’m not a fan of Old Forester’s taste, but let’s go ahead and look at the price. It may just make it worth it.

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As a note – I use Total Wine for my low end of prices. They are open in most states and typically have the best prices around. Prices are subject to vary depending upon location, individual store, and the market.

  • Old Forester 750ml: $19-25
  • Old Forester 1.75L: $35-42

I bought my 750ml of Old Forester from my local liquor store for $25.99. There are so many bourbon options that are much better than Old Forester for $25, so it’s likely I will not buy it again. However, if you can get your hands on a bottle for sub $20, it’s a fair bourbon. With that being said, I’d rather spend the extra couple bucks and get something better.

Old Forester Varieties

Up until this point, we have been discussing Old Forester 86 Proof Bourbon. However, this is not the only whisky or bourbon produced. While they have many others, I’m going to touch on some of the other ones I’ve had and some of the more popular options.

Old Forester 100 proof

Old Forester 100 Proof

As you can imagine, Old Forester 100 proof is a stronger version of the 86. At 50% ABV, it kicks a little bit more and also has a richer profile. The distillers at Old Forester hand pick select barrels and bottle the bourbon at a higher ABV. I enjoy it more than the 86 proof, yet still find it a bit underwhelming.

Old Forester Rye Whisky

This, along with the 100 proof, is the only other Old Forester whiskey I’ve had, and it’s by far my favorite. Let me start by saying that I’m biased. I love rye whiskey, whether it’s a high-rye bourbon or rye whiskey with 51-70% rye, I’m probably going to like it.

It contains a mash bill of 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn. While I would’ve liked it to be comprised of more corn than barley to add some sweetness, this is a decent to good rye.

Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond

Since I have not had Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond YET, I’m going to refrain from making any comments on its taste. Old Forester was originally sold and bottled at 90 proof, not 86.

In 1897, the US released the Bottled in Bond Act. It allowed whiskeys to label themselves as Bottled in Bond if they followed certain qualifications. These qualifications were as followed: The whiskey must be aged a minimum 4 years in a federally bonded warehouse. It must be the product of one distillation season, from one distillery, one distiller, and bottled at 100 proof.

So, in 1897 Old Forester began producing 100 proof whiskey so they could sell their whiskey as Bottled in Bond.

Old Forester Mint Julep

Old Forester Mint Julep is another variation I have yet to try but am intrigued by. A Mint Julip is a cocktail that is heavily associated with Louisville (and the Kentucky Derby). Since Old Forster is located in downtown Louisville, I suppose they felt the need to create a pre-made cocktail at 60 proof!

I’m not always a fan of a pre-made cocktail, but I can get behind a 30% ABV one. A mint Julip contains bourbon, water, sugar, and mint. You can read more about mint julips and the Kentucky Derby HERE.

Summary of Old Forester Review

I can appreciate the long history of Old Forester. I can also respect them for helping during the war, for distilling whiskey for medicinal reasons, and for breaking barriers. However, I can also say that I’m not the biggest fan of Old Forester 86 Proof.

Again, I don’t think it’s bad. More so that there are so many options at a similar or slightly more expensive price point that are much better. You may like Old Forester, though, and there’s only one way to find out – go get yourself a bottle, it’s only $20! Whether you agree or disagree, let me know in the comments. Also, if you’ve had other Old Forester whiskeys, let me know if you liked or didn’t like them.

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