Sour Mash Manifesto

Bourbon and American Whiskey

Old Forester Bourbon Review

I just returned from vacation with three new reviews ready for this week. Unfortunately there won’t be video accompanying them, but we’ll be back to the vids starting next week. First up on the review front is Old Forester Bourbon. 1512 Barbershop Rye and Very Old Barton (BIB) are up next. Cheers!

Old Forester Bourbon has been around a long time, since around the 1870’s in fact. Produced by Brown-Forman in Shively, Ky, Old Forester’s 72% Corn, 18% Rye, and 10% Malted Barley is the same mashbill used for Woodford Reserve and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, two bourbons I rated quite highly. There is no age statement on the bottle, but this one is around 4+ years in age and at a great price point. So how does it fare?

Old Forester Bourbon, 43% abv (86 Proof), $15

Color: Medium Amber

Nose: The strength of this whiskey – caramel corn, ripe apricot, wood spices, earth, and barrel.

Palate: Corn, caramel, vanilla, a diluted fruitiness, and a pinch of cinnamon/nutmeg spice – all encapsulated by a sturdy oak veneer.

Finish: The finish is moderate in length with dry oak asserting itself mightily, along with some bitter char, and a faint caramel sweetness struggling to bust through.

Overall: This one starts with a bang – the nose is very good and presents numerous layers, especially for a whiskey at this price point. The flavors on the palate however lean a bit towards pedestrian. The sweetness, fruit and spice never quite assert themselves as much as the oak influence on the palate. However, considering the price point, Old Forester packs some value in that simple bottle.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (7.9 Good)


  1. jason, i hope you and your family had a good vacation.

    if you don’t consider the price, i consider the current OF to be very mediocre. i’ve tasted some bonded dusties that are “good”. i put this baby in the old fitz, old taylor and old grand dad category. GREAT value bourbons that USED to be good/great.

  2. JWC, I can certainly see that. There’s a number of things to like about Old Forester – it’s quite solid stuff. For me, the first and biggest flaw is a diluted flavor profile on the palate. What starts as anticipation on the noise lets you down a good bit on the palate. It doesn’t recover from there when that diluted depth and richness is overpowered by the oak character. I enjoy it, it’s good whisky to me, and especially considering prce (I did not factor price in my reviews and never do, it’s merely a point of reference/mention in the write up). But I’d recommend bumping it up to 94 proof like Birthday. While we can never know for sure, I’d estimate that alone would be worth a good 2-3 points just from balancing things out. Any amplified fruit and spice would lift that further. In short, I think it’s closer to very good than average/mediocre, but I can see where you are coming from.

    That’s an especially good point about the company it keeps today with the other storied brands.

  3. Heck, why not just go for the 100 proof Signature? (Not available in the People’s Republic of PA)

  4. Sam, I concur wholeheartedly. However it’s rarely available here in Nashville also.

  5. Hope the beach was fun, Jason. I agree with JWC, except I like OF even less than he does I think. I just gave it to some inlaws for mixing with coke.

  6. Jason – I really like Old Forester but unfortunately, not the current stuff. I’ve been fortunate enough to find older bottles while dusty hunting and find those to be superb (those from DSP414). The bourbon in those older bottles is rich, creamy and buttery and loaded with flavor. The current offering lacks all those qualities.

  7. Greg, I absolutely agree. It lacks richness in a big way.

  8. The Old Forester was a disappoint to me. I had read a lot of praise on various internet sites and in certain publications. The best use I have found for it is to spike my coffee with this stuff. The finish is harsh and bitter and very unpleasant to my taste. My friend and I blind tasted it the other night and both agreed it was in the inferior range of bourbons. Too bad. It has a storied past. Perhaps the Birthday offering is better?

  9. Jeffrey, I really really love the OF Bday Bourbon 2010 that was released last Fall. It’s a real winner and I think you’d enjoy it based on some of the other things you’ve mentioned liking.

  10. Jason, thanks for the recommendation. I will have a go at the Birthday. Just thought you might like to know my friend, Rob, and I have been tasting through our bourbons semi-blindly: my wife or his wife pour for us and then we focus on the various aspects of the whiskey. This has been really interesting as there have been some surprises. At first my inclination was to determine what the whiskey was but now I have tamed myself and focused on the experience. To be honest, this has become my preferred manner of tasting (in lieu of an actual blind tasting, which we hope to have on the horizon). Cheers, JDW

  11. Bradley DeGroote

    February 28, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    Have you rated the Signature? Imho, it is pretty good especially for the cost. Just curious as to you thoughts. TIA, Bradley

  12. J-Dawg,

    From the looks of it we are eye to eye when it comes to Bourbons. I find Evan Williams Single Barrel in a word – faultless. Elmer T. Lee is my standard shelf bourbon – A classic. And since as long as remember I think it’s a crime that Jimmy Page didn’t get caught swiggin’ George Dickel instead of JD because THAT is by far the best Tennesse Whiskey for your dollar.

    With that being said. You gotta try Old Forrester – Signature. If for no other reason than to experience the truism that WhiskyBitch expounds – High Proof = High Flavor.

    For now my mind is made up. The two champions of “$20 or Under” Bourbon is Old Forrester – Signature (Sweet) and Wild Turkey 101 (Savory). Bourbon beginners need look no further as to where to start.

    I just bought myself a handle and would be happy to send you a nip from Va if need be.


  13. For the money Old Forester does really well – 86, 100 and Birthday (if you can get Birthday for the real price, that is). But for the same price I’d go for Four Roses Yellow Label over OF 86 any day. And I can get FR Small Batch here in New York for about the same as OF 100 so that’s an easy call as well.

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