Friday, February 12, 2016

Review - Old Forester

Old Forester is a bourbon from the famous whisky producing state of Kentucky in America.  It is one of the oldest American whisky brands and it has a number of claims to fame.  It was the first American whisky to be sold in sealed glass bottles rather than wooden barrels - this was over 25 years earlier than most other brands, who were later required to by a law change in 1897, and was done to ensure a better consistency of quality.  Old Forester was also one of the only distilleries to remain open during the damaging Prohibition era after it successfully applied for a license from the U.S. Government to continue production for 'medicinal purposes'.

Old Forester was first launched in 1870 and was introduced by George Garvin Brown.  His company, Brown-Forman, operated and distilled from premises on West Main Street in Louisville, Kentucky.  The street was nicknamed Whiskey Row due to the number of distillers there in the early 1900s.

The production of Old Forester is currently overseen by Chris Morris, who is only the 7th Master Distiller in Brown-Forman's history.  An exciting development for Old Forester is on the horizon with its return to West Main Street for the first time since 1919 with the opening a brand new distillery and visitor centre close to the original site.

Old Forester is bottled at 43% ABV (86 Proof) and was launched in the UK in mid-December 2015.  Numerous other expressions are available in the USA and other markets.  It is available through specialist whisky retailers and an increasing number of bars.  A bottle should cost around the £35 mark.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has an initial volatility to it, which soon settles to give a lovely set of aromas - think of vanilla, golden syrup, desiccated coconut, burnt sugar and candied orange peel.  Underneath are hints of morello cherry, white chocolate and cinnamon.

On the palate it is the fruity notes that appear first, with the candied orange and morello cherry from the nose mixing together well.  These are supported by a delicious combination of sweet characteristics.  These include vanilla, butterscotch, honey and marzipan, plus a lovely note of fresh coconut.

At this point the whisky feels soft and creamy in the mouth, but then adds complexity by developing further warming wood spices.  First comes a hit of bittersweet cereals, then some cinnamon and fresh oak shavings, then hints of gingerbread and the returning orange and cherry.

The finish is pleasingly spicier and drier than expected, especially once the sweet and fruity elements fade.  The orange/cherry combination, butterscotch, vanilla and marzipan notes are followed by warming bitter rye grains, cinnamon and oak.

What's the verdict?
Old Forester is a lovely and easy drinking bourbon.  It has plenty of characteristics and is not too sweet or too spicy as some bourbons can be.  The balance between the sweeter, fruity and spicier elements is good and makes this a versatile whisky.  It could be drunk neat as easily as it would compliment robust cocktail ingredients, such as in a classic Whisky Smash.


Unknown said...

Maybe tbe best value in a bourbon that can be had for about $13 to $15, the kind of "cheap" bourbon you're delighted to see as the house pour. If you can afford $10 more, the 100 proof expression is a real treat, shouldering in with premium brands that cost far more: mature, complex, deep, and satisfying.

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