Review: Old Forester Single Barrel Bourbons – 100 Proof and Barrel Strength
For those of you who read our interview with Old Forester Master Taster Jackie Zykan last month, you already know the back story on these bottles. For those who haven’t been following along as closely, here’s the short version: things are about to change with Old Forester’s private barrel program. The old 90 proof offerings have been axed as of May 1, replaced by a 100 proof option or an uncut, unfiltered, straight from the cask barrel strength. The Old Forester team were nice enough to send along samples of each, so let’s dig in!
Old Forester Single Barrel Bourbon 100 Proof – Old Forester makes another 100 proof bourbon, dubbed Signature, that’s a favorite among bartenders and our Drinkhacker staff. How does this one compare? The nose doesn’t show quite the same amount of dark chocolate or graham cracker notes. It’s less s’mores and more chocolate-covered citrus with the familiar vanilla and sweet cigar box. The palate is brighter and not quite as full or oily as the Signature. Still, there’s plenty to admire here with notes of candied orange peel, cocktail cherries, and creamy caramel candies. The chocolate notes are subdued, more cocoa powder, but the baking spice and well-balanced barrel notes remain a hallmark of the experience. The mid-palate shows a gentle spice that carries into a peppery and sweet finish. 100 proof. B+ / $50
Old Forester Single Barrel Bourbon Barrel Strength – The nose on this one is very different from either the Signature or our 100 proof sample. It’s big and burly with lots of woodshop and dried tobacco. The wood notes are nicely balanced though with a lacing of creamy caramel, chocolate syrup, shortbreads, and orange zest. The palate hits with plenty of heat upfront that slowly fades into toasted coconut, chocolate sprinkles, cookie butter, and a few pencil shavings, all of which is punctuated by a tart sour cherry note. The woodier elements are less in balance on the palate, giving a slight astringency into the long, warming finish. A few drops of water really make this one shine, rounding out the mouthfeel, tempering the heat, and balancing the oak against the sweeter elements. A fun offering very much removed from the Whiskey Row and Birthday Bourbon releases. Finally, a glimpse at OldFo in its purest form. 130 to 135 proof. A- / $80
Since these are both single barrels, your mileage will most likely vary. Old Forester uses heat cycling in their rickhouses to maintain consistency, however, so things shouldn’t gravitate too far from what we’ve sampled here. The first bottles will go on sale at the Old Forester gift shop this month. After that, you’ll have to bug your bourbon club or local booze purveyor to snag a barrel. Happy hunting!