Divisive opinions are nothing new to the overarching whisky community. It’s just one of many factors that makes sharing and discussing whisky both interesting and enjoyable. Yet if I had to identify one distillery that splits thoughts more than any other, Old Forester would certainly be a frontrunner. This primarily stems from how much people like or dislike the whisky itself, which may partly stem from their use of heat-cycled rickhouses. It’s a known production method, but many distilleries forgo it.
Regardless, Old Forester has a respectable lineup of whiskies that are generally available and affordable. Not unlike Wild Turkey, they have a lower and higher proof bourbon serving as entry-level options. Today we’ll be looking at the latter, an alleged “favorite of bartenders,” clocking in at 50% ABV. Local pricing for a bottle is around $23 or so.
Nose: Slightly musty. Cherry, banana, and a rather sharp vanilla note. Very syrup/cordial-like. Red licorice, dark brown sugar, and clove.
Palate: A touch thin, but mostly oily. Cherry, vanilla, and brown sugars. Grassy rye component cuts through the strong sweetness, bordering on vegetal at times. Slight maple syrup and more red licorice.
Finish: Oak tannins offset the lingering licorice candy, which begins to tread into cough drop territory. Lighter brown sugar joins the fray. Somewhat short overall, given the viscosity.
The more Old Forester I try, the more I understand the seeming divisiveness surrounding it, even down to their core range. Revisiting their (non-bonded) 100 proof bourbon only reiterates this understanding. There’s so much red licorice and cherry cough drop sweetness to be had that I have half a mind to keep this on-hand for when I want a drink while sick. If that doesn’t adequately illustrate why Old Forester 100 isn’t for everyone, then I don’t know what will.
And yet, I’m not too bothered by this expression. This is almost certainly aided by the value proposition, given this is highly available, bottled at a good proof point, and sells for roughly $25. Removing those factors from the equation leaves us with a bottle that’s practically begging to shine in a cocktail. Granted, the sweet profile means I’d veer away from sweeter mixing ingredients, but even in your standard Old Fashioned or Manhattan, Old Forester 100 should hold up well enough to satisfy.