Old Forester Review

Old Forester Review

Old Forester is not only America’s first bottled bourbon, it’s also America’s longest continuously distilled bourbon. First created around 1871 it was sold exclusively in sealed bottles starting in 1873 and marketed by a pharmaceutical salesman by the name of George Garvin Brown. Brown was the founder of the Brown-Forman corporation which owns a number of alcohol brands today and whose descendants still run the company today.

During prohibition this rye heavy bourbon was one of only 10 brands that were authorized for lawful production, for “medicinal purposes”, and is how it’s remained in continuous operation for over 142 years. What’s even more amazing is that it’s supposedly used the same mash bill of 72% Corn, 18% Rye & 10% malted barley the entire time (which is the same as Woodford Reserve). It is a rye heavy bourbon that doesn’t casually announce it’s rye, but shouts it.

Overall I enjoy this bourbon. It’s rustic, bold and full bodied which makes for a great bourbon to experience now and then. I say now and then because there is a strange medicinal quality laying about in the palate and a varnished wood quality to the nose that keeps it from being a “daily drinker” for me and turns it into more of a weekly one. These two aspects become cloying and overpowering fairly quickly but they’re also what makes this an interesting and flavorful tipple… every now and then.

If you’ve had the Old forester I’d love to see your thoughts or notes in the comments below.

Old Forester Review

ABV: 43%
Price: $17
Distiller: Brown-Forman


Caramel, vanilla and bourbon spice lead the charge with red licorice, cinnamon, maraschino, brown sugar and some rye popping its head out. Overall a rather standard high rye bourbon nose that has a slight varnished wood quality running under it that seems to grow stronger the more I drink.

Caramel, citrus and rye are dominant on the palate with the rye picking up steam the more I drink it. Tobacco, biscuits, pie crust and a musty medicinal quality that is easily pushed aside at first, but keeps building as it’s drank.

Like a very fine grit sandpaper. It’s mostly smooth with a little bit of roughness to it.

Long dry finish that starts out with a very woody rye and caramel syrup that fades to bourbon spice

SCORE: 86/100

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

Latest posts by Josh Peters (see all)

36 Responses to Old Forester Review

  1. I love the stuff personally. I don’t get anything in there that I’d call medicinal. For me, it’s in daily drinker territory. I’m useless at distinguishing individual flavors if they don’t absolutely beat me over the head, but there’s a bit of something in here that I might call “nutty” or compare to praline. The only other whiskey I’ve found it in was a Willet Pot Still (barrel 3144), my favorite whiskey ever. The WPS was better stuff, but at twice the cost and I had to drive two hours each way to get it.

    To my taste, Old Forester tastes like a rarefied, sophisticated $50+ bourbon — for under $30.

    • It’s good stuff, definitely in my daily drinker category (anything 85+ is a daily for me) and medicinal doesn’t always mean bad. I love big peaty Islay scotches and those are very medicinal. It’s all in how it plays and balances off of the other flavors.

      Thanks for sharing, cheers!

  2. Your reviews are awesome! I use them as a reference standard for buying new drinks. In this case, however, I have to (respectfully and apologetically) disagree. You gave both Old Forester an 86 and Old Overholt an 83, and from what I can tell, Overholt is the superior beverage.

    Old Forester has this overwhelming candy-apple flavor I can’t shake. The spice finish is nice but it doesn’t make up for the saccharine sweetness of the initial burst. That being said, it works really nicely as a base for an Old-Fashioned (whose predominant flavor notes are sugar and spice and everything nice).

    As a mixer, I’d put in the mid-80s. Neat, I’d put it around 80 or so.

    That being said, thanks for running this blog and thanks for your detailed reviews. I look forward to trying the other stuff you’ve rated highly.

  3. I tried this based upon your review. I think it’s great whisky and a bargain with a capital “B”. I love it! The rue note is amazing. I’m an Islay drinker and I love Irish and Bourbon too. Old Forester is awesome-count me in!

  4. Wow as a neophyte I find your reviews very helpful! Just bought this today for 17 bucks, for a litre, and I’m really enjoying it! While maybe not top shelf, but for the working class like myself this is spot on. Thanks for the reviews and keep them coming!

  5. I have been enjoying the exploration of the world of bourbon (having been told that I should drink scotch.) but I was born in central Kentucky and there must some kind of bourbon gene lurking in there. I really enjoy the Old Foesters 86; in fact, I keep a second bottle in case of blizzards or floods or hospital.
    Looks like a great site. Just found it recently.
    I find nothing of the “poor mans” whiskey in it. I getting older and I just don’t feel any need to impress academics, etc. it is a good bourbon, reasonably priced, right next to where I watch ball games and read. By the way, why is it seemingly unavailable in so many states. Just curious.

    • It’s found in Virginia, Louisiana and Wisconsin, in a thousand mile triangle surrounding Kentucky, so it gets around. I find it a unique middle- shelfer and love the rye character the best of all. Cheers to us aging folks.

  6. I wouldn’t call what I get from this ‘medicinal’, but I will say it’s got a good deal of heat to it. With that acknowledged, let me reminisce a little: When I was a little kid, I’d watch old westerns from the 1950s, through the John Wayne stuff of the ’60s, to the Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns.

    I always had the idea that a real bourbon *ought* to have quite a lot of heat to it, and just enough flavor to make it worth drinking.

    Old Forester delivers exactly what my younger self expected a bourbon to be. This isn’t any Bulleit, Maker’s Mark, or even Old Grand Dad. This stuff is raw, woody, and with a healthy flare of burn on it. When you want SALOON whiskey, this is what you ask for.

  7. Old Forester was the first bourbon I ever had, snuck it right out of my Dad’s bar
    cabinet as a kid. It was a staple in his booze collection and I still like it to this day. I like all bourbon, just like some better than others.

  8. Not a daily or even every week drinker but I like beer, and whiskey. When I am in the mood fro whiskey I drink it straight or on the rocks and Old Forester seems to be all I buy anymore. It is a whiskey no doubt. Has a oak/ woody taste to me and no nasty lighter fluid smell or taste. I liked the saloon analogy someone said about. It does seem to be a blue collar whiskey and well I am a blue collar guy. (Underground miner) Cheers all!

  9. My grandfather always kept a bottle of whiskey stuck between hay bales and tobacco hanging…..those three smells always makes me feel better. God bless Kentucky. And then stand for Dixie.

  10. I’ve always liked just about anything with rye, and I’ve now included Old Forester in the mix.

    It’s a snowy, cold day, and this whiskey is just perfectly on-point for the day.

  11. I keep a bottle of this around. It is not the smoothest but has a nice quality to it. The rye is there and it tells you so, like a cheaper Woodford in that regard. What I do find interesting is my favorite restaurant in town (The Exchange, New Albany IN, which is Louisville metro area so this is serious bourbon drinking country) uses this in their Old Fashioned and I think it fits that bill perfectly. Something about the smoothest finishing bourbons does not work well there, and I agree with there choice in using this. And I pretty picky about my Old Fashioneds.

    Josh, if you are near Louisville cross the bridge to New Albany and check out The Exchange, great food, a great bourbon menu too, and good people.

  12. I just tried this today(more of a protest purchase against the tomfoolery going on with my favorites at Beam), and I love it! I will be elevating this to my daily drinker. Great nose, super flavors come at me, and a decent finish. Very pleased. Cheers!

  13. I keep a bottle around, also Buffalo Trace and Burnside Bourbon from here in Portland Oregon. I largely agree with your tasting notes. I am no expert but I get some bananas foster in the nose and in the palate. One of the things I like about Bourbon is that you know you are drinking something, it is not a shy spirit. Old Forester delivers

  14. OF was the first bourbon I felt was really good back in the early 1990s. I get a nice vanilla banana spice flavor which I attribute to the higher than normal rye componate. Just recently tried it again and wish I hadn’t waited so long. Nice balanced bourbon with a great finish. Not bad foe $16!

  15. I’m a long time Bulleit drinker.

    With the right combo of ice and branch water, I can’t see much of a taste difference.

    But I do see a wallet difference.

Leave a reply

Send this to a friend