Old Overholt Review

Old Overholt Review

Old Overholt has been around for quite a long time and it has a very storied history that starts back in the early 1800’s. Back then, in ye olden times, Old Overholt was being made in Pennsylvania, where a lot of rye whiskey was made at the time, but is now owned and made by Jim Beam in Kentucky. For the last 200+ years Old Overholt has been loved, parodied, used as “medicinal” alcohol by the Navy, was supposedly the favorite whiskey Mr. Doc Holliday and until the recent whiskey and cocktail renaissance was often the only rye you could find.

This warm and spicy concoction of at least 51% rye (along with some corn and barley) is currently being made in Kentucky under the watchful eye of the Beam distillers and is among my favorite “bottom shelf” whiskeys. Besides being dirt cheap (avg $15 – $20) it’s incredibly flexible. Neat, chilled, on the rocks or even better in a cocktail, this whiskey is a stalwart and reliable workhorse no matter how you drink it.

Old Overholt Review

ABV: 40%
Age: 3 years
Price: $20 (1 Liter)
Distiller: Beam

Golden honey

The first thing I notice is a thick sweet scent like caramel frosting followed up by some notes of graham cracker pie crust, cinnamon and green apples. Round that out with a bit of iodine and a slight but steady rye spice you end up with a nice bouquet that is pleasing, but quite light on the rye notes.

The rye spice pops a bit more here and it’s accompanied by a hints of lemon pepper, course grains and some soft woodiness. A strange subversive sweetness runs alongside the spicy peppery fruit and creates a very interesting juxtaposition of flavors.

Medium with green apples and graham cracker that fades to sugared oak.

Like most light bodies and smooth whiskies it’s well balanced but that’s also because it’s not very complex. Balance in a complex whiskey is impressive, but balance in a light and smooth whiskey is more or less expected.

Old Overholt is a decent rye whiskey with plenty to offer in the versatility category and is light and easy in all the right ways. It’s not the kind of deep and complex whiskey you want to sit and slowly pick apart, it’s the light but flavorful whiskey you want to break out at get-together and share with your friends. When you care about having something that tastes good, but doesn’t pull your attention away from whatever’s going on the way a rich and complex whiskey can sometimes do.

SCORE: 83/100


Old Overholt: Last Glass Update (11-16-14)

Sitting here with the last glass of this 1 liter bottle in my hand I can’t help but look back and say… it’s definitely a good rye, it’s remarkable how well it stood up over the months, but after careful evaluation I think it needs to drop down to an 83 from an 84. It’s good, I just wish there was just a bit more of a kick and a punch from the rye spice. That it had just a little bit more of a get up and go to it than it does and the rye was a more prominent throughout.

Then again that relaxed and easy nature is part of it’s charm… interesting how that works. Regardless, it’s welcome in my home any time from here on out and would be a great addition to any home bar for cocktails or even to drink neat and mix things up from time to time

FINAL VERDICT: A good rye that is worth the price and will definitely be buying again and again and again.

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

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

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Filed Under: Rye

18 Responses to Old Overholt Review

  1. I never appreciated my Father-n-Laws good ol’ standby, Old Overholt, when I was younger. He’d bring out the bottle after a hard day of hunting in the woods…we’d swig it down and I’d cringe after each sip. Now, through years of appreciating whiskeys…I really enjoy Old Overholt. Maybe it’s partially the nostalgia of the good old days of adventure, connecting with good friends and family, the outdoors and the smells of the forest that I reminisce of, that has me enjoying this whiskey…but, either way…it’s pretty damn good. Price to quality makes it a little known gem of a secret.

    • That’s a great story, thank you for sharing. You’re father-in-law sounds like quite the guy. Old Overholt is one of my favorite hidden gems that are tucked away on the bottom shelf and it’s always great to meet others who love it too, Cheers!

  2. Yeah, certainly worth $20 and where you ask for more “get up and go”, I’m happy with it’s smoothness for the price.

    • Definitely a great deal at $20. the “get up and go” is more about the rye flavor. Wish there was more of it, but then they’d have to change the mashbill and that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

  3. Old Overholt makes a fine Manhattan.

    As an aside, it it the house rye at Keen’s Steakhouse in New York City.

  4. OK, I finally got my hands on some Old Overholt. I happen to be traveling, and it was $13-ish here in NM. On the rocks, it’s a fine rye. And at that price, it’s amazing. Back home under the state-run ABC regime, it’s a silly $23-ish, and at that price point, I’ll pick other stuff. But if this were $13, I’d never get anything else. (Well, you know what I mean…)

    Bottom line: the original review of 83 is legit–I’m just here to remind you that 83 is a good score. Drink this stuff now.

    • Thanks man. I originally gave it an 84 (realized I worded that weirdly and fixed it) but dropped it to an 83 after the end of the bottle, but you’re right it is still a good score. It’s one of the ryes I like to keep around specifically for cocktail experiments and just as a cheap sipping rye that I don’t care if my friends kill the bottle when we’re hanging out.


  5. I just bought a bottle and this is good stuff for 14.99. I’ve been looking for some Rye Whiskey to change it up and certain brands can be tough to find in the Boston area. I’ve seen Old Overholt a lot and glad I grabbed a bottle

    • That I like drinking it neat? Yup. It’s not the most complex rye on the market, and does better in cocktails than it does neat, but I enjoy a glass of it from time to time. Cheers!

  6. I enjoy the Old Overholt. This is definitely a decent whiskey, but it sells for $23 in my area. I can add another $3 to that and get the Rittenhouse or add another $7 and get the Sazerac (when it’s available).

  7. From my personal experience, Old Overholt Rye is more of a C-Grade rye whiskey that’s a little too hot and sharp for neat consumption and finds better usage in cocktails. However, for $10.90 (and tax-free at that) at the Class Six shops in any of the San Antonio, Texas military installations right now, there’s very little to complain about at the moment.

  8. Sorry for such a late post but I find something very interesting about this whiskey. When I first open a bottle and have a pour OO has a strange compressed aroma and flavor. However, the next day it’s a completely different spirit. Now there is a wonderful sweet minty spiced vanilla rye that has a great aroma and flavor. I can only conclude that somehow allowing a little air into the bottle completely unlocks it. Is this just me or have you noticed this as well?

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