Review | Best Bourbons | Brown-Forman Distillery | Old Forester Distillery

Every Old Forester Whiskey Row Series Reviewed and Ranked [2021]

Last updated Mar 14, 2021

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by Matty Sims

Glencairn Whiskey Glass

Old Forester Whiskey Row Series spotlights a point of history in the Old Forester Distillery. “Old Forester has endured nearly 150 years of uninterrupted history and has survived prohibition, world wars and changing consumer tastes,” said Old Forester President Campbell Brown. “The Whiskey Row series is a great way for consumers to taste through Old Forester’s unique 148-year history.” This series began in 2014 and has resulted in four distinct whiskeys:

  • 1870 Original Batch
  • 1897 Bottled in Bond
  • 1920 Prohibition Style
  • 1910 Old Fine Whisky

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Which Old Forester Whiskey Row bourbon is the best?

Old Forester Whiskey RowWe’ve got you covered if you’re looking for the best Old Forester Whiskey Row bourbon. We break down each Whiskey Row release on five criteria.

Best Old Forester Whisky Row Bourbon
93.3 Reviewer
0 0 votes
Nose
Taste
Finish
Complexity
Value
93.2 Reviewer
0 0 votes
Nose
Taste
Finish
Complexity
Value
90 Reviewer
0 0 votes
Nose
Taste
Finish
Complexity
Value
88.6 Reviewer
0 0 votes
Nose
Taste
Finish
Complexity
Value

#1 – 1910 Old Fine Whisky Review

Old Forester 1910 Old Fine Whisky

Old Forester 1910 Old Fine Whisky
1910 Old Fine WhiskyDetails
In the Bottle93 Proof
ABV46.5%
AgeNon Age Stated (NAS)
Suggested MSRP$54.99
DistilleryBrown Forman
BrandOld Forester
119 W Main St. Louisville, KY
40202, KY 40202
First Barrel22 Second Char
Second BarrelOver 50 Second Char
ProsUnique, Mouthfeel, Complexity, Great to Pair with Cigars
ConsFinish Falls Short
RatingGold 93.3 out of 100 Points
InventoryKeep Stocked

According to Old Forester’s President Campbell Brown,

“Our best roadmap to understanding volume and demand has been to look at what our other [bourbons] have done. Historically, our 1920 has been the most successful. So for [the first release] we basically looked at how much we made when we rolled that out, and added 20 to 30 percent.”

“We sold out in 60 days and it didn’t even make it to every state in the US – it only made it to about 30 states. So there’s still a good portion of the US that’s never had it on their shelves.”

Brown continues:

“The issue here is that we had to be able to build the second barrel, and the second barrel is a different barrel than any of the other barrels we use for Old Forester. It requires that we reallocate a bunch of time at the cooperage to only make that barrel, and we need a lot of them. So its these various timelines that all need to be put in place, and it’s a lot more complicated to bring to market than a regular single barrel product or a blend of barrels.”

This is good news for bourbon lovers everywhere as it seems Old Forester is now prepared for the high demand and most hunters should be able to find a bottle. Better news still? It’s hitting shelves tomorrow at the distillery and stores nationwide thereafter.

In October 1910, a fire at the Old Forester distillery caused a stoppage on the bottling line but there was whiskey ready that would be lost.

So the story goes, that whiskey was barreled again in new charred oak barrels, and the first double-barreled whiskey was born. Chris Morris, Master Distiller at Brown-Forman:

“There are often pieces of our brand’s history that we happen upon by accident. Years ago, while searching through archives, we discovered a case of bourbon with a label I hadn’t seen before. We uncovered that Very Old Fine Whisky not only carried a great story, but a previously unknown heritage of double-barreled expressions,”

100 proof Old Forester whiskey enters the second barrel and, according to Master Taster Jackie Zykan,

“The second barrel is charred nearly to the point of incineration. This low entry proof allows more of the wood’s sugars to be dissolved into the whiskey, resulting in a smooth, sweet whisky with a clean, spicy finish – yielding an exceptional character.”

Brown Forman has mastered the art of double-barreled whiskeys with offerings not only from Old Forester but also Woodford’s Double Oaked and Jack Daniel’s Gold No. 27 (both distilleries are part of the Forman family).

Old Forester 1910 is the last release in Old Forester’s Whiskey Row Series. 1910 sold out its first release within sixty days outpacing their most popular release up to that date 1920.

Old Forester 1910 is medium body. Thin droplets slowly rolling down the Glencairn. The color is amber

Nose – 94 out of 100 Points

Burnt sugar, molasses, heat-dried wood, vanilla, candied pecans, tres leches, and stewed red fruits. I love the nose on 1910. It’s balanced and rich. The nose on this bourbon whiskey blooms with a few weeks open and gets better.

Taste – 95 out of 100 Points

Caramel sweetness on top of the tongue blooms into red fruits. Toasted baking spices move along the side of your palate. Mid-palate I get leather and oatmeal. Think burnt marshmallows. Meets your grandma’s baking. With a nightcap, in a cigar bar on a worn leather couch.

Last, 1910 pairs well with almost any cigar especially holding up to big, bold tobacco because of the creamy mouthfeel and balanced flavors. I recommend pairing it with something like RoMa Craft‘s Cromagnon.

Finish – 91 out of 100 Points

It’s medium. Intense baking spice to start then drops off the edge.

Verdict – Gold 93.3 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Gold Medal

1910 is a solid value. It’s a bourbon whiskey I keep stocked especially as a lover of fine cigars. I give 1910 the slightest edge as my fav in the Old Forester Whiskey Row series (but on another day I might choose 1920). The complexity and uniqueness of the nose and taste make it a standout even with a finish that slightly under delivers.

Leave me your tasting notes in the comments below.

#2 – Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Whisky Review

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Whisky
1920 Prohibition Style WhiskyDetails
In the Bottle115 Proof
ABV57.5%
AgeNon Age Stated (NAS)
Mashbill72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Suggested MSRP$58.99
DistilleryBrown Forman
ProsComplex Nose
ConsNitpicking but the initial burst of heat on the palate could be more rounded
RatingGold 93.2 out of 100 Points
InventoryKeep Stocked

According to Old Forester:

The Volstead Act of 1920 which initiated Prohibition in the USA granted permits to six distillers in Kentucky to continue to bottle bourbon for medicinal purposes. Through one of these permits, Old Forester continued to be produced as medicinal whiskey on Louisville’s famed Whiskey Row. It is the only bourbon continuously sold by the same company that has been available for sale before, during, and after Prohibition.

During this time, all whiskies had to be bottled at 100 Proof. With a barrel entry proof of 100, the “angel’s share” would have created a 115 proof whiskey after maturation. To pay homage to this era, Old Forester presents 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon at 115 proof to represent the rich flavor profile this bourbon had nearly 100 years ago.

Nose – 94 out of 100 Points

That banana bread with walnuts that I love in Old Forester whiskey. Caramel and sugary charred oak also show up.

Taste – 92 out of 100 Points

The palate opens up with a pop of sweet caramelized banana followed by surging heat. Oak, cinnamon emerge from the heat as well as the caramelized banana again to round out the palate.

Finish – 93 out of 100 Points

The finish is long with banana, caramel, and charred oak.

Complexity – 93 out of 100 Points

I love the sweet heat from 1920. The initial heat on the palate rounds out by the end of the drink. It’s a perfectly balanced palate.

Value – 94 out of 100 Points

At around $50, it’s a no-brainer buy and one of the best values for a barrel proof bourbon. Notice how close the score is between 1910 and 1920. I could taste these 10 times on 10 different nights and go back and forth between which one I love better.

Verdict – Gold 93.2 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Gold Medal

#3 – Old Forester 1870 Original Batch Whisky Review

Old Forester 1870 Original Batch
1870 Original BatchDetails
In the Bottle90 Proof
ABV45%
AgeNon Age Stated (NAS)
Mashbill72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Suggested MSRP$41.99
DistilleryBrown Forman
ProsConsistent Drinking Experience and Value
ConsMore of Everything on the Finish
RatingSilver 88.6 out of 100 Points
InventoryBuy It Now

According to Old Forester:

In 1870 George Garvin Brown created Old Forester on Louisville, KY’s, famous Whiskey Row. In honor of that milestone year in bourbon history, we have crafted a tribute – Old Forester 1870 Original Batch – the first expression in the Old Forester Whiskey Row series.

1870 Original Batch echoes George Garvin Brown’s original batching process. Back then, Brown batched barrels obtained from three distilleries to create a consistent flavor profile. To emulate that process today, we also select barrels from three warehouses, each barrel originating from a different day of production, with a different entry proof and a different age profile. The three expressions of Old Forester are then batched together and minimally filtered to craft Old Forester 1870 Original Batch.

Nose – 91 out of 100 Points

Caramel and banana. Baking spice in the background. Sugary charred oak.

Tastes – 91 out of 100 Points

Great mouthfeel. More charred banana and heavily toasted oak. Black pepper. Charred cinnamon.

Finish – 89 out of 100 Points

Charred cinnamon. Toasted oak. Just a hint of vanilla.

Complexity – 89 out of 100 Points

1870 offers everything I love about Old Forester from a flavor perspective. Plus those flavors are complex and layered for maximum impact.

Value – 90 out of 100 Points

At a hair over $40, the price point is solid for bourbon with the layers of flavors, complexity, and balance afforded by 1870.

Verdict – Silver 90 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Silver Medal

Writing this tasting review was my first experience with Old Forester 1870, and it didn’t disappoint. It had the signature banana flavor I love in Old Fo whiskeys and had good viscosity. If you’ve tied the Old Forester 100 proof, 1870 is a step up with a better finish and a more rounded, complex flavor profile.

#4 – Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond Whisky Review

Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond
1897 Bottled in BondDetails
In the Bottle100 Proof
ABV50%
AgeNon Age Stated (NAS)
Mashbill72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Suggested MSRP$48.99
DistilleryBrown Forman
ProsComplex Nose
ConsJust Lacked That Same Complexity on Palate
RatingSilver 88.6 out of 100 Points
InventoryPass for Me Based on Flavor Preference

According to Old Forester:

Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond is crafted to honor a watershed moment in bourbon history – the U.S. Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. This expression follows the Bottled in Bond standards that whisky must be aged in a federally bonded warehouse for at least four years, the product of one distillation season, one distiller, and from one distillery and bottled at 100 Proof. The concept behind these regulations – the idea of ‘sealed in quality’ – was something Old Forester introduced in 1870, as America’s First Bottled Bourbon.

1897 offers good glass coverage with long legs. The color is copper.

Nose – 92 out of 100 Points

The nose reminds me of banana’s foster with a cinnamon note to finish. I also pick up some coffee bread and walnuts.

Taste – 88 out of 100 Points

When it first hit my palate, it was creamy followed up by a Szechuan pepper tingly spice followed by baking spice, vanilla, and charred oak. The back of the palate returns some black pepper. Also, there’s a lingering raw leather on the mid-palate. Reminds me of sitting in my dad’s workshop as a kid when he had been working on his leather. Don’t confuse heat for spice. This doesn’t drink hot, but it does bring the spice.

Finish – 88 out of 100 Points

The finish is medium to long with more pepper spice, baking spices like cinnamon and clove, and some leather undertones.

Complexity – 85 out of 100 Points

For me, the palate and finished lacked the complexity I crave from a great bourbon. I wanted more of the banana and caramel from the nose to balance out the spice.

Value – 90 out of 100 Points

I picked this Old Fo 1897 for just north of $45. It’s the perfect price range for a bottled in bond bourbon of this stature. It’s non-age stated but the bottled in bond requirements mean it’s at least four years old.

Verdict – Silver 88.6 out of 100 Points

The Bourbon Bard Silver Medal

The value is good. There’s good flavor, but it’s not my preferred flavor wheelhouse. I’d buy to do a tasting against the other Old Forester Whiskey Row series but wouldn’t keep it stocked.

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Why trust The Bourbon Bard?

Written by Matty Sims

Matty Sims is a storyteller who loves bourbon. He has been drinking and studying whiskey for over 10 years. He has also been featured on sites like Bourbon Sippers, Explore Whiskey, and Inside Hook, partnered with dozens of distilleries, and reviewed hundreds of whiskeys.
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