Whiskey Review: Old Forester Rye Single Barrel

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Old Forester. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

In a world where experimental craft spirits seem to be the name of the game it’s nice to have a go-to brand that, while not afraid to think outside of the box, will always maintain the Cheers-esque feeling of familiarity. Sometimes you just want to drink what you know won’t disappoint you.

As the founding brand of the Brown-Forman corporation, one of the largest American-owned spirits companies, Old Forester is a name on many people’s tongues. When asked for a reliable, delicious, and classic taste profile, I tend suggest Old Forester due to its drinkability and affordability.

Old Forester was considered the first bottled bourbon, created in 1870 by George Garvin Brown. During Prohibition, Old Forester was one of only six companies permitted to sell and manufacture whiskey. To this day it remains the only bourbon company to sell uninterrupted in the time before, during, and after Prohibition. This is a testament to the lasting power of a delicious bourbon.

The newest limited release to come out of the Kentucky Bourbon brand is the Old Forester Rye Single Barrel. The whiskey is a high-proof rye selected from 75 barrels and is only the second product in history to be made from the Old Forester rye recipe, created in 2019. Master Taster Jackie Zykan states that the barrels were “selected with the target Old Forester Rye flavor profile in mind, just ramped up and in full force.”

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The original expression of Old Forester Rye was the first new recipe from the brand in over 150 years. It was inspired by Normandy Rye, a brand acquired by Brown-Forman in 1940. Old Forester Rye Single Barrel, as Zykan specifies, “delivers on the same balanced and unique flavor profile of our 100-proof expression, only amplified and in unfiltered, raw form.”

There has apparently been a lot of support for the new recipe since its conception. This is not surprising as my tasting offered an enjoyably straightforward expression of a hearty rye.

Old Forester Rye Single Barrel

Old Forester Rye Single Barrel (image via Brown-Forman)

Tasting Notes: Old Forester Rye Single Barrel

Vital Stats: 124 Proof (62% ABV) but this can vary from bottle to bottle. Mash bill pulled from original Old Forester Rye – 65% Rye, 20% Malted Barley, 15% Corn. Priced at around $80/750 mL, available in limited quantities nationwide.

Appearance: Hardened caramelized sugar, medium viscosity.

Nose: While the intensity of the proof overwhelmed my senses at first, it really mellowed with a few swirls and the complexities of the aromas were identifiable. I was greeted with peat, brown sugar, cherry, very light smoke and hints of coffee bean.

Palate: For being such a high-proof rye, the flavor is bold and distinguishable. It offered a bittersweet numbing sensation that quickly gave way to a profile bursting with flavor. It is fruit-forward, and the cherry really plays through. A nuttiness stood out, oscillating between pecan and hazelnut, and I enjoyed the peppery finish.

The Takeaway


As stated above, there is something inherently reliable about Old Forester. The Old Forester Rye Single Barrel is a delight for rye lovers, with a nice complexity lacking in any real innovation but bursting with flavor. I enjoy a straightforward rye and Old Forester has delivered the goods, as it has for the past 150 years.

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Jerry Jenae Sampson

Jerry Sampson is a freelance writer, editor and screenwriter. Her creative work is ever improved by her love of whiskey and craft cocktails. She enjoys taking cool fall days to explore the great distilleries around Portland to get a closer look at the inner workings of her favorite spirits.