Whiskey Review: Old Forester Rye

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Brown-Forman. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

Old Forester is one of only a handful of brands that has stayed alive since before prohibition. However, they are the only ones run by the same family since they started producing! The Brown family, now in its 5th generation, began the Old Forester brand in 1870. That is a strong heritage, and surely one to respect. Their award winning bourbons are to be respected as well, but can they make a rye?

The Old Forester Rye features a unique mash bill because of its high malted barley content. Given the addition of 20% malted barley and 15% corn, the 65% rye content is somewhat lower than many on the market. This is going to potentially produce a more balanced flavor profile. It also gives the fermentation process the opportunity to occur naturally. Anything below 10-14% malted barley usually requires more lab-produced enzymes. All these enzymes really do is prepare the starch (grain) for the yeast by turning it into sugar. I have heard many debates on whether this step changes the flavor profile or not. However, letting it occur naturally is traditional, and I admire that.

The recipe is based on a historic one for the old Normandy Rye brand, and was crafted by Brown-Forman master distiller Chris Morris and master taster Jackie Zykan. To know exactly why Old Forester decided to jump on the rye whiskey craze you’ll have to ask the folks at Brown-Forman. To know what it tastes like, you’ll only have to pay around $23. I’ll tell you now it’s well worth it.

Old Forester Rye Whiskey

Old Forester Rye Whiskey (image via Old Forester)

Tasting Notes: Old Forester Rye

Vital Stats: 100 proof (50% ABV); mash bill: 65% rye, 20% malted barley, 15% corn; suggested retail of $22.99 (the same price and proof as Old Forester 100 Proof Bourbon).

Appearance: Bronze tawny.

Nose: Bitter cacao and sweet red cherries, with a touch of raspberry. Pepper, honeysuckle flower, and hay.

Palate: Sour green apple to start. Spices like cinnamon and cardamom with a hint of vanilla. White grape and apple lead to nuttiness. Hot and dry finish with plenty of spice and a touch of citrus.

The Takeaway


I am incredibly impressed with this rye whiskey. I love the mash bill approach – it brings great complexity and balance for an affordable whiskey. I look forward to making cocktails with it, as the 100 proof will help carry those pleasantly created notes through. This is the best rye I have had for the price point.

The only reason it doesn’t get 5 stars is it doesn’t compete with the older, bigger rye whiskies available. However, that isn’t the point here. It isn’t meant to be a big player. It’s meant to be enjoyed and mixed with it, and it will be. For that, I applaud the folks at Old Forester for branching out to the world of rye.

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Cameron Holck

After graduating with an engineering degree in Colorado, Cameron Holck discovered his passion for hospitality. He followed his love of the outdoors into the Pacific Northwest where he continues his dedication to bartending, and as a sales representative for Four Roses Bourbon. He warmly welcomes the fact that a night...