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. 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.
Old Forester of Louisville, Kentucky has several lines of special edition whiskeys, including the mega-popular annual Birthday Bourbon release, and special Anniversary Bourbons. The newest addition to Old Forester’s lineup of limited series bourbon is the experimental Old Forester 117 series. It’s named for the historical address at 117 W. Main St in Louisville where the distillery was located from 1882-1919, and where they returned in 2018 with a tasting tour and gift shop. This release is the design of Master Taster Jackie Zykan. It is the first time in the history of the 150-year-old brand that a woman’s signature will appear on the bottle.
The 117 Series is an “angels’ share” bourbon, meaning that it was created using particularly low yield barrels. They’re bottled at 110 proof. Zykan explains that “lower yield barrels do tend to have a higher proof on them, and we’ve proofed it down to a level were it wasn’t insanely volatile, where there’s still balance.”
Using high angel’s share barrels was a way for Zykan to showcase Old Forester’s unique flavor elements. “What we have is this really great opportunity to deconstruct what we already do for our blends and our products, and that was kind of where The 117 Series came in,” she says. “It’s not just giving people a different side of Old Forester’s flavor profile, it’s helping them to understand the process we go through to make Old Forester this beautiful, balanced, consistent bourbon.”
Given that the barrels have lost a significant amount of volume, one may assume that this was blended from older casks. However, the notably reasonable price point of $50 per 375 ml bottle suggests that they were likely newer. Old Forester (as usual) does not provide an age statement. Zykan notes, “This is our first 375 in a higher-end product that we’ve done and it’s great for people traveling.” The first bottles of the 117 hit distillery shelves at the end of March, 2021. They are available there and in select retailers around Kentucky.
Plans for subsequent releases seem to be in the works. The distillery says that “[t]he 117 Series may explore selections from specific warehouses, barrel manipulations, deconstructed blends and more… From controlling the mash and yeast strain, to barrels and maturation environments, the possibilities are limitless.”
Tasting Notes: Old Forester 117 Series Bourbon
Vital Stats: 117 Series Bourbon is bottled at 110 proof in 375 ml bottles for $50.
Nose: The nose is fruity with dark cherry and raisins accompanied by oak and a touch of chocolate.
Palate: This coats the tongue and cheeks with something grassy like dandelion and hay, combined with charred oak and black tea. Cherry returns in the mid palate, with a hot finish that bursts with black pepper and cayenne.
Old Forrester 117 Series High Angels’ Share Bourbon is devilishly spicy. I would have preferred more balance with some sweeter elements, but the bold spices linger on the palate in a pleasant way. The maker suggests that the 117 Series has herbaceous qualities and I definitely found that to be true. The strength here is in the complexities of the bourbon’s structure. It develops slowly in the mouth and throat as the heat builds and builds. I loved this with ice and would absolutely recommend any whiskey fan giving it a try.
User Review3.6 (10 votes)
Faith Raspante is a freelance writer and bartender based in Portland, Oregon. A love of craft cocktails and creative mixology led Faith to discover the nuanced pleasure of tasting whiskey and other spirits. When she isn’t behind the bar or in front of a laptop she enjoys boating, home improvement...