March 26, 2019
Distillery: Old Forester (owned by Brown Forman)
Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
Composition: 72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Aged: Unknown, aged in virgin American white oak
Price: $60 MSRP (750mL)
From the Old Forester website:
“This 115 proof expression is the third release in our Old Forester Whiskey Row series and celebrates the brand’s continued distillation during Prohibition. For 13 years, the production, transport and sale of alcohol was strictly prohibited. However, Old Forester was granted a permit to continue distilling on Louisville’s Whiskey Row. The 115 proof expression represents a barrel sample that company president Owsley Brown I would have batched at the beginning of Prohibition.”
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style is part of Old Forester’s Whiskey Row series, focused on historic expressions from the brand’s history. The Whiskey Row series includes the 1870 Original Batch, 1897 Bottled in Bond, and 1910 Old Fine Whisky. Old Forester 1920, at 57.5%, is the highest proof expression in the series.
A fun fact: Old Forester is one of the oldest bourbon distilleries in the US, having existed before and through prohibition. Where many had to close, Old Forester received one of the few licenses to continue distilling and selling for “medicinal purposes”. This 1920 version is supposed to emulate what they made during prohibition. Let’s see if all that history and the extra proof make a difference.
Old Forester 1920 releases fragrant and alcohol-soaked maraschino cherries, brown sugar, and apple pie spices with a healthy dose of musty corn, dough, and wood that cover my nostrils. Lighter spritzes of effervescent lemon and pine, like the L’Occitane lemon perfume with additional wood and mint follow the initial sweetness. The alcohol constantly reminds me that it’s there, but it’s not terribly hot. Swirling ups the vanilla and buttercream scents mixed with darker charred wood, cinnamon, caramel, maple syrup, and other spices, but is bright and vibrant overall. The scents ebb and flow between sugar, orange, apple, cinnamon, mint, vanilla, and cocoa that sometimes give me baked apples with a spritz of orange and lemon, peppermint patties, or pecan pie. Again, there’s the same musty corn and wood, and raw dough smell with mint and pine. Everything is very nice minus the noticeable raw dough smell that fades over time as you let the glass breathe.
Be forewarned, Old Forester 1920 takes a long time to open up, so be patient if you want to get the full experience.
Old Forester 1920 hits my tongue with dark and rich dried oranges, caramel, and corn, mingling with the brighter alcohol flavors. There’s a noticeable minty corn mash taste from the rye, with a little nuttiness. Even at over 57% alcohol, Old Forester 1920 is still fairly reserved, allowing me to actually taste what it has to offer. Strong “chewing” releases a rush of brown sugar, mint, corn, and vanilla frosting followed by roasted wood, fuji apple peels, and a dash of orange juice. The more mellow alcohol allows me the let the whiskey settle in my mouth so I can explore it further without roasting my entire mouth. Right after I swallow, desserty peanut butter and cocoa appear.
The aftertaste has a lingering cornbread sweetness with mint and charred wood. Lengthy chewing leaves more savory sugars, mint, and wood with a little nuttiness, cinnamon, and cocoa. It’s a lightly sweet, savory, and boozy snickers bar.
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Edition is a delicious bourbon with a lot of character, but it isn’t quite complex or interesting enough to receive a “Top Shelf” rating. The nose is very hot at first, spewing doughy alcohol and musty corn. After it settles, I finally get the 1920’s rich, sweet, and savory traits. It’s very similar to Knob Creek Single Barrel: high proof, rich, and hot. The funny thing is that this Old Forester is around $20 more expensive, but similar in quality. Lesson learned, if you’re looking for a bourbon and haven’t had either, try Knob Creek Single Barrel first.