old forester single barrel barrel strength bourbon review

Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength Bourbon Potomac Wine and Spirits Select

old forester single barrel barrel strength potomac wine and spirits

Distillery: Old Forester

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 63.5%

Composition: 72% corn, 18% rye, 10 barley 

Aged: NAS (rumored about 6 years)

Color: 1.4/2.0 on the color scale (tawny)

Price: $80-100

From the Old Forester website:

“Old Forester Single Barrel is crafted using the time-honored methods established by George Garvin Brown more than 150 years ago. Old Forester Single Barrel customers will have the opportunity to sample three 100 proof barrels or three barrel strength barrels of rich, robust Old Forester at the distillery or through an in-market selection. Barrels that produce 100 proof bourbon will yield approximately 200 bottles and, depending on proof, barrel strength selections will produce approximately 160 bottles.”

Company Website

old forester single barrel barrel strength bourbon overview

It took a while, but in 2020 and 2021 we finally started getting Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength bourbon. This bourbon has been out for years, even decades, so it seems strange that Old Forester waited this long to release any cask strength version of their namesake bourbon, but I’m sure they have their reasons. 

All that aside, I’m reviewing a Potomac Wine and Spirits selected Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength bourbon, aged in warehouse K, floor 3. I’ve been waiting impatiently to get one of these, so let’s stop waiting and get to it in this Potomac Wine and Spirits Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength bourbon review.

old forester single barrel barrel strength bourbon smell

Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength Bourbon has huge caramelized banana notes, dried apple chips, citrus peel, and vanilla up front with nearly as much roasted oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, caraway seed, rosemary, and thyme that swoop in next, and hints of dried cranberries coming afterwards. It’s a caramelized banana bomb with some burnt edges and earthiness, creating a very dark nose, with the oak and earthy and vegetal caraway seed and rosemary adding to it. Even with an hour of air time, it’s still has some heat.

 

Swirling just brings even more bold and dark caramelized banana character, baked apple chips coated in cinnamon, vanilla, caraway seed, and thyme, with lighter notes of brighter citrus and roasted grains that briefly make me think of pancakes. It takes a little time to pick out the roasted oak given how bananas foster-y and earthy it is. So far, this is a slightly richer and better Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof Tennessee Whiskey. It’s good.

old forester single barrel barrel strength bourbon taste & aftertaste

Unsurprisingly, Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength Bourbon has caramel and vanilla, but there’s also a lot of earthy notes (rosemary, thyme, and caraway seed), citrus, roasted grains, oak, and cinnamon. It’s not so banana-forward at first, with the rye coming out equally as strong and the flavors being more oaky than the scents are. There’s still a solid sweetness, but this is also a spicy bourbon with a lot of charred oak and lightly burnt cinnamon, and a big alcohol kick for added measure.

 

“Chewing” brings big caramel, banana, vanilla, baked apple, citrus peel, rosemary, thyme, charred oak, caraway seed, cinnamon, roasted grains, and faint hints of licorice and black tea. Caramelized banana has returned to the forefront, bringing with it earthy, vegetal, oaky, spicy, and grainy notes. The banana helps create a viscous and oily mouthfeel, but the alcohol is still pretty hot. I can tell this is fairly young because it still has this bready sweetness and youthful graininess as I let it sit in my mouth. As much as I like the bold and heavy flavors offered in this Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength Bourbon, it all comes in one big shot and doesn’t really change or get better over time, lacking much nuance and complexity.

 

The finish leaves oily and dry oak, rosemary, caramel, and grilled bananas that fades into a long-lasting dry sweetness. “Chewing” leaves a mix of oily oak, tannins, caramel, banana, and thyme. I can feel the oils coat my mouth and slowly turn into that lingering lightly sweet and vegetal sensation from eating a slightly unripe banana.

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Mid shelf+

Potomac Wine and Spirits’ Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength Bourbon gives me mixed feelings. While its good and I have no doubt that Potomac picked the best of the 3 options, I’m left not that impressed with Old Forester itself. This is a big, bold, and dark caramelized and lightly burnt bananas foster bomb wrapped up in oak, spice, and earthiness, enough to warrant a strong “Mid Shelf+”. The drawback is that it’s ridiculously straightforward, starting grand but quickly falling flat and leaving me expecting more. Given Old Forester’s huge stock of barrels, I wonder if Old Forester is holding back their great barrels for something else.

 

I say this because craft distilleries such as New Riff, Wilderness Trail, and Woodinville are offering just as good barrel picks of their homemade bourbon even though they are far less established. The New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon I reviewed is similar to this Old Forester, minus the banana. Even in the realm of single barrel bourbons from historic Kentucky distilleries, Four Roses, Russell’s Reserve, and Knob Creek barrel picks in my opinion are far better (I’m intentionally excluding Buffalo Trace anything). I understand the hype for Old Forester Barrel Strength picks (I’m just as excited about it as everyone else), I just wanted and expected more from Old Forester.

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