I’ve not been a huge fan of Old Forester products before, although I had some fun with the “Prohibition Style” release (whatever that means). However, a reviewer’s job is never done and there are always more whiskies to try. Onward!
Old Forester’s bourbons and now ryes are distilled at the Brown-Forman distillery, which owns the brand, in Shively, Kentucky. Woodford Reserve is also made there. The rye is distilled from a mash bill of 65% rye, 15% corn, and 20% malted barley. This markedly high quantity of barley is intended to provide a softer, mellower rye than others available on the market. I do like that the mash bill information is on the bottle label. The rye is bottled at 50% ABV (100 proof) and is priced similarly to their 100 proof bourbon. Note that despite the proof, this is not bottled-in-bond.
Nose: Spicy. Oodles of clove, star anise, cardamom, a little cinnamon, and no “young rye” grassiness to speak of. Some deep resiny oak notes, but overall dry. A long rest in the glass coaxes out some caramel/toffee sweetness.
Palate: Medium bodied. Caraway, yeast, and cinnamon appear before the powerful tongue burn sets in. Mouth-drying tannins, rye spice, oak sugar, and slightly bitter barrel char come next. Lastly, a hint of maraschino cherry. Still dry.
Finish: On the short side. Suddenly shy, with only a faint resemblance to the palate. Not too bitter, but also not too much of anything. Oddly bland.
With Water: Several drops of water amp up the sweetness on the aroma and palate. It might also mute some of the rye spices, but it fixes the finish, adding a little grassy rye grain and caramel to it. Try both without and with water.
Overall: This is far more successful than most of the Old Forester bourbons that I’ve tasted, and at bottom dollar to boot. I appreciate the cocktail-friendly 50% ABV and the quintessential rye characteristics. The finish is a disappointment, and the whole thing is very dry (not necessarily bad), which throws off the balance a bit. Still, that’s quibbling. It’s no Rittenhouse 100, but it’s definitely a reasonable pick as a workhorse rye – read: cocktail ingredient – and I would buy another bottle of this if the Rittenhouse were sold out.