Old Forester Single Barrel Rye
It's about that time of the year. I'm looking at a sign at a regional grocery store's spirits section of an upcoming whiskey raffle. Well, it's not so much of an raffle as it is a "get there early on the given date and be one of the first 200 in line to be given the option of purchasing a rarer bottle of brown spirit." Earlier this year, I was provided the opportunity to purchase a bottle of Old Forester Single Barrel Rye. I've enjoyed so many of the products from Old Forester, including a delicious Old Forester Single Barrel Bourbon (a Hy-Vee pick), that this one was hard to pass up.
New Release from an Old Brand
In the 1800s, bourbon was typically sold by the barrel, or in smaller quantities when it was drawn from a large barrel into a smaller pitcher. It was George Garvin Brown who pioneered the idea of proudly displaying the quality of his bourbon in a clear glass bottle in 1870. Later, Brown partnered with George Forman, and in 1890, founded Brown-Forman. Today, the brand is well known for a slate of whisky brands, including Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, and the Old Forester lineup.
In 2019, the company released Old Forester Rye. Since then, Old Forester has begun to offer a very limited number of single barrel releases. From the website, we're expecting dessert forward, creamy vanilla, full-bodied with a base of ripe orchard fruit, subtle cinnamon stick, and finishing with black pepper, green anise and crisp mint.
This rye whiskey is marketed in the tall, traditional "Whiskey Row"-styled bottle, similar to siblings Old Forester Statesman and the Whiskey Row Series. Old Forester's rye whiskey takes its profile from Normandy Rye Whiskey - a brand purchased by Brown-Forman in 1940. The mash bill remains true to this old brand, containing 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn. The higher malted barley content is designed to create softer, more floral notes, while also assisting the enzymes during fermentation. Corn, rounding out the bill, provides additional sweetness.
From the label, we see that this barrel was aged on the 7th floor of Warehouse K. The finished product was bottled at a stout 131.2 proof.
Eye: Dark amber with medium legs displayed in the Glencairn glass.
Nose: Similar to its lower-proof sibling, vanilla and caramel are front and center. There's a slight alcohol tone, as well as lighter notes of brown sugar and spearmint. A couple drops of water tame the alcohol and bring out the sweeter, browned butter and brown sugar notes.
Palate: Spice hits the tip of my tongue first, followed by a wave of vanilla and caramel. Following a couple drops of water, I get a creamier mouthfeel laden with a surprising amount of vanilla sweetness.
Finish: A lot of spice, toasted oak and a full Kentucky-bear-hug let you know this is a high proof whiskey. These are offset with some vanilla and brown sugar, but is one that leans into rye spice with an exceptionally long finish.
Overall: Seeing this was exceptionally rare from the Brown-Forman website, I was pleased to be granted a chance to purchase this whiskey. At 131+ proof, this does let you know it's high proof, but with, literally, a couple drops of water, the heat is tamed and a rich symphony of vanilla, mint, and floral notes are displayed.
Priced at $79, if you happen to find one of these unicorns in the wild, be sure to place one in your basket. With an exceptionally high proof, this would be very versatile in a cocktail or over ice, though was smooth and drinkable neat. This is one to savor and enjoy with good friends and family.