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The Old Forester Showdown review

The Old Forester Showdown review

Company: Brown Forman
Vol: Old Forester 43% / Old Forester 1870 45%
Age: NAS
Classification: Kentucky, straight, bourbon whiskey
Breakdown: 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% malted barley
Price: Old Forester £30 / Old Forester 1870 £50

Showdown

So, why have we decided to change our usual format and review side by side two bourbons from the same distillery? Pure luck and a dose of stupidity are the honest answers folks.

A number of our bourbon tastings and subsequent review tasting notes have been gathered over the telephone or facetime calls. This has in the past proved to be a successful way of quickly reviewing bourbons in our busy lives, and then taking it in turns writing up each review. For the first time though, after deliberating and eloquently discussing the intricacies of our precise and accurate tasting notes (otherwise known as inane ramblings of madmen), we stumbled across the fact that we were in fact reviewing different bourbons!

Mr Pie was nostrils deep into the regular Old Forester 86 proof bourbon, and Mav was lovingly lip smacking the Old Forester 1870 Original Batch. Now we could have of course swept this under the carpet and started again, but as our tasting notes were so very similar we thought it was an interesting thing to look at and see if there is actually much difference between these two bourbons. Thus you are now reading our first (and most likely last) showdown review, as we have decided to call it for marketing reasons, so we hope you enjoy it...

History

We’ve touched previously on the history of the Old Forester brand with our Old Forester Statesman review - which you can read here. All the giants of bourbon make their claims on record breaking, history making, facts and figures and Old Forester is no exception. Many claims are dubious eye brow raising, chin scratching, truth stretching yarns, but these facts have officially passed the Bourbon Gents meticulous investigative process, and received the highly sought after BG stamp of approval (Google may or may not have been used in this research). From the longest running bourbon brand on the market today, to being the first ever bourbon to be sold in sealed glass bottles, and remarkably it is also the only bourbon continually distilled and marketed by the founding family before, during and after Prohibition. These are pretty awesome achievements for the brand and a legacy to be proud of.

The whiskey brand, initially known as Old Forrester (later changed to Forester), was also very much ahead of its time by choosing to purchase whiskeys from other distillery’s to use for blending, and to achieve consistency in their whiskey output. You will also note from the photographs that this is one of the few types of bourbon out there where the whisky is spelt without the ‘e’.

The regular Old Forester is now a commonplace whisky which can found in many UK supermarkets and is never really missing from the Gents cabinets. It is promoted as a genuine bourbon experience, with rich, full flavour and a smooth character that is ideal for sipping neat, on the rocks, with a splash of water, or in a classic cocktail.

This regular bourbon contrasts significantly when compared with the 1870 Original Batch which is not particularly easy to get your hands on in the land of knights and dragons. The origins of the 1870 are a nod towards George Garvin Brown’s original batching process of that year. Barrels are selected from 3 different warehouses each barrel from a different day of production, with a different entry proof and a different age profile. The 1870 Original Batch is the first expression of the Old Forester Whiskey Row Series.

The Review:

For these reviews we drank them neat in a Glencairn glass.

Regular Old Forester

Nose

What we got – Delicate notes of oak from the offset alongside heaps of fruit with apple being the predominate one. There is a little cinnamon at the back end. Its high rye content is disguised with sweet floral notes.

What they say we should get – Top notes of orange blossom and cedar. Soon develops the classic rye bread warmth and a lingering waft of buttered pancakes

Old Forester 1870

Nose

What we got – A minty and menthol nose which we can identify with high rye bourbons. Fruity, floral perfume. For Mav the perfume could be a little too pronounced and is very close to the edge of liking the nose or not

What they say we should get - Clove notes spice up a medley of citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, blood orange), all softened with a delicate, sweet, floral honeysuckle character

Regular Old Forester

Palate

What we got – A little firecracker of oak on the first taste with again lots of fruit. Super sweet caramel sugars. Not at all what we would be expecting from a mash containing 18% rye.

What they say we should get - Starts quite sweet with caramel and maple syrup, though swiftly develops intense oak-y elements and hints of pine resin. Sweetness returns slightly on the mid-palate

Old Forester 1870

Palate

What we got – Tastes exactly how it noses. Tons of fruit and really enjoyable oaky notes alongside smaller bursts of cinnamon spice

What they say we should get – Baking spices (clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg) flow into a citrus-fruit mix and shortbread sweetness

Regular Old Forester

Finish

What we got – So it’s a 1, 2, 3 for the oak, from the nose to the palate and through to the finish. Disappointingly short, thin and weak finish though which is a shame

What they say we should get - Juicy orange and spicy oak continue on the finish

Old Forester 1870

What we got – Citrus soft fruits with linger long whilst waiting for the next sip

What they say we should get – Soft, with lingering fruit and spice character

Summary

So now for our first side by side review summary. How do these Old Forester bourbons compare? Is the 1870 Original Batch worth the extra mula?

First of all, we guess it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that this whiskey (err, sorry whisky), is the same stuff. Batching and blending bourbon whisky’s from different warehouses is not unique, but whether the whisky barrels used for the 1870 are older than the regular is open to debate. The story of the 1870 whisky and how it is blended shows an appreciative and respectful endearment towards the company forefathers and has opened up perfectly an avenue of recreating whiskies from different eras.

Taste wise they are, as you can imagine, very similar but there are certainly subtle differences with the citrus fruits and a slightly more refined finish in the 1870 Original Batch. If you are a bourbon fan that uses mixes and enjoys cocktails then the regular offering is the perfect choice. In our opinion though, £30 is a little on the steep side and it would sit better in the £20 - £25 range.

For those of you who prefer your bourbon neat or with an ice cube or two, then the 1870 Original Batch is without doubt a better choice. The extra 4% proof just gives it that extra kick and the proof range of 90 – 100 definitely hits the spot for the Gents.

Score

Regular Old Forester

6 out of 10 – Mav

6 out of 10 – Mr. Pie

Old Forester 1870

7 out of 10 – Mav

7 out of 10 – Mr. Pie

 

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