Old Forester 1910 Old Fine Whisky is a woody and spicy double-barreled bourbon. This blast from the past gets a full-flavored revival in the latest edition of this tasty whiskey.
Classification: straight bourbon
Distillery: Old Forester
Cask: new charred American oak; re-casked in very heavily charred new American oak
Still Type: column
Released: 2018; ongoing
Aged: not stated
Awards: 93 points, Ultimate Spirits Challenge
- The 1910 stands out from all other Old Forester expressions because it’s double-barreled, giving it a more intense, woodier aroma and flavor than the rest of the range.
- By bringing another era of Old Forester history back to life, it adds another dimension to the storied bourbon and fills in another blank in its evolution.
- Fans of more mellow bourbons may find the heavy oak and char notes of 1910 off-putting or overly challenging.
Color: Quite dark, a deep coppery amber, likely due to the fact that it’s aged in two separate barrels, one of them heavily charred
Nose: Lots of layers. The dominant aroma is dry oak, but after a few more sniffs, creamy vanilla, baking spices, and notes of freshly baked, slightly burnt bread are apparent.
Palate: Quite a lot of oak and char, with black pepper spice throughout. Each successive sip teases out more sweetness under the char: first honey, then dark berries and caramel, and finally a touch of overripe banana, but the wood is the star of this show.
Finish: Very dry, quite spicy, and even a touch smoky, with the tingle on the tongue lasting well after the swallow. It’s not in “feel like you’re licking a barrel stave” territory, but start to finish, it’s definitely an oakier bourbon than most.
This is the fourth and, so we’re told, final edition in Old Forester’s Whiskey Row series, which documents the different styles of bourbon Old Forester has made in its 150-plus year history. The 1910 is a little-known variant, arising from a fire that year which halted the bottling line. With a batch of whiskey ready to go but no bottles in which to put it, it was decided, according to Old Forester, to store it in new charred oak barrels, making it the first double-barreled whiskey on record, and probably the last until distilleries started experimenting with it decades later. It was so different from standard Old Forester that a special label and name were created for it: “Old Fine Whisky [sic].”
As you might expect from the double blast of charred virgin oak to which the bourbon has been exposed, the wood and char are the stars of the show here. But it’s far from one-dimensional, with a rich, complex sweetness leavening the spice. It’s notable that one of the preeminent double-barreled bourbons that uses new oak for both is Woodford Reserve’s Double Oaked. Both Old Forester and Woodford are under the Brown-Forman umbrella, and Old Forester is overseen by Woodford’s master distiller, Chris Morris. But the two whiskeys aren’t identical; 1910 is re-casked in a much more heavily charred barrel, which gives it a more pronounced dry spiciness.
The Whiskey Row series is intended for sipping, and this is no exception. But 1910 makes a brilliant Manhattan; its dry oaky notes pair beautifully with a sweet vermouth or amaro. For sippers who like their bourbon unadorned by mixers, a little water brings out notes of chocolate and candied orange peel while softening the char. It’s not the best Whiskey Row bourbon—that honor goes to the sublime 1920 expression—but this is a bourbon worthy of its place in the Whiskey Row pantheon.
Old Forester 1910 goes into its second, heavily-charred barrel at 100 proof; the brand says it was done the same way in 1910. The low entry proof (whiskey can be barreled at up to 125 proof) means the liquid can absorb more of the wood’s sugars, creating a sweeter, richer final product.
The bottom line: Old Forester 1910 may be a little intense for whiskey drinkers used to sweeter, mellower bourbons. But it’s rewarding as well: Get past the oak and spice, and you’ll find layers of flavor to savor and enjoy. It also makes a great cocktail.