One of 2019’s most notable “available” whiskey releases to date has yet to hit our market, but a trip out of state landed us a bottle of Old Forester Rye for this much anticipated review.
Why the anticipation? Well, Fred Minnick recently pegged Old Forester Rye as “the best value in American whiskey right now” and “a contender for the best Everyday Sipper.” Certainly, Minnick’s* more recent selections have come under some scrutiny – for me, I am not here to criticize those picks, but I will admit that my palate and Minnick’s often don’t line up. Nonetheless, a hyped release is one we want to try – especially when it comes in under $25 per bottle!
[*Note: For those unfamiliar, Fred Minnick is a notable whiskey author, reviewer and judge. One of his more notable pronouncements each year comes in conjunction with the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. For the past two year, Heaven Hill’s Henry McKenna Bottle-in-Bond bourbon has won “Best Bourbon” (2018) and “Best Whiskey” (2019). While Minnick does not alone decide these winners, his articles tend to create a sense of a “Fred Minnick award.” To these awards, the bourbon world tends to react – some praise his choices (as evidenced by clear shelves and raising secondary values), while others view him much less favorably.]
This Rye release is the first Rye released under the Old Forester name in nearly 150 years. It is produced from a mash bill of 65% rye, 20% malted barley and 15% corn. According to Brown-Forman, the higher than ordinary malted barley content aids in fermentation using Old Forester’s proprietary yeast strain, to create “unique floral character, producing a remarkably balanced Rye.”
In typical Flight Club style, I decided not to review this whiskey in isolation. Instead, I grabbed the often-viewed “king of the budget Rye’s,” Heaven Hill’s Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond Rye, along with a Jim Beam’s Old Overholt’s Bottled-in-Bond Rye that hit our market in early 2018. Since we previously reviewed those bottles, we will simply utilize those notes and compare and contrast them to the Old Forester Rye below.
Old Forester Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (100 Proof) (NAS)
Nose: Floral and green herbal; baking spice; brown sugar; light cocoa/chocolate; lemon/citrus; white pepper; banana nut muffins. Soft but solid flavors (3.5/5)
Palate: Floral and slightly herbal; baked apple; baking spice and pepper; vanilla; ginger; light cocoa; fresh baked spiced banana bread; background nuttiness. Surprisingly thin. (3/5)
Finish: Again floral; a return of the brown sugar and citrus; light pepper and baking spice; banana bread; drying cocoa. (3/5)
Overall: At first blush (the nose) this feels like it might overthrow Rittenhouse. But the palate and finish just don’t quite reach that same level. Richer/fuller bodied and a longer creamier finish beat out thinner, shorter and more bitter everyday (for me). It’s not as dramatic of a jump as the Rittenhouse versus the Old Overholt (that is night and day) but the Rittenhouse still prevails. With that said, what Rittenhouse offers in terms of richness, Old Forester offers an equally superior level of complexity. From and overall experience, this may be a wash. (3/5)
Value: At $25, this is reasonable to sip on, yet won’t break the bank in a cocktail. (4/5)
“At $25, this is reasonable to sip on, yet won’t break the bank in a cocktail.”
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.