As usual when not able to travel to the distillery, Tom’s received three samples from the distillery to select from, bottled in 200ml bottles. Each were straight from the barrel samples, meaning they were not proofed down with water. The samples include information on warehouse location and proof. As for specific information on age, the materials are silent, but we know from the “straight bourbon” nomenclature that each sample is at least four years old. Presumably, these samples contain the standard bourbon mashbill for other Old Forester products (72% corn, 18% rye, 10% malted barley).
Though the samples were sent at cask strength, the final bottling will be proofed down to 90 proof. This added to the complexity of this section, because a drop of nearly 40 proof points can create a very different experience.
Without further background, we set out to sample.
Old Forester Single Barrel Sample 1: 129 Proof
Nose: Chocolate cake icing; red licorice; red apple skin; toffee; a little bit of oily pen ink.
Palate: Loads of orchard fruit; corn; ethanol; caramel flavors that start to turn towards a metallic sweetness.
Finish: Increasingly drying; apple skin; banana Runt candy; butterscotch chips.
Overall: This is fine bourbon. The proof does not overly influence the flavors, but the flavors themselves did not pop out of the glass.
Old Forester Single Barrel Sample 2: 126.6 Proof
Nose: Butterscotch chips lead the way, followed by toffee and orange citrus; some oak char lingers underneath, mixed with cherry cordial chocolate.
Palate: The orange explodes with a mix of chocolate and fruit. There is also a hint of cinnamon apple pie filling. Quite different from the typical Old Forester profile, but definitely not in a bad way.
Finish: Think of every kid’s orange drink you can – Tang, Sunny D, orange Capri Sun, Orange Crush. So. Much. Orange.
Overall: This one has the unique factor in spades. The off-profile flavors, particularly the orange, are very interesting.
Old Forester Single Barrel Sample 3: 136.2 Proof
Nose: Grape soda and plum right off the bat, with some fruit leather and char. There is also some dark chocolate and almond. Some metallic scents creep in with time, along with a sweet cinnamon pie crust.
Palate: Toffee and chocolate covered caramel. This is a candy bar lover’s dream. There is also cherry in the background with a tinge of metallic flavors.
Finish: Tons of chocolate. There is also butterscotch and banana cream pie. A wonderful finish.
Overall: This is delicious. Not terribly complex, but the flavors are showcased so well, and are so good, that it doesn’t matter.
This was tough. Sample 2 is intriguing with its unique characteristics. But we all probably enjoyed drinking Sample 3 the most. Remember – these are all diluted to 90 proof for bottling. So, some of the flavors will not come across as strongly as they do at cask strength. In a close decision, we ultimately chose Sample 3.
Look for our notes on the final bottling in the near future. In the meantime, pick up a bottle at Tom’s Wine and Spirits today!
Stephen is a regular writer at FlightClubICT.com