Old Forester Rye

By Eric Schmalz - May 15, 2019

The introduction of a new product to a brand, often called a “line extension”, can be a scary thing. Brands bring in as many consumers as they can to sample before a launch, and the Master Distiller can go through as many iterations as needed while using as many barrels as they see fit to get the right batch. However, at the end of the day, a company simply needs to send out their new juice and wait for the audience reaction.

Today, we’re looking at Old Forester and the introduction of their new rye whiskey. Since its inception in 1870, Old Forester, which is currently owned and operated by Brown-Forman, has produced distillate with only one mashbill, 72% Corn, 18% Rye and 10% Malted Barley. Out of this they have created numerous products, working barrels and sculpting flavors to bring great things to the public.

So when they decided to change things up after 150 years and introduce a second mashbill, it sent a wave through the whiskey universe and opened up a huge door for new expressions.

The new mashbill Old Forester chose is 65% Rye, 20% Malted Barley, and 15% Corn. While a natural pattern for an American distiller typically starts with corn as the primary grain and moving to either rye or wheat, Old Forester chose to buck an almost universal trend by having the secondary grain be malted barlely instead of corn, much to the benefit of the end product.

Personally, I hopped on board this train before it even left the station, waiting patiently for it to come to our shelves, and I was not disappointed. The general consensus surrounding the release was overwhelmingly positive, and even earned the title of "America’s Best Value Whiskey" by Fred Minnick in a recent Forbes article. But high praise and good press can only carry something so far, so what's on the horizon in terms of taste?

Old Forester Rye (image via Ray's Wine and Spirits)

This whiskey is non-age stated and bottled at 100 Proof.

Initially the nose blossoms with spices, cinnamon especially, followed by cloves and nutmeg, possibly even a slight hint of pepper. Beyond that is a quite prominent bubble gum artificial sweetness which gives way to a strong brown sugar waft. Finally, fruits come out with apple and raspberry jams.

On the palate, the flavors are so symmetrical with the nose it's almost shocking. The same cycle repeated with spice, sweet and fruit. However, richer and fuller flavors come forward like blackberries, pecans, deep caramel and oak, all on top of a landscape of buttery shortbread.

The finish comes in smooth with brown sugar, a hint of tart cherry and blackberry, mellowing into honeyed graham crackers.

For a company as big as Old Forester is, this was a big leap, and I think it has made a superb splash in the whiskey market. It's an  incredible value for what it is, and I can see why it's been getting as much praise as it has. I would enjoy this neat any day of the week, and if cocktails are your thing, I would recommend you give it a try as well.

Overall: 9/10 Incredible


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