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Two Old Foresters Head to Head, Signature and Single Barrel

Posted on by Eric Burke

I’ve described my last trip through Kentucky as a bit of a let down. Apparently a Sunday in February is as little fun there as it is here in Minnesota. There are good points though. The temperature is nicer for one. Another is that the liquor stores are open so there is a good chance of walking away with something that will make you happy you stopped. My stop at the liquor store involved me picking up the first bottle of Old Forester Single Barrel I ever saw. Old Forester has only offered a private barrel program for a little over a year now and at that point none had made their way up to the frozen north.

I’ve claimed to like Old Forester for a while now. I liked the Signature enough that I’ve recommended it to people instead of Woodford Reserve, though admittedly I only buy it when it’s below $20 and it hasn’t been that for a while. I enjoyed the 86 proof, but remember it as being a little weak. The Birthday Bourbon is good basically every year. So the chance to pick up a Single Barrel version and taste it was a no brainer for me.

Now you may wonder why I used the word “claimed” above. Well I thought that it would be a good idea to taste this along side the one I’ve recommended for so long. You know, see how it stacked up to one that I remembered liking so much. Could it possibly be worth twice the price I used to pay?

Old Forester Signature

Purchase info: $17.99, 750 mL (on sale) MGM Wine & Spirits, Prior Lake, MN

Details: 50% ABV

Nose: brown sugar, dusty oak, cocoa powder and cherry

Mouth: Thin and hot. More bitter than I would have expected from the nose. Flowery. A splash of water helps this, diminishing the heat and bringing out more honey, bitter orange and earthiness.

Finish: Hot, long and flowery. Fades to bitter. Water doesn’t help here. It’s now warm, but short with just a hint of floweriness.

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Thoughts: Hotter and more bitter than my memory led me to believe. Water is a mixed blessing allowing you to taste it through the burning, but killing the finish. I wonder now if I would prefer the 86 proof version as this one is just hot. Meh.

Old Forester Single Barrel

Purchase info: ~$40 with tax for a 750 mL at Westport Whiskey and Wine, Louisville, KY

Details: 45% ABV. Barrel# 2012. Lot ID: 08E30. Barreled: 5/30/08. Dumped: 10/21/13. Bottled 10/23/13. Barrel Proof: 134.2. Warehouse L

Nose: brown sugar, wet stone and a fruity waxiness along with hints of fresh sawn lumber

Mouth: Warm with classic bourbon vanilla/caramel at the front of the mouth. Fruity honeydew melon and spicy ginger appear as it moves back.

Finish: Warm and long with lingering spice and brown sugar sweetness

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Thoughts: Classic bourbon flavors dominate but a nice fruitiness enters partway through as well. My total bill was roughly $40 with tax so not only is it good, but it’s a nice value as well. I like this one.

Now you know where “claimed” came from. I was shocked by the bitterness I encountered on my first sip of Signature. I won’t be recommending it to people anymore. If they want Woodford, let them spend the money on it. The Single Barrel is good though. And I think it really was worth just less than twice the price of the Signature. It tastes more than twice as good to me.

UPDATE (11/13/14): I'm sipping on a different retailer's selection and I'm a bit shocked at how different it is. Less fruity floral flavors and more spice. Same heat. Still good, but different.