100 Proof, Brown-Forman Distillers Company
Old Forester, as talked about in a previous review, is one of the quintessential mid-20th century bourbons. The chief criteria of good bourbon from that era, at least as we perceive it nostalgically, were that they be strong, available and affordable. Old Forester is not a bad bourbon now, either, but it remains, in the best way, an economic bottle, a casual sipper and a gateway whiskey.
Old Forester “Signature,” Old Forester’s 100-proof expression, may be the quintessential 21st century bourbon. Not because it’s particularly new or even unique to this century (I’m pretty sure OF has been producing some version of 100-proof bourbon for decades, probably longer), but because it’s strong, available, affordable–and dynamic.
At 100 proof, the Signature hits notes the standard 86-proof can’t reach. There’s depth and intensity that’s rare and, frankly, amazing in a $20-ish bourbon. If it were a wine it we would call it “new world,” like an enthusiastic young zinfandel or malbec. It begins with almond and amaretto-like scents and a hints of spearmint. There’s good punch on the palate where it builds in weight and volume with lush, creamy notes of caramel, toast and citrus. It finishes with more toast, red fruit, cola, spice and bubble gum.
My bourbon cabinet always includes a wheated bourbon (it used to be the Weller Antique when I could get it; now it’s the Weller Special Reserve), an upper shelf specialty such as the Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, and an affordable, everyday rye bourbon. That slot was between the Signature and the Elijah Craig 12-Year before Heaven Hill downshifted the age, so now the Signature occupies that slot along most of the time with the resurgent Woodford Reserve making an occasional appearance. I’m pretty satisfied with that rotation.