Old Forester 86-Proof Bourbon Review (In-Depth 2023 Guide)

Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by Lydia Martin

When it comes to history and origin, Old Forester has something to boast, which can be its edge over the other brands. 

But what about the character? Flavor profile? Does Old Forester deliver what most drinkers prefer? 

If you’re curious too, then stay with us as we detail our in-depth Old Forester 86-Proof bourbon review.  

Overview of Old Forester 86 Proof Bourbon

Bottle of Old Forester 86-Proof Bourbon

The Old Forester is the first bourbon bottled in the US by George Garvin Brown, a former pharmaceutical salesman, in the 1870s.

Also, it’s the longest continuously distilled spirit in the world.

Made with a combination of sweet and savory flavors, it leaves a decent taste, along with the deep flavors of oak and wood. 

Using the mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley, it’s aged in a new charred oak barrel, then bottled at 86-proof.  

Quick Facts 

DistilleryOld Forester-Brown Forman Distillery
Classification & RegionBourbon/Kentucky
Alcohol Proof86
Mash Bill72% corn, 18% rye, 10% malted barley
Age StatementNAS
ColorClear amber with copper shades
CigarsCamacho Corojo, Oliva Serie V, Liga Privada No. 9
Rating3-Star Rating (Mid-Shelf)
Average PriceAround $18 (MSRP)

What’s Old Forester 86 Proof Bourbon? 

Close up Shot of Old Forester 86-Proof Bourbon Bottle Label

Old Forester is the only bourbon (at the time) to be sold exclusively in a sealed bottle to avoid fiddling with the content as it was initially labeled as a medicinal product. 

Fun fact, Old Forester bourbon was one of the few spirits that were allowed to be produced during the Prohibition era [1].

This is a blend of aged whiskeys that has a total alcohol content of 43%. It’s comparable to most of the other brands in the market. 

Actually, this is our go-to bourbon if we’re looking for good quality at an affordable price. Other note-worthy expressions from the brand include:

What Does Old Forester Bourbon 86-Proof Taste Like?


This bourbon has aromas of musty oak, earthy caraway seed, dark caramel, candied ginger, and a bit of funky vanilla.

Bananas foster the smell of this spirit along with the rich and deep oak scents on the nose. 


It starts with the sweetness of red apple, cherry, pumpernickel, rye spice, cinnamon, and toasted oak.

It also has a bit of clove and some youthful corn, cherry, and banana. 

After the fruit and sweet spice, the vanilla, oak, and earth flavors start to show up. Slowly, it starts to succumb to other flavors, covering the taste buds. 

But what we like here is it has a perfect balance. Although the oak notes are evident, it tastes great with the sweet flavor, making up the tasting notes of this bourbon.  


Honestly, we expect a lot from this bottle. It starts off great on the nose and mouth.

However, it lacks the finish. We find the finish short, and it leaves the kick of alcohol. 

Opposite to what it initially delivers, this Old Forester bourbon has a spicy finish. 

Though there is the sweetness of brown sugar, cherries, and caramel, there’s unexplained spiciness comparable to vodka [2].  

Our Thoughts

First Impression

The looks on the glass already feel satisfying and delicious. On the first sip, this Old Forester bourbon seems sweet from the nose to the finish. 

The flavor cherry and banana flavor gives an exciting feel to the sip. The smell is good, but it has a hint of a medicinal note, but no big deal, as it’s genuinely soothing to the nose and palate.  

Second Chance

As we proceed, the deep and quite complex character appears. It’s bottled at 43% ABV, but the flavors are somewhat dark compared to other bourbons of this range. 

This isn’t the first spirit we’ve tried from the brand, but this whiskey is quite unique.

It’s a little off when sipped neat on the glass, but when we tried it in cocktails, it worked well.  

Why We Like It

Old Forester 86-Proof Bourbon Bottle and a Glass
  • This Old Forester 86-Proof bourbon whiskey delivers a decent taste and aroma right off the glass. The cherries and banana hints on the palate are interesting. 
  • The 86-proof can be suitable for beginners. 


  • The spicy note is a bit overwhelming and unexpected. 
  • If you’ve tried other Old Forester bourbon expressions, you’ll find this off the track (though it’s unique). 

Old Forester 86 Proof Bourbon Bottle’s New Look

The new bottle has a front sticker with a white background and gold border. There’s also a blue border around the inner portion of the gold frame. 

“As Old Forester continues to be recognised for its authenticity and heritage, we have designed a new packaging that better reflects these values to consumers.”

– Georgia Donmall, UK Brand Manager

This design is consistent with the old model, quite good. Although the bottle design isn’t a big deal (for us), we find the appearance ordinary–not remarkable.  

Old Forester 86 Proof Bourbon Rating

Old Forester 86-Proof Bourbon Bottle on Wooden Table with Mountain Background

With the overall character and quality of the Old Forester bourbon, we give it a 3-star rating.

We consider it one of the mid-shelf spirits that have potential but lack the wow factor. 

But on the good side, it delivers well in cocktails or any drink that calls for a whiskey with a dark taste or profile.  

Would We Buy It Again? 

Yes, we would buy Old Forester bourbon 86-proof again, but only as an alternative.

Its low price tag and wide availability make it a good replacement for premium bourbon expressions like:

  • Woodford Reserve Bourbon– Double Oaked 
  • Michter’s US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 
  • Old Forester Bourbon 100-Proof 
  • Kings County Distillery Straight Bourbon Whiskey 


What bourbon is closest to Old Forester 86-proof bourbon?

The bourbon closest to the Old Forester bourbon 86-proof is either Woodford Reserve or Buffalo Trace bourbon. But within the same company, it’s comparable to the Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style. 

Can you buy the Old Forester 86-proof bourbon at the Old Forester Distillery?

You can possibly buy the Old Forester bourbon 86-proof at the Old Forester Distillery, but not guaranteed. The good thing about this expression, it’s widely available, so you can buy it in liquor stores. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, Old Forester 86-Proof Bourbon is a good expression that’s accessible and budget-friendly. Although it’s a little deep, it’s not unpleasant if you don’t mind the medicinal hints. 

It’s not a top-shelf drink or something you should seek after. Although it’s well-bodied, it falls short of what most people would expect from this type of whiskey. 

If you like banana hints, this could be a great alternative to a mixed drink or a classic cocktail. If you’re planning on trying this or buying a bottle, at least you know what you’ll get.     



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.

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