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Old Forester 86-Proof Bourbon Review (In-Depth 2024 Guide)

Old Forester 86-Proof Bourbon Review

Last Updated on March 9, 2024 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 Review

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 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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

If you’re seeking a bourbon comparable to Old Forester 86-proof, consider exploring other expressions from the Old Forester lineup, such as Old Forester Signature 100 Proof or Old Forester 1870 Original Batch.

These alternatives share the same high-quality craftsmanship and distinct flavor profile that characterizes Old Forester, offering a nuanced experience for bourbon enthusiasts.

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

While Old Forester Distillery is an iconic destination for bourbon enthusiasts, the availability of specific expressions, like Old Forester 86-proof, may vary.

It’s recommended to check with the distillery directly or visit their official website for the most up-to-date information on product availability and offerings.

Additionally, local liquor stores and online retailers may carry Old Forester 86-proof, providing alternative avenues for procurement.

What does 86 proof bourbon mean?

The term “86 proof” refers to the alcohol content of a bourbon, specifically indicating its strength. In the United States, proof is calculated as twice the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV).

Therefore, an 86-proof bourbon contains 43% ABV. This designation influences the spirit’s overall flavor profile, mouthfeel, and intensity, contributing to the unique characteristics that define bourbon as a distinct category of whiskey.

What is the mash bill for Old Forester 86 proof?

Old Forester 86-proof bourbon follows a proprietary mash bill, a closely guarded recipe that contributes to its distinctive flavor profile. Unfortunately, the exact details of the mash bill for Old Forester 86-proof are not publicly disclosed by the distillery.

However, Old Forester is known for its high-quality ingredients and a balanced blend of corn, rye, and malted barley, resulting in a well-crafted bourbon that has stood the test of time.

For those interested in the specific mash bill details, reaching out to Old Forester Distillery or checking official publications may provide more insight into the unique composition of this particular expression.

What is the highest proof of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon?

As of my last knowledge update in January 2022, the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon releases annually with varying proofs, making it challenging to pinpoint a specific highest proof without the latest release information.

Each year’s edition is unique, featuring a different age, proof, and flavor profile, so enthusiasts should check the most recent release details from Old Forester for accurate information on the highest proof in the Birthday Bourbon series.

What is the alcohol content of Old Forester?

Old Forester produces a range of bourbons, each with its own specific alcohol content. For their standard releases, including Old Forester 86-proof, the alcohol content is 43% by volume, which translates to 86 proof.

However, Old Forester offers various expressions with different proofs, such as Old Forester 100 Proof and the Birthday Bourbon series, each showcasing distinct characteristics shaped by their unique alcohol content.

How strong is 86 proof?

In the context of bourbon, an 86-proof spirit has an alcohol content of 43% by volume. This level of strength contributes to the bourbon’s overall flavor profile, mouthfeel, and intensity.

While 86 proof strikes a balance that many bourbon enthusiasts appreciate, it is considered moderate in the spectrum of bourbon proofs.

The alcohol content influences the sensory experience, delivering a harmonious blend of the spirit’s essential flavors without overpowering nuances, making it approachable for a wide range of palates.

Is higher proof bourbon better?

The preference for bourbon proof is subjective and depends on individual taste preferences. Some whiskey connoisseurs appreciate higher proof bourbons, such as those at 100 proof or more, for their bold and robust flavors, intensified aromas, and longer finishes.

Higher proof bourbons can also withstand dilution in cocktails without losing their character. However, others may prefer lower proof options, like Old Forester 86-proof, for a smoother and milder sipping experience.

Ultimately, whether higher proof bourbon is “better” depends on personal taste, desired intensity, and the intended use, be it sipping neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails. Exploring a variety of proofs allows enthusiasts to discover their preferred balance between alcohol strength and flavor complexity in the world of bourbon.

What does Old Forester bourbon taste like?

Old Forester bourbon is renowned for its rich and robust flavor profile, characterized by a harmonious blend of sweet, spicy, and oaky notes. Expect a prominent caramel sweetness, complemented by hints of vanilla, toffee, and a subtle fruitiness.

The palate often features a balanced combination of spicy rye and a warming, well-rounded finish, making Old Forester a classic and approachable bourbon choice for enthusiasts seeking depth and complexity.

What is the difference between whiskey and bourbon?

While all bourbons are whiskey, not all whiskies are bourbon.

The distinction lies in specific production criteria. Bourbon, a type of whiskey, must be made in the United States, primarily from at least 51% corn, distilled to no more than 160 proof, entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof, and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof.

Additionally, bourbon must not contain any additives, except for water to adjust proof. This precise set of regulations ensures that bourbon possesses a distinct flavor profile and production process separate from other types of whiskey.

Does Old Forester own Jack Daniel’s?

No, Old Forester and Jack Daniel’s are distinct and separate entities. Old Forester is produced by Brown-Forman Corporation, an American-owned spirits company headquartered in Kentucky.

In contrast, Jack Daniel’s is produced by the Jack Daniel Distillery, a subsidiary of Brown-Forman as well.

Both Old Forester and Jack Daniel’s contribute to Brown-Forman’s diverse portfolio, but they are individual brands with their own unique histories, production methods, and flavor profiles.

Does bourbon whiskey get better with age?

The aging process certainly imparts desirable qualities to bourbon, but whether it gets “better” with age is subjective. Bourbon improves in complexity, richness, and character during maturation in barrels. However, there’s a point of diminishing returns, and excessively long aging can lead to over-oaked flavors.

Master distillers carefully monitor the aging process, selecting the optimal time for bottling to achieve a well-balanced and flavorful bourbon.

Ultimately, the preference for the age of bourbon depends on individual taste, with some enthusiasts enjoying the boldness of younger expressions, while others savor the nuanced flavors of well-aged, mature bourbons.

What makes Old Forester Birthday Bourbon special?

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon holds a special place among bourbon enthusiasts due to its limited annual release and unique characteristics.

Crafted to commemorate the birthday of George Garvin Brown, the founder of Brown-Forman Corporation, each batch showcases a distinct flavor profile influenced by the specific aging conditions and barrels selected.

This limited edition bourbon is highly sought after for its rarity, complexity, and the anticipation surrounding each new release, making it a prized collector’s item and a celebratory dram for bourbon connoisseurs.

Why is it called Old Forester?

Old Forester is named after its founder, George Garvin Brown, who introduced the brand in 1870. George Garvin Brown was a visionary in the whiskey industry, and Old Forester was the first bourbon to be sold exclusively in sealed glass bottles to ensure quality and authenticity.

The name “Old Forester” reflects the Brown family’s commitment to consistency and excellence, as well as the pioneering spirit that characterized the early days of American whiskey production.

What is an interesting fact about Old Forester?

An intriguing aspect of Old Forester’s history is its resilience during Prohibition.

While many distilleries were forced to shut down during this period, Old Forester remained one of the few allowed to continue operating on a medicinal whiskey license.

This unique permission enabled the brand to navigate the challenging times and maintain its legacy, ensuring that Old Forester survived the Prohibition era and emerged with its reputation intact when the industry revived.

Who owns Old Forester Bourbon?

Old Forester Bourbon is owned by Brown-Forman Corporation, a well-established American spirits company.

Founded in 1870 by George Garvin Brown, Brown-Forman has played a significant role in the whiskey industry, with a diverse portfolio that includes iconic brands such as Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, and, of course, Old Forester.

As a family-controlled company, Brown-Forman has maintained a commitment to craftsmanship, quality, and innovation throughout its long and storied history, ensuring the continued success and recognition of Old Forester Bourbon in the world of American whiskey.

What is the difference between 86 proof and 90 proof?

The difference between 86 proof and 90 proof lies in their alcohol content. In the United States, proof is calculated as twice the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV). Therefore, 86 proof bourbon has an ABV of 43%, while 90 proof bourbon has a slightly higher ABV of 45%.

This distinction impacts the overall strength and intensity of the bourbon. While both proofs fall within the standard range for bourbon, the 90 proof variant may offer a slightly bolder flavor profile, with a touch more warmth and depth compared to its 86 proof counterpart.

Ultimately, the choice between 86 proof and 90 proof bourbon depends on individual taste preferences and the desired level of alcohol intensity in the drinking experience.

Final Verdict: Old Forester 86 Proof Bourbon Review

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.     


  1. Prohibition United States history [1920–1933]
  2. Vodka Distilled Liquor
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