Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon Review


By Father John Rayls

Rating: B+

Old Forester 1920 Style Bourbon

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon
(Credit: Brown-Forman)

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon Whisky is a celebration of the long and storied history of the brand and the Brown-Forman Distillery. More specifically, it’s a celebration of the distillery’s work during Prohibition.

You read that correctly. Brown-Forman continued their distillation for all 13 years of Prohibition. They were one of six organizations granted permits (ten were allotted) to continue distilling spirits for medicinal purposes during Prohibition, under the (in)famous 1920 Volstead Act. Current Brown-Forman Master Distiller Chris Morris estimated that a bourbon made from a mash of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley, and bottled it at 115 proof to approximate what cask strength would have been for the medicinal whiskey of the day (which was often barreled at an entry proof of 100 and bottled at same).

Old Forester 1920 is a no age statement bourbon and is the third release in the Whiskey Row Series, joining 1870 Original Batch and 1897 Bottled in Bond.

The Bourbon
The bottle is very old-school with its label, which gives you a very historic-looking image and -feeling sitting on your shelf. The bourbon itself is a beautiful brown color with copper highlights. It looks dark and inviting. The legs are thin and yet reluctant. They are there, but it requires patience.

The nose is a nice balance of slight aggressiveness with little or no alcohol burn, offering a very pleasant experience. The first aroma is of very light new leather with some solid oakiness. There is a solid nose of caramel and a light undercurrent of dried fruit.

This is an easy drinking whiskey in spite of the stout 115 proof. It doesn’t punch you in the face, but provide a very balanced profile. There is an initial light to medium mouthfeel. Almost all of the activity takes place at mid-mouth. It is loaded with caramel, leather and oak with much of the action activating the roof of the mouth. There is some interesting spice that eventually kicks in. It moves from sweetness to spiciness fairly quickly. The spice is more of a peppery feel rather than cinnamon.

Don’t take this one for a complex whiskey or one requiring water. I sampled it neat and I believe most bourbon drinkers could do the same. It’s not an explosion of various flavors, but a very solid bourbon that has simple, interesting virtues.

The Price
This item is something I would bring out for friends that really enjoy bourbon or for home whiskey tastings due to the price tag.  It retails for $59.95 at various local retail stores. At that price, I just can’t enjoy it on a regular basis, but it’s not a bad buy for special occasions.

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