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  • Writer's picturePeter Miles

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition. Is it for you?

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style.

Old Forester was founded back in 1870 by George Brown, who initially blended bourbons from various distillers and sold this whisky exclusively in sealed bottles. In 1902 he purchased the Mattingly Distillery in Marion County, Kentucky, and the new Brown Forman company was established on Whisky Row in Louisville. The company grew through acquisitions, most notably Jack Daniels in 1956 and is now one of the largest whiskey companies in the world.

The 1920 Prohibition Style product was first released in 2016 and we are now into a second ‘labeling’, which may be a little different to the original stuff. It has certainly become the most notable (controversial?) of the ‘Whisky Row’ series.

Mash bill: Pretty standard mix at 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% barley.

Batched: (Unknown barrel batch size)

ABV = 57.5%. (This 115 proof is supposedly the typical post maturation and bottled strength of the ‘medicinal’ bourbon back in the prohibition era)

Matured: NAS, but likely 4-5 years in American oak barrels. Char level not stated, but judging by color and taste, we are talking a heavy level 4.

Cost: $60 / 750ml bottle

Color: Tawny 1.4 (Whisky Magazine scale).

Swirl: Distinct rim with medium ‘legs’ flowing quickly down the glass.

Nose: Medium potency with the usual caramel influence, burnt brown sugar, baked confectionary elements, polished wood, roasted nuts and more than a hint of stringent, prickly, phenols and a major ethanol hit.

Taste: Medium to high viscosity. On the dry side, heavy dry oak layered over the caramel, and some earthy spices adding deep complexity. Hints of wood ash and heavily roasted grain emerge. Heat develops slowly and smoothly at first then comes on strong, consistent with the high ABV. A touch of water tamps it down, revealing hints of mint and dark bitter chocolate.

Finish: A dry finish, with smoke and dark spices hanging around a while.

Verdict: There are some high-quality whiskies that are designed to comfort you and some that are there to challenge you. (Think Balvenie v Laphroaig). This heavy hitter is a real challenge and will not please everybody. You cannot call it pleasant, it’s too ‘medicinal’ for that. But it is intriguing, and you may indeed find yourself coming back for more. Dilute it a little, and sip it next to a roaring wood fire, with the snow drifts building up outside. You know, the whole man vs nature thing.

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