Old Forester 117 Series: Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Old Forester 117 Series: Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review

Since its launch in 2021, the Old Forester 117 Series of limited-edition bourbons has both tinkered with unusual aspects of the company’s method of bourbon maturation, and paid respects to various pillars of Old Forester/Brown-Forman history. Typically described as an experimental series, the 117 bottles are really more of a microcosm of how bourbon is made at Old Forester, highlighting individual elements of how the company’s single bourbon mash bill can present in radically different ways depending on seemingly small factors. Past entries, for instance, have highlighted how unusually high evaporation affects the whiskey, or additional secondary aging. At the same time, the series has also occasionally highlighted how bourbon might be altered by aging in specific warehouses. One wonders how many of these prompts there really are available, and if the 117 Series has a natural stopping point, but even if the latest 117 Series Bottled in Bond Bourbon isn’t exactly the most distinctive of the releases to date, it may well be the most delicious.

This release is exactly what it sounds like: A bottled-in-bond bourbon, albeit an extra-aged one that went into barrels in the spring of 2014, making it just over 9 years old on release. It’s presented at the expected 50% ABV (100 proof), from the one and only Old Forester bourbon mash bill, but is much older than the 4 years required by the bottled in bond designation. One does wonder if there’s some inherent confusion waiting to happen here for the consumer, considering the year-round status of Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond Bourbon in the company’s Whiskey Row Series, but I suppose it doesn’t matter much given that each 117 Series expression is limited edition and not likely to reoccur. At the very least, this one is definitely carrying a significantly bigger age statement than the 1897, but it makes one wonder if a few years into this experimental series, distinct and immediately distinguishable concepts for the 117 Series are just getting harder to generate.

Or perhaps this is just an exercise in showing off some really top-notch bourbon, because 117 Series Bottled in Bond is definitely that. Of all the expressions in the series I’ve tasted, in fact, this is probably my favorite to date, capturing many of the Old Forester flavor notes I enjoy most. So with that said, let’s get to tasting.

On the nose, this Old Forester 117 Series entry is richly enticing. Heavy caramel pairs nicely with waves of stem ginger and gingerbread or molasses cookie, with significant sweet spice. I’m getting hints of dark, dried fruits, fudge (chocolate-covered banana?) and baking spices. Over time, more and more cinnamon and vinous fruit notes are rising to the surface. The nose is slightly prickly on the ethanol side, but overall this profile is very much up my alley.

On the palate, Bottled in Bond is fruity and rich up front, with stewed plum and vanilla frosting meeting toffee, cinnamon brown sugar and charred oak with a very slight drying astringency. Mild-to-moderate in residual sweetness, I’m really liking the deep, jammy fruitiness (berry pie) and supporting barrel character. A lot of my favorite Old Forester batches trend toward the richly fruity and spicy, and this one qualifies on those fronts. It’s a very satisfying dram at 100 proof, with heat appropriate for the strength.

All in all, really good! Age-stated Old Forester expressions aren’t always the easiest to come by, so whiskey geeks who like this particular aspect of their house profile should sit up and take notice.

Distillery: Old Forester
City: Louisville, KY
Style: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 50% (100 proof)
Availability: Limited, 375 ml bottles, $60 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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