Since its launch in 2021, Old Forester’s 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, and the latest expression, Warehouse H, is another one of these bottles.
The company calls Warehouse H “symbolic of Old Forester’s growth after WWII,” as construction on the brick warehouse began in 1946. It was perhaps the first of the company’s warehouses designed for heat cycling, which is artificial heating of the structure throughout the winter months, in order to continue maturation during a period when it typically slows down. Many Brown-Forman whiskey products have subsequently made heat cycling a major part of their production process and flavor profile in the decades that followed. Warehouse H, however, is known for having a peculiar little micro-climate all its own, with floors not retaining or dissipating heat quite like other rickhouses typically do. Regardless, the warehouse has become popular with consumers for single barrel picks.
This specific bottle weighs in at a lighter 49% ABV (98 proof), which is notably lower than some of the previous 117 Series releases. It carries an MSRP of $60, although as usual we must note that’s for a 375 ml bottle, which whiskey fans may see as a benefit or a drawback. This entry in the 117 Series likewise has been released in conjunction with the launch of the Old Forester “Sleepeasy” on Whiskey Row, a posh rental property with bookings that include meet-and-greet and tastings with Master Taster Melissa Rift, along with a chance to purchase rare bottles such as Warehouse H, Birthday Bourbon or President’s Choice. It’s a savvy idea for high-end bourbon tourism in Louisville, KY, and one that we wouldn’t be surprised to see the brand offering all year round, although this first month of the Sleepeasy bookings is being used exclusively to raise proceeds for Louisville’s Center for Women and Families, a local non-profit helping women and families in crisis by providing housing, support and safety from domestic violence.
So with all that said, let’s get to tasting Warehouse H and see how it stacks up against previous 117 Series entries.
On the nose, this is quite inviting, sweet and fruity in nature. Big caramel and heavy sweetness are lightened somewhat by bright citrus, but given depth with notes of gingerbread and whipped maple butter. It’s a lovely combination of caramelized sugars, fruit and spice notes.
On the palate, Warehouse H is likewise redolent in caramelized sugars and fruit character–I’m getting a whole lot of cherry juice, orange and slightly tart cranberry, which gives it a distinctly festive feeling. The caramelized sugars at there with caramel candies and molasses, along with sweet stem ginger. In general this is quite sweet, though also a little peppery, and it drinks easy with the lower proof of this entry in the 117 Series. All in all, it’s not really overly unique, per se, though the brighter fruitiness makes a nice change of pace from some of the more oak-driven entries in the 117 Series. I find myself quite liking this flavor profile overall, and it may actually be my favorite 117 Series entry to date in retrospect.
Distillery: Old Forester
City: Louisville, KY
Style: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 49% (98 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.