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Old Forester Series 117: Row Fire Bourbon Whiskey Review

Old Forester’s 117 series launched in the spring of 2021, and its sporadic releases since have served as both an experimental and nostalgic platform for the brand to explore different aspects of the Old Forester bourbon flavor profile. In the words of the company: “The 117 Series offers a deep dive, or deconstruction, into how the individual expressions of the Old Forester Whiskey Row Series are crafted or highlights other historic moments in the Old Forester’s story on W. Main Street.”

Early entries in Series 117 seemed to focus on highlighting specific aspects of how whiskey can be transformed during the aging process, with the “High Angel’s Share” version exploring the taste of a barrel. of whiskey after an unusually high degree of evaporation, or the “Warehouse K” version highlighting the character of a particular aging rickhouse. The 1910 Extra Old batch, on the other hand, was a natural extension of the double aging gimmick already used for Old Forester 1910, simply taking that process to its zenith.

The latest version, on the other hand, seems to have less of a concrete basis in the whiskey-making process, and is instead a tribute to an important moment in the distillery’s history: this time, its newly built distillery in the center- city ​​of Louisville was nearly destroyed by fire. That fire swept through Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row section of W. Main Street in 2015 and threatened the newly built $45 million facility that Old Forester was about to open. Fortunately, members of the Louisville Fire Department arrived in time to avert the worst of the potential damage, saving a number of buildings with deep ties to Kentucky’s bourbon history. In honor of this feat, members of the firefighting team then chose barrels distilled around the date of the fire, which have now matured at around 7 years old. These barrels make up the 117 Series Whiskey Row Fire Bourbon version, bottled at 100 degrees.

On the one hand, it’s a great story, and it commemorates an important moment for the Louisville Old Forester facility. But at the same time, this release is arguably less unique than any of the previous bottles in the 117 series – no particular new processes are evident, and these casks have not experienced any unusual aging quirks. It’s not like these are “survivor” barrels that have survived a disaster, like the Buffalo Trace/EH Taylor “Warehouse C. Tornado Surviving” lot. Indeed, it looks pretty much like a store pick of Old Forester 100 Proof, but with the unusual distinction of having a specific age statement, which most OF lots don’t have. That’s all to say, I imagine there will be some whiskey geeks who wish this entry in the 117 series had more of a specific hook for what’s in the bottle, given that the Previous entries in the series tended more towards the experimental. .

Like the other lots in the 117 series, Whiskey Row Fire is a limited release available in 375ml half bottles, with an MSRP of $60. I still like that idea for the limited releases – it means more bottles overall and a lower entry bar for people to try the batch – but there’s a question of value here, selling something similar to a Old Forester 100 barrel for the equivalent of $120 per 750 ml. Again, I could see some in the whiskey geek community wondering if this release is unique enough to fetch that price.

Anyway, let’s finally get to the tasting.

On the nose, this one is quite inviting and rich, with some nice notes of toffee corn, cherry syrup and lots of chocolate – one of my favorite aspects of the Old Forester/Brown-Forman bourbon profile, and a note that appears in most of my favorite Old Forester bottles. Underneath there is also a significant oakiness and something reminiscent of fruitcake – vinous fruitcake and ginger. In short, I like this nose.

On the palate, however, things veer in a noticeably drier direction than I initially expected from this nose. The brighter fruit notes are retained, with cranberry and cherry, but there is more oak on the palate than the nose initially suggested, as well as more spice. This spice takes on a cola-like dimension, combining with the fruitiness of berries, light caramel and a certain woody astringency. There are also light grassy notes, before the bubbly cola spice and drying oak seem to exert themselves more strongly on the finish. Overall it’s an intriguing profile, although it doesn’t quite deliver the richness that the nose suggests.

On its own this is an interesting batch of Old Forester bourbon, although I still feel like I’m missing a more concrete or unifying concept for the liquid in the bottle that could have made it stand out more among the limited versions currently saturating the market. Perhaps future releases of the 117 series will take the series back down a more overtly experimental path.


Distillery: Old Forester (Brown-Forman)
Town: Louisville, Kentucky
Style: Pure Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
ABV: 50% (100 proof)
Availablity: 375ml bottles, $60 MSRP



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