Old Forester logo with tagline "Never Gets Old

Old Forester Distilling

  • USA, Kentucky
  • “Best Bourbon” award in 2012 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition., Awarded “Best bourbon aged under 10 years” in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2006.
  • https://www.oldforester.com/distillery/
Phone Number
  • +15027792222
  • 119 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

Old Forester Distillery storefront on sunny day

History of Old Forester Distilling

Old Forester Distilling is a storied and iconic name in the world of whiskey, boasting a rich history that intertwines with the very fabric of American spirit-making. Renowned for its quality and tradition, Old Forester has established itself as a pillar in the whiskey industry.

Founding and Early Years

The Birth of Old Forester

Old Forester Distilling was founded in 1870 by George Garvin Brown, a pharmaceutical salesman. Brown, recognizing the inconsistency in whiskey quality, sought to create a product that was of consistent high quality. He started selling whiskey in sealed glass bottles to ensure its purity, a novel idea at the time, as whiskey was commonly sold in barrels.

Early Innovations

This innovation not only marked the birth of Old Forester but also positioned it as the first bottled bourbon in America. Brown partnered with his half-brother, J.T.S. Brown, to form the company, originally named J.T.S. Brown and Bro.

The Distillery and Its Growth

Expansion and Challenges

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Old Forester continued to grow despite challenges such as the Prohibition era. The distillery was one of the few that were granted permission to continue production for medicinal purposes during this time.

Post-Prohibition Era

After Prohibition ended, Old Forester rebounded and expanded its production. The brand continued to flourish, adapting to the changing tastes and demands of the whiskey market.

Legacy and Impact

Contributions to the Whiskey Industry

Old Forester has made significant contributions to the whiskey industry. Its dedication to quality, innovation, and consistency has not only set a high standard for bourbon but also influenced the way whiskey is produced and sold.

Continuing the Tradition

Today, Old Forester continues to operate, adhering to its rich traditions while embracing modern techniques. The distillery remains a testament to the enduring legacy of George Garvin Brown and his vision for a high-quality, consistent bourbon.

The Whiskeys of Old Forester

Core Offerings

Old Forester offers a range of whiskeys, each with its unique profile. The core lineup includes Old Forester 86 Proof, Old Forester 100 Proof, and the premium Old Forester Statesman. These whiskeys are celebrated for their quality and rich, full flavors.

Special Editions and Innovations

In addition to the core range, Old Forester has released several limited edition and innovative whiskeys. These include the Birthday Bourbon, released annually to commemorate George Garvin Brown’s birthday, and the Prohibition Style, a nod to the brand’s history during the Prohibition era.

Awards Won by Old Forester Distilling

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon: This particular bourbon has been highly acclaimed in the whiskey world. Some of its recognitions include:

  • “Best Bourbon” award in 2012 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
  • Multiple medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, including “Double Gold” in 2003 and 2012, “Gold” in 2006 and 2007, and “Silver” in 2005.
  • Rated in the 90+ percentile as one of the Best Whiskies by Proof66.com.
  • Awarded “Best bourbon aged under 10 years” in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2006.
  • Received a rating of 91 on a 100-point scale by John Hansell of Malt Advocate Magazine in 2010.
  • Named “American Whiskey of the Year” at Malt Advocate WhiskyFest New York in 2007.
  • Other recognitions from notable sources including USA Today, Whisky Magazine, Spirit Journal, and Santé.

Old Forester Signature (100 proof / 50% abv): This variant also holds its own in terms of accolades:

  • It received a “Gold Medal” in 2003 and a “Double Gold Medal” in both 2004 and 2012 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. In 2004, it was also honored as the “Best Bourbon of Show”.

Distiller of the Year: Brown-Forman Corporation, the parent company of Old Forester, was named Distiller of the Year at the 2019 Icons of Whisky America Awards organized by Whisky Magazine. Additionally, Juan Merizalde Carrillo of Old Forester Distilling Co. was recognized as the Distillery Manager of the Year at the same event.

Old Forester Distilling Tour Information and Experience

Visiting Old Forester Distilling offers a range of immersive and engaging experiences for whiskey enthusiasts and casual visitors alike. Here’s an overview of what you can expect from the tour experience:

General Tour Experience

Old Forester provides a comprehensive journey through its historic Whiskey Row location. This experience gives visitors a chance to delve into the distillery’s past and discover the intricate process of bourbon making, from barreling to bottling. The tours are designed to be educational, engaging, and provide a thorough understanding of the brand’s legacy.

Specific Tour Options

Old Forester Tour ($32): This tour provides a deep dive into the history and making of Old Forester. It offers a glimpse into George Garvin Brown’s promise of quality and consistency that has been upheld since 1870.

Nothing Better in the Market Tour ($70): This exclusive tour includes a guided visit through the distillery, followed by a VIP tasting experience. Guests get to sample Old Forester’s Single Barrel, 1910 Old Fine Whisky, and the Birthday Bourbon. However, this tour is only available on select dates and times and does not include the purchase of Birthday Bourbon or Single Barrel.

George’s Bar Experience: This experience is more focused on the enjoyment of Old Forester’s products, offering guests the chance to savor cocktails, flights, and whisky by the glass. There’s also an option to sign up for a cocktail class to learn the art of drink-making.

Taste Through History ($40): A unique experience offered in November, this tour takes you through the storied history of Old Forester, providing an intimate understanding of its heritage.

117 Series Scotch Cask Finish Tasting ($150): For those interested in unique finishes, this tasting showcases the 117 Series Scotch Cask Finish, which honors George Garvin Brown’s Scottish heritage.

Additional Features

Whisky Drummer: A nod to Old Forester’s early days, this feature involves heralding the rolling of whisky barrels onto trucks for transportation to the warehouse.

Extensive Family of Whiskies: The distillery showcases its wide range of products, including Old Forester 86 Proof, Rye Whisky, 1910 Old Fine Whisky, and more.

Booking and Accessibility

Interested visitors can book their tours and experiences online. Old Forester ensures accessibility and provides comprehensive information on their website to cater to all guests.

Flask & Barrel Review of Old Forester Distilling

I recently had the pleasure of touring Old Forester Distilling, and as a whiskey collector who has seen quite a few distilleries, I must say, this experience really stands out. I’d give it a solid 4.7 out of 5.

First off, the history of this place is just fascinating. Being on historic Whiskey Row, where George Garvin Brown revolutionized the bourbon industry, gave me a real sense of connection to the spirit’s past. The tour guides did an excellent job of blending storytelling with facts, making the whole experience both educational and entertaining.

The variety of tours available is impressive. I opted for the “Nothing Better in the Market” tour, and it was a real treat. The VIP tasting at the end was the cherry on top, especially getting to savor the Single Barrel and the Birthday Bourbon – both were exceptional.

As someone who appreciates the finer details in whiskey, these tastings provided a deeper understanding and appreciation of Old Forester’s craftsmanship.

What I also loved was the George’s Bar Experience. The cocktails were top-notch, and the option of taking a cocktail class is something I haven’t seen at many other distilleries. It added a fun, hands-on element to the visit.

The only reason I’m not going full 5/5 is the limited availability of some tours and the inability to purchase certain special editions like the Birthday Bourbon during the tour. As a collector, snagging one of those bottles would have been a highlight.

Overall, the Old Forester Distilling tour is a must-do for any whiskey enthusiast. It’s a well-rounded experience that offers a deep dive into the bourbon’s rich history, a peek into the intricate production process, and, of course, some fantastic whiskey to taste. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting to explore the world of whiskey, you’ll find something to love here.

What To Do Nearby Old Forester Distilling

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience (0.38 miles from Old Forester): Famous for its human-sized bourbon snifter fountain, perfect for Instagram selfies. Post-selfie, enjoy some of their delicious bourbon.

The Brown Hotel (Distance not specified): A historic landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Brown Hotel is known for its beautiful architecture and the invention of the world-famous dish, the “Hot Brown.”

Art Eatables (A few minutes from The Brown Hotel): This shop is the creator of small-batch bourbon truffles. Each truffle features a different type of bourbon made in Kentucky, offering a delicious treat or a unique gift to take home.

KMAC Museum (Open Wednesday – Sunday, 12 PM – 5 PM): A contemporary art museum that connects people to art and culture. It offers exhibitions, education, and outreach programs with a $6 entry fee for adults.

Fourth Street Live!: This is Downtown Louisville’s nightlife and entertainment district, featuring eateries and bars, and hosting live events like concerts and food festivals.

Kentucky Science Center (Open daily, 9:30 AM – 5 PM): Ideal for families, this center offers interactive and educational science exhibits. Tickets are $22 for adults and $18 for children.

Waterfront Park: A beautiful green space along the Ohio River with walking paths, water features, and stunning views of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Toll Bridge and the Big Four Bridge.

Hell or High Water (Open Wednesday – Sunday): A speakeasy offering signature cocktails and an eclectic atmosphere. Reservations are required.

KFC Yum! Center: This event center hosts Louisville Cardinals Basketball games, concerts, and other events. Check their calendar for upcoming events during your visit.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Old Forester Distilling?

Expo:  It is located at 114 W Main St, Louisville, KY. This restaurant is next to Old Forester Distilling, offering a convenient dining option for visitors.

Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen : It can be found at 122 W Main St, Louisville, KY, you can contact them at +15022908888. It’s adjacent to the distillery, providing a perfect spot for a meal after a distillery tour.

Patrick O’Shea’s: This restaurant is at 123 W Main St, Louisville, KY, you can contact them at +15027082488. It’s just a few steps away from Old Forester, making it an easy choice for dining nearby.

What hotels are near Old Forester Distilling?

Aloft Louisville Downtown : It is located at 102 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202-1344. This hotel is about 0.1 miles from Old Forester Distilling, offering proximity for visitors. You can call them at +15025831888.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Louisville Downtown : It is at 100 E Jefferson St, Louisville, KY 40202-1302. You can contact them at +15025693553. Approximately 0.2 miles from the distillery, it’s a convenient accommodation choice.

Hyatt Regency Louisville : The hotel is at 320 W Jefferson St, Louisville, KY 40202-2997. This hotel is around 0.3 miles from Old Forester, providing a comfortable stay close to the distillery. You can contact them at +15025811234.