When it comes to mixing up a classic old fashioned, you want a whiskey that can really shine through the mix of bitters and sugar. You don’t want your whiskey choice to get lost or overpowered by the other flavors. A good option is to pick a whiskey that has some nice complexity and character to stand up to the cocktail ingredients. Something with some nice caramel, vanilla, or oak notes typically works well.
A whiskey with some more robust flavor is usually a safer choice than something very light or delicate. Opting for a whiskey with a little more body and flavor depth can prevent it from disappearing into the drink. Finding that right balance of flavors is key to an outstanding old fashioned every time.
Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Buffalo Trace is a 200-year-old bourbon distillery on the banks of the Kentucky River, with a buffalo logo representing its pioneering spirit. Buffalo Trace bourbon uses a blend of corn, rye, and barley malt aged in oak barrels to create a robust and flavorful bourbon. Buffalo Trace bourbon has a palate of vanilla, candied fruit, and toffee flavors with a smooth finish. The sweet tasting notes are great in a classic Old Fashioned.
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
Founded in 1888 in a historic distillery on Slat River in Kentucky, Four Roses Bourbon offers 10 different small-batch bourbon varieties. The single-barrel bourbon whiskey has won countless awards, including the most recent bronze medal World Whiskies Award. It has a rich, full-body taste and texture from start to finish, with tasting notes of dried spice, pear, and cocoa on the nose and ripe plum and cherries on the palate. The bourbon tastes great in simple Old Fashioned cocktails, letting the fruity notes of the bourbon shine through against bitters and the orange peel garnish.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
Elijah Craig is a Kentucky bourbon distillery founded in 1986 and named for a famous preacher, businessman, and educator who’s credited with inventing Kentucky bourbon in 1789. Elijah Craig prizes their barrel-proof bourbon as being the purest spirit, coming directly from the barrel without the standard chill filtering. I noticed butterscotch and spicy black pepper flavor with a complex and long finish. It works well in a classic Old Fashioned cocktail.
Eagle Rare 10 Year
Founded in 1975 by master distiller Charles Beam, Eagle Rare is now a subsidiary of the Buffalo Trace brand. A five-time winner of the double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Eagle Rare 10 Year is the pride and joy of the Eagle Rare line. It has a rich taste of oak, almonds, and dark cocoa with a dry finish. I love the dark chocolate taste in an Old Fashioned, especially if you consider a variation on the classic Old Fashioned and add in some chocolate bitters instead of the typical Angostura bitters.
Maker’s Mark 46
Known nationwide for its trademark bottles, hand-dipped in red wax, Maker’s Mark has been making award-winning Kentucky Bourbon from their Loretto distillery since 1953. Maker’s Mark 46 is aged in French oak, instilling notes of vanilla, caramel, and backing spice. It is silky, smooth, and a little sweet. I love to sip it neat, but it tastes even better in an Old Fashioned.
Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey
True to its name Old Overholt is the oldest whiskey brand in the nation, founded in 1810 in West Overton Pennsylvania. Old Overholt Straight Rye whiskey is a 3-year aged whiskey that, unlike most young whiskeys, has a mild and smooth taste. It offers strong sweet scents with a delicate palate containing subtle hints of cinnamon, orange, and leather. The spice and grain flavors pair beautifully in an Old Fashioned, and the orange fruity aromas accentuate the expressed orange peel in the drink.
Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey
Woodford Reserve was founded in 1812. The distillery still operates in its original building which is now a registered historical landmark. Woodford Reserve’s wheat whiskey has a blend of over 50% wheat blended with lesser proportions of rye, corn, and malt. It stands out with a unique fruity and floral flavor with notes of mint, cocoa, and toasted coconut and a long apple-flavor finish. This wheat whiskey tastes great in Old Fashioneds.
Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey is a burgeoning brand out of Kentucky with 35 years of family ownership. Their whiskeys stand out due to a high rye ratio that gives the whiskey a robust and spicy taste. The Bulleit Bourbon recipe comes from a 150-year-old family recipe. It has earthy and spicy notes of oak, maple, and nutmeg with a dry finish. Bulleit is my go-to for many whiskey cocktails, including the classic Old Fashioned.
Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Founded by corn farmer and European settler Jacob Beam in 1795, Jim Beam was originally called Old Jake Beam. Over 225 years later, Jim Beam is synonymous with Kentucky bourbon and American tradition. Jim Beam is a four-year-aged bourbon using the original Beam family recipe. It has a smooth and sophisticated taste with a medium body and flavors of caramel and vanilla. The tasting notes of this American whiskey are perfect for a classic cocktail like the Old Fashioned.
1Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey
Hudson Baby bourbon is a rare New York native distillery and the first to legally produce grain alcohol after Prohibition ended. Hudson Baby is unlike any bourbon on my list, distilled using 100% corn bourbon that undergoes a minimal aging process. If you like a strong alcoholic taste, Hudson Baby Bourbon whiskey is for you. It has notes of coffee and apples.
Evan Williams Bottled in Bond
Evan Williams has been a Kentucky whiskey distillery since 1783 and is Kentucky’s first distillery. Their Bottled-in-Bond bourbon is a 100-proof bourbon that has won the coveted Double Gold Award from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It has a complex palate that goes from bright and citrusy to warm vanilla, to spicy black pepper.
Knob Creek 12 Year
Distinguishing its brand by a very long aging process, Knob Creek employs seventh-generation master distillers and is a pioneer of the small-batch movement. They age all their varieties a minimum of 9 years. Its long aging process makes it the smoothest and classiest bourbon on my list and tastes wonderful neat or in an Old Fashioned.
Rittenhouse Straight Rye
Rittenhouse is a Pennsylvanian distillery, named for the iconic Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Their straight rye is a 100-proof whiskey aged in white oak for four years. It has an interesting flavor profile that starts with notes of licorice and dill, followed by a malty bread and earthy oak palate.
A New Orleans native, the Sazerac company has over 400 years of history, originating as a cognac-producing family in France that crossed the ocean, began distilling whiskey, and founded the famous Sazerac cocktail in the early 19th century. No rye is more distinct than Sazerac, with a strong licorice flavor tampered by delicate notes of spice and citrus.
Whistlepig Rye 10 Year
A Canadian distillery, WhistlePig is the newest brand on the scene, founded in 2007 on an old dairy farm. They’re committed to innovation and creativity with their unique whisky blends. WhistlePig 10 year rye is small-batch rye with a robust aroma of allspice, anise, and orange peel. The palate is sweet with caramel, vanilla, and mint flavors.