Classification: Straight Bourbon
Distillery: Old Forester Distilling Company
Release Date: July 2017 (Ongoing release)
Mashbill: 72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Color: Light Mahogany
Price: $55 (2020)
Old Forester Statesman was originally released as a tie-in with the 2017 movie, Kingsman: The Gold Circle. Where many tie-ins are often limited time offerings, Old Forester has kept Statesman on as a permanent line expression. It is a no age statement bourbon, but at the time of its initial release, it was said that it contained bourbon under 5 years old. According to Old Forester’s website, Statesman is a blend of hand-selected casks from the warmest places in their warehouse.
An extremely bright and sweet aroma puts you under its spell with its fusion of cherry, brown sugar, vanilla, sugar cookie, and seasoned oak. It has a surprising intensity for its proof, yet manages to be well-rounded with its fragrances. The scents work acutely well together and produce an aroma that is all-too-hard to resist.
The whiskey immediately comes out of the gate making a positive impression with its sweet and fruity flavors. Cherry, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, light banana, and caramel combine to create a robust and delectable experience. The flavors work well together, and while they don’t make the flavor palate overly complex on its surface, they work in tandem with its proof to create an excellent easy-sipping bourbon.
The heat gently ramps up during the sips finish and highlights its cinnamon and oaky side. It unfortunately features Old Forester’s typical funky aftertaste, but in this case it’s thankfully mild, fleeting, and largely inconsequential. Forgoing the majority of the palate’s sweeter notes during its finish helps create an overall balanced tasting experience, which allows its oakiness to help ground this bourbon before its done.
Old Forester offers a range of different proof bourbons that all share the same mashbill. While this gives drinkers the options of choosing the proof they prefer, it also doesn’t provide a lot of flavor variation within the brand’s portfolio. This is especially true at the lower end of the proof spectrum.
This includes Old Forester Bourbon at 86 proof, Old Forester 1870 at 90 proof, Old Forester 1910 Fine Whisky at 92 proof, Old Forester Statesman at 95 proof, Old Forester Signature at 100 proof, Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond at 100 proof, and in 2020, an expanded single barrel program with a 100 proof option. That’s a lot of bourbons within a small range of proof that all share the same mashbill. So what makes Statesman stand out from the rest of them?
Statesman is by far the sweetest and fruitiest of the aforementioned bourbons, and also has the least amount of oakiness. There are definitely bourbon drinkers that don’t like overly fruity and sweet-forward bourbons, and for them I would direct them to Signature, with the Single Barrel, 1870, and 1897 following in between. 1910 might be the best of both worlds with its second barreling in a lightly toasted, heavily charred barrel producing a bourbon that’s sickly sweet and heavily oaked.
For those who do enjoy sweet bourbon, Statesman is one of Old Forester’s sweetest and fruitiest bourbons across their entire portfolio. Being a blend from hand-selected casks this must be the flavor profile they are striving for. This puts it in competition with some other brands, most notably with select Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Knob Creek single barrels that can find themselves in this particular fruity and/or sweet style. With those being single barrels along with plenty of other limited edition bourbons that often aim for this agreeable flavor profile, they aren’t always readily available. Statesman on the other hand is a non-limited edition ongoing release, and usually found without a ton of effort. It’s not that there isn’t shortage of sweet bourbon on the market, it’s just that this one does it so well.
Statesman’s $55 price falls in line with a number of sweet and fruit-forward bourbons. Like the aforementioned select single barrels from Knob Creek ($45), Wild Turkey ($55), Four Roses ($75+), and other examples like Henry McKenna Single Barrel ($45+), Blanton’s Single Barrel ($55+), I.W. Harper 15 Year ($85), Statesman at $55 falls in nicely in the middle of the pack. Statesman doesn’t seem to see the same demand as Old Forester’s Whiskey Row bourbons, and is often available to stores that want to carry it. I also have the strange feeling that if any other large Kentucky distillery put this same product out as a limited edition, with its drinkability and sweet/fruit profile, there would be more hype surrounding it. While it doesn’t feature the same complexity as some bourbons, it is hard to argue against how important drinkability is to this bourbon's overall impact. At $55 and wide availability, Statesman is a decent value through and through.
Old Forester Statesman forgoes some complexity in exchange for pure drinkability, yet easily justifies its price as a readily available and under-the-radar bourbon.
For fans of sweet and fruity bourbons, Old Forester Statesman is going to be hard to resist. There are plenty of bourbons that strive to achieve this goal, but few that really nail it. In my own personal sweet and fruity bourbon pantheon, it falls right in with I.W. Harper 15 Year, Barterhouse, and even some older Wild Turkey bourbons. Brown-Forman might have had some lows with their Old Forester bourbons over the last decade, but the entire brand continues to see improvements, and their Birthday Bourbon and King of Kentucky remain some of the top bourbons released in a given year. What really makes Statesman even more surprising is it's not a limited edition release or wallet-breaking either. It’s simply an easy-to-enjoy bourbon that beautifully showcases what Brown-Forman can produce.