Looking to increase the proof on you Old Fashioned? Can’t find a bourbon to stand up to ice? Or just looking for something that’s a little more spirited without the typical alcohol burn? Check out 5 of my best picks.
Ezra Brooks 7 Year Barrel Strength
Our first recommendation is from a lesser-known distiller – Lux Row. A sourcer for many years, Lux row produces Rebel Yell, David Nicholson, Yellowstone, Blood Oath and the Ezra Brooks family. This 7-year expression, introduced in 2018, comes in at a heft 117-proof. With a corn-forward mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley, you’ll find heavy notes of butterscotch and caramel, but a balance and lightness on the palate. Something this “hot” would typically come across with hefty ethanol notes, but this had me rethinking higher proof expressions.
($50 – $60)
Dedicated to whiskey salesman, George T. Stagg, this reflects the uncut and unfiltered nature of this bourbon legend. Be warned, this is a high proof – 127.9. Produced from 8-9-year-old mashes, this has won numerous gold and silver medals. You’ll find a very dark copper displayed in the glass, followed by vanilla, caramel, fruit and wood notes. Yes, there is alcohol there – this is one that may be tamed with a splash of water or an ice ball – but you’ll find a complex array on the palate, including cinnamon, dark fruits (think plums) and even some cocoa-chocolate flavors. At the high end of our end, this is one to share in honor of one of the founders of the current Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Weller Antique 107
($45 – $60)
Weller 107 is part of the Weller lineup, including Weller Special Reserve and one of my most favorites, Weller 12-year. Compared to the other Weller varieties, you’ll immediately see its dark copper color in the glass. When nosed, there is a delightful fried apple-pie scent, topped by vanilla ice cream. On the palate, there is vanilla and caramel – almost crème brulee notes. A drop or two of water will open up the lighter notes present, but overall, a very smooth and drinkable high proofer.
Old Forester 1920
($55 – $70)
Introduced 3rd in the Whiskey Row Series, and 4th in the timeline, Old Forester 1920 reflects the Brown-Forman lineup during a time when it was one of 10 distillers producing medicinal spirits during Prohibition. While 1910 is one of my favorites for its similarity to Woodford Reserves Double Oaked product, this 115-proof rendition has lots of fruit, cinnamon and baking spices on the nose, as well as layers of intertwined light floral notes. There is oaky-dryness on the finish, but without heat or burn – just tons of complexity wrapped into an Old Forester expression.
Wild Turkey Rare Breed
Introduced in 1991, Rare Breed is considered a blend of 6, 8, and 12-year-old bourbons. Proofs will vary but have been trending around 113 proof. The age and near-barrel-strength appears dark copper in the glass. You’ll be greeted with vanilla on the nose followed by more vanilla and even some fruit notes on the palate. What’s surprising is that even at a higher proof, this drinks incredibly smooth.