Review: Old Forester’s New 117 Series Marks a Historic Moment in Whiskey

It's the first bottle in the brand’s 150-year history to feature a woman’s signature. And the High Angels' Share release is worthy of the moment.

April 1, 2021 9:41 am
Old Forester Master Taster Jackie Zykan sitting at a table with a chess set and a bottle and glass of Old Forester 117 High Angels' Share
Old Forester Master Taster Jackie Zykan and her new 117 Series release
Old Forester

What we’re drinking: Old Forester The 117 Series High Angels’ Share 

Where it’s from: Old Forester, a Kentucky distillery that’s been around for 150 years and is considered the first bourbon to be sealed in a glass bottle. The 117 Series is overseen by Old Forester Master Taster Jackie Zykan and is the first bottle in the brand’s history to feature a woman’s signature. 

Why we’re drinking this: In a press release, Zykan said: “This series presents an opportunity to pull the curtain back and share the isolates of the blending process to help deepen the understanding of how variants in maturation affect flavor profile.”

The High Angels’ Share release showcases barrels “which lost exceptional volume to evaporation in the aging process.” So we can expect something a little denser from these low-yield barrels and certainly more powerful (this release is 110 proof). 

A bottle of Old Forester 117 High Angels' Share
While it might be difficult to find High Angels’ Share, other 117 releases will follow
Old Forester

How it tastes: A dark caramel in appearance, you’ll get a strong hint of vanilla and coconut on the nose with a bit of cherry cough syrup.

The fruit notes continue on the palate — I immediately thought of a flavorful jam, albeit one with a peppery heat and some oaky notes. On the finish, it levels off quickly and becomes quite pleasant (the spice wears off on the second or third sip).

Everything here opens up with just a drop or two of water and a bit of time. Like all good whiskey, it gets better the longer you’re sipping. 

Side note: We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few other special/new releases that are either created, distilled or celebrating women and female leadership within the spirits industry. Sticking purely with American whiskey and new-ish releases, we’ve recently seen the launch of Westward American Single Malt Women of Westward Benefit Barrel No. 2, Dorothy Arzner Straight Rye Whiskey (via Francis Ford Coppola’s Great Women Spirits and their Head Distiller Natalie Dale) and The Margie Samuels Founder’s Bottle from Maker’s Mark

Where to buy it: The 117 Series is $49.99 and can be purchased at the Old Forester Distilling Co. and in limited quantities at select Kentucky retailers. While a limited release, this series isn’t going anywhere. According to the brand, future 117 expressions — the name is an homage to Old Forester’s place on Whiskey Row in Louisville, not the proof — may explore selections from specific warehouses, barrel manipulations, deconstructed blends and more.


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