Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

Words By Brad Neathery

When it comes to crafting the quintessential Old Fashioned, the choice of bourbon is not just a detail—it's the foundation of this storied cocktail. While Oak & Eden proudly offers a range of whiskeys that can enhance any cocktail, it's important to explore what characteristics make a bourbon ideal for an Old Fashioned. This discussion will also touch on why rye whiskey is a notable contender for those who appreciate a spicier, more robust version of this classic drink.

Understanding the Profile of an Ideal Bourbon

The Old Fashioned is a cocktail that relies heavily on the whiskey used, as it's combined with only a few simple ingredients—sugar, bitters, and water. This minimalism means the chosen bourbon's flavor profile significantly influences the drink's final taste. Here are several key qualities to consider when selecting a bourbon for an Old Fashioned:

1. Rich Flavor with Balanced Sweetness

The bourbon should have a noticeable depth of flavor, with a pleasing balance of sweetness. Caramel and vanilla notes, typical of many bourbons due to the charred oak aging process, contribute to a richer, smoother Old Fashioned.

2. High Proof

A higher-proof bourbon, typically around 90-100 proof, is often recommended. The higher alcohol content ensures that the bourbon's robust flavors can stand up to dilution from the ice and integration with the sugar and bitters. This doesn't mean the strongest bourbon you can find; rather, it should be potent enough to maintain its character in the cocktail.

3. Complexity and Finish

The bourbon should offer complexity and a pleasant finish. Elements like a touch of spice, wood, and fruit undertones can add an intriguing layer to your Old Fashioned, enhancing the overall drinking experience.

Ever Consider Rye Whiskey?

Rye whiskey, which is often spicier and fruitier than bourbon, can also be an excellent choice for an Old Fashioned. Its inherent spice profile complements the sweetness of the cocktail’s sugar and the depth of the bitters, providing a bolder, often more balanced flavor. For those looking to deviate slightly from the norm while maintaining the spirit of the classic cocktail, rye offers an appealing alternative.

Popular Picks

While the perfect bourbon for an Old Fashioned can vary based on personal preference, here are a few commonly preferred choices:

  • Oak & Eden Bourbon & Spire: This innovative bourbon features a unique twist with a wood spire inserted into the bottle, which continues to impart subtle flavors over time. Its smooth profile enhanced with vanilla and caramel tones from the spire makes it a unique and evolving choice for an Old Fashioned.
  • Oak & Eden Rye & Spire: For those who prefer a spicier take on their cocktail, Oak & Eden’s Rye & Spire brings a bold flavor profile with its rye spice complemented by the additional complexity from the in-bottle spire. This choice offers a vibrant, peppery twist to the classic cocktail, providing a balanced yet bold flavor.
  • Buffalo Trace: Known for its rich and complex flavors with vanilla, toffee, and candied fruit, it strikes a nice balance in an Old Fashioned.
  • Woodford Reserve: Its high proof and flavor notes of dried fruit, spices, and chocolate make it a robust base for the cocktail.
  • Knob Creek: The 100 proof and rich woodiness stand up well to the dilution and complement the sweetness and bitterness beautifully.

Selecting the right bourbon for an Old Fashioned is about more than just grabbing any bottle from the shelf. It involves understanding the nuances that each type of whiskey brings to the cocktail. Whether you choose a classic bourbon with a smooth finish or a spicy rye, the key is to balance all the ingredients to create a harmonious and delightful experience. At Oak & Eden, we celebrate the craft of whiskey and encourage enthusiasts to explore their tastes, perhaps even with one of our carefully crafted bottles. Cheers to finding your perfect match for the ultimate Old Fashioned.

Words By Brad Neathery